As you may know, or may have learned recently when we dropped a note in your mailbox, 30 hours of volunteering is required from each of our families. Part of those hours must come from a collective work day at the school. Work days are our most effective way to accomplish larger scale projects. They also help project planning and completion, help build community, and show the children what’s involved in supporting the school. Many hands make light work.
Here is the upcoming 2015 Work Day schedule.
Please Click to sign up and you’ll be redirected to our online Sign Up tool, SignUpGenius.
Mardi Gras Benefit Bash at Tangiers- February 7
The Third annual Mardi Gras Benefit Bash this year is set for February 7, 2015, at 6 p.m. at The Tangiers Restaurant in West Akron. There will New Orleans themed tapas, live performers, and live Zydeco music! Proceeds from the event benefit Spring Garden Waldorf School and Music Alive.
Big Love Festival at Musica – February 28
For the second year in a row, Big Love Fest, a free, family-friendly festival celebrating community, creativity, and collaboration, will take place from noon-midnight on all three floors of the Musica Complex (51 East Market Street in Akron) Saturday, February 28.
We are looking for volunteers to staff a children’s activity table at this amazing festival. You can volunteer for a single hour or for multiple hours. To sign up, please click here.
Waldorf educators teach in a three day rhythm: presenting information or an experience the first day; discussion, review, and recall the second day; and doing something physical with the information the third day, such as expressing the information through writing or art. What is the commonality in this three day approach? The importance of sleep.
Why poor sleep leads to poor academic performance
We all know sleep is important, especially for our children’s emotional well-being, but what about their academic well-being? Research shows that good sleep is essential to learning, especially influencing specific types of memory, high level cognitive functioning, and achievement motivation.
Children need, according to SleepFoundation.org:
- 12-14 hours for children between 1 and 3.
- 11-13 hours for children between 3 and 5.
- 10-11 hours for children between 5 and 12.
- 8.5 -10 hours for teens.
Numerous studies on sleep and academics have found that sleep deprivation and low sleep quality leads to lagging achievement. Two such studies were summarized in this SleepFoundation.org news article, Improve Your Child’s School Performance with a Good Night’s Sleep. In one quoted study, researchers found that children who had difficulty falling asleep and woke up at least once a night were significantly more likely to have school achievement difficulties. A different study of high school students noted that those with higher grades slept around 30 minutes longer per night, went to bed earlier, and had less variation in their weekend schedules.
In a study of Dutch school children between the ages of nine and fourteen, Time in bed, quality of sleep and school functioning of children (Journal of Sleep Research 9:I2, p145), researchers found that children with better sleep quality (those who felt rested and had regular bedtimes) performed better in school, and perhaps most interestingly, were more open to the teacher’s influence and more motivated to do well.
This University of Pittsburgh study, The impact of inadequate sleep on children’s daytime cognitive function, published in Seminar of Pediatric Neurology (March 1996, Volume 1, p.44) found that inadequate sleep in school children resulted in difficulty focusing, irritability, emotional instability, and a lower threshold for frustration.
Two Harvard Education articles review Harvard research to best answer the question, “Why does sleep affect learning?” They each point to the affect poor sleep has on both memory and higher level cognitive functioning.
In this article, Sleep, Learning and Memory, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, researchers declare that, “the general consensus is that consolidated sleep throughout a whole night is optimal for learning and memory.” More specifically, they look at a function called memory consolidation, which takes place during sleep, which seems to help students to process what they learned the previous day. The current hypothesis is “that slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is deep, restorative sleep, also plays a significant role in declarative memory by processing and consolidating newly acquired information.”
This is particularly interesting to Waldorf Educators, who adhere to a main lesson block learning style that taps into a rhythm of learning a topic, stepping away from it, and returning to it a day later – a concept Rudolph Steiner believed allowed children to absorb and process the information more thoroughly.
Good sleep is essential not only for memory but also for higher cognition. In this article from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety, researchers also found that sleep deprivation led to a decline in the subjects’ ability to access higher-level cognitive functions. “After a period of sleep deprivation, there are noticeable changes in brain activity, as measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG).”
Researchers found, in particular, that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for many higher-level thinking was particularly vulnerable to a lack of sleep. “As a result, people who are sleep deprived will begin to show deficits in many tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought. … In addition to the feeling of sleepiness and changes in brain activity that accompany a night without sleep, other measures of performance are noticeably altered. Concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are all aspects of cognitive function compromised by sleep deprivation.”
What to do?
First and foremost, consider eliminating screen time before bed. Waldorf parents limit screen time more so than most, but it is important to remember that screen time around bedtime is potentially the most detrimental.
As recently reported on in Businessweek’s article, Kids Who Sleep Near Their Smartphones Get Less Shuteye, a study published in Journal of Pediatrics, joins many others in reporting that televisions, phones and tablets in children’s rooms and beds negatively impact sleep.
Next to consider is consistent bedtimes. Organizations like the SleepFoundation.org are going so far as to label it “Sleep Hygiene,” recognizing that the habituation of a sleep routine is as important in maintaining children’s physical health as bathing or brushing their teeth. As the studies above have noted, children who go to bed at an earlier time and consistently (weekdays and weekends), get more sleep, wake feeling rested and do better in school.
And finally, consider educating older children about the importance of sleep. With third party evidence and scientific research supporting your family’s bedtime “hygiene,” a teenager may be more willing to comply and adopt healthy sleep habits once outside the home.
Get a good night’s rest for better learning tomorrow!
A Message from Nursery Preschool Teacher, Kathy Miller
When I see the words brain development in black and white, I feel such a tremendous responsibility for my classroom’s children. Am I providing every possible opportunity in my Nursery Preschool classroom to develop each child’s greatest potential?
Thankfully, I know that what I do on a daily basis with children in the Nursery Preschool class at SGWS truly honors each child’s gifts and affords every learning opportunity possible. And what is it we do, exactly? We provide a rhythmical, un-rushed day in a carefully prepared environment. To the outsider, the repetitious day in our Nursery Preschool class may seem too subdued or restrictive to inspire learning. However, our homelike setting and predictable rhythms create a safe place for young children to develop life skills, and they also lay the groundwork for the future development of academic skills.
Dr. Jane Healy, a psychologist with a background in neurological development, assures us that repetition is critical to the development of the young child’s brain. Providing an environment with sequence, patterns, and order helps to prevent a chaotic environment, thus allowing the child’s brain to establish pathways for clear thinking.
Dr. Healy explains that after six months, an infant’s brain begins to develop the pathways and connections essential to their future cognitive growth, and these connections are strengthened through repetitive activity. To hurry or rush development impedes the natural process of growth because it lessens the time spent in repetitious experiences that develop these essential connections within a young child’s brain.
In our Early Childhood program at SGWS, the children are not hurried in their development. They are familiar with our rhythmic routines, so much so that at times their inner rhythms are established to the point where they know, without being
told, when it’s time to play, join in circle, listen to a story, participate in creative arts, and enjoy a nutritional snack. This stability allows the children to focus on learning other skills naturally and experientially. We do not awaken the child to structured learning, but allow them to explore, play, and socialize, using their will and curiosity to process information, solve problems, and build cognitive connections.
Our established rhythms are full of opportunities for the young child to flourish cognitively, socially, and creatively. Daily tasks, creative play, practical life skills, and close peer relations provide ample opportunities for the young children’s brain development. It gives me great joy to be part of the Nursery Preschool student’s framework for life!
We are delighted to announce that we have hired a new Spanish teacher! Trista White, pronounced (Treesta), is a recent graduate of the University of Akron, with degrees in Spanish and Spanish Education. She has been student teaching at various local high schools and elementary schools, and she is very excited to begin working with SGWS students.