Body awareness and movement are intimately connected and interdependent in academic and social learning. This is why athletics are a key piece of the holistic curriculum at Spring Garden Waldorf School. Learning is not all in our heads and the goal in Waldorf Education is to support whole child development using heads, hearts and hands. This includes getting those hearts pumping!
There are many ways in which we support movement and physical education at Spring Garden dependent upon the developmental stage the children are experiencing within any given grade.
For our Early Childhood students, age 3-6, the focus is on unstructured, large-motor play and exploration outdoors, which has been proven to have a myriad of benefits. Children at this age use their wills and imaginations to propel themselves through activities and have no need for imposed structure to guide or direct their strong impulse towards movement. If anything, structure at this age, in regards to movement, serves to distract from the eagerness and joy with which young children naturally take to vigorous play.
Our Primary School students, grades 1-3, also need very little encouragement to engage in physical movement and, for this reason, three recesses are given for unstructured play time outdoors. At this age, however, there is a benefit to a more structured introduction to movement and sports within physical education, as it teaches multi-step instruction following, cooperation and sportsmanship.
Competition, however, is kept out of physical education curriculum for now as Waldorf Educators feel children of this age are not developmentally ready to manage the emotions and discipline required for competitive sport. Therefore, physical education classes for primary school students focus instead of group game play. And Extra Lesson movement classes focus on individual growth and achievement in the task at hand, such as mastering a pogo stick or learning to jump rope.
Once our students reach Elementary School, they are ready to ease into the idea competitive sport. By Fourth grade, physical education classes shift slightly from the focus on cooperative games to ones where some competition, typically in groups, is present. Fourth grade is also the first year SGWS students go camping, to focus on outdoor physical education experiences to challenge and advance their body/ kinesthetic, visual/ spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal skill sets in ways that are not always as prevalent during class time.
When students reach Grade 5, a new world is presented to them in the form of a traditional Greek Pentathlon, which is a curriculum-focused and relevant introduction to events in Track and Field. The Pentathlon competition is an introduction to organized sports and following this experience they begin to learn the basics of other organized sports. Physical education classes introduce skills for volleyball, kickball, softball, basketball, gymnastics and more.
In sixth grade, our students participate in a curriculum focused, physically challenging event called the Medieval Games. This event challenges their spirits and physical beings with very difficult and down-and-dirty events such as a rope climb, tug-of-war, mud jump, zip line and more. Sixth graders are also offered elective placement on practice teams for both track and field and basketball. While neither of these elective sports teams is required curriculum at Spring Garden, students are encouraged to choose one of these teams in preparation for the formal team play in Middle School.
Our Middle School students are asked to represent their school in local competitions against other private schools in the sports of basketball and track and field. These participation is an elective offering. Both of these sports have girls and boys teams. In addition to the important ongoing development of large motor skills, the focus of these activities is to encourage personal discipline and fortitude, develop interpersonal and cooperation skills, and foster sportsmanship.
Middle school students are also encouraged to work with other, younger students in physical education. One example is when middle school students are assigned first and second grade “buddies” to help on the ice rink during scheduled skating field trips, a tradition in many Waldorf schools.
And in this way, the cycle begins again for our younger students who begin the process of their own physical education experience at SGWS, with a much-admired mentor and much desired fun.
We sat down with our new Class One teacher at SGWS, Kristen Oberhaus, to ask her a few questions about her life and love of teaching. Welcome to our new first grade teacher!
What is your favorite quote about teaching or education?
I have lots, but currently, but my favorite is: “EVERYBODY IS A GENIUS. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I have always enjoyed working with children. When I am teaching, I don’t feel like I am working, it is mostly joy I feel. That’s how I knew this was the career for me.
How did you first hear about Waldorf education?
I first read about Waldorf education in a book about parenting when my first child was only a baby. In my head, I thought, “Wow! That’s where I would have like to go to school.”
What is your educational background?
I grew up very close to SGWS and attended Highland Local Schools K-12. I went to Marietta College in southern Ohio. I started off as an education major, then switched my sophomore year to international business. I really liked to travel and envisioned my self living overseas one day.
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for decades. I began teaching dance lessons at 16. I have also taught swim lessons, sewing, soccer, and Girl Scouts. Most of my classroom experience is at SGWS where I have worked since 2013.
How long have you been teaching at SGWS?
What is the most interesting thing you that most people don’t know?
I used to be a pretty good tap dancer.
Who is the person that has had a profound effect on your life and choice of path? Why?
My mother is very wise and she always gives me great advice, although I don’t always take it! She has been the greatest influence on me. My children have had the most profound effect on my life and have led me down the path I am now on. I may be in a completely different place had I not become a mother when I did.
What is your favorite subject to teach?
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Sewing, hiking, running, reading, anything crafty
The key to education is human connection and in Waldorf education this is uniquely fostered by students typically having one main teacher for a portion, or all, of their elementary school years. While this custom seems strange in modern times, it was common in the past within small communities. Waldorf Educators see many benefits to preserving this once traditional model, which lends itself to a deep human connection, more personalized education for students, a cohesive classroom environment and more focused learning overall.
Each student is unique, with their own special gifts, personalities and learning styles. These traits develop, blossom and change over time and it is difficult for a teacher, who only knows a student for 9 months, to truly understand and appreciate their individual needs.
Waldorf Class teachers are given the gift of time to deeply understand each of their students, which allows them to serve as the child’s true learning advocate. The teacher also discusses the gifts and needs of each child with subject teachers (Spanish, handwork, woodworking, gym, music, gardening) and parents, which further helps them develop techniques that suit individual children and work well for the class as a whole.
This collaborative long view, and individualized relationship, deeply benefits the child in a way that no other approach or method could achieve.
When a teacher knows each individual student, it helps the cohesion of the class as a whole. Just as each child has individual learning styles and needs, they also have very specific social and emotional needs.
Waldorf educators do not diminish the importance of social/emotional learning. Sometimes referred to as “Character Education,” these lessons include development of sense of self, perseverance, resilience, collaborative skills and empathy. Teachers in a classroom that keeps the same students, year over year, can nurture and develop a child’s sense of themselves as social beings.
A teacher in this environment can also come to know each child’s individual temperament works within the classroom. Social problems, value differences, varied work styles or pace must be met head on as the whole class collaborates. Difficulties must be resolved. No child is passed over or passed on. Each child is essential in class.
The students also learn about the contributions and needs of one another. Children who learn together for four, six, or eight years also learn to work together just as they will be required to as adults in their families and the workplace. Each child’s unique personality becomes essential and understood for its value within class.
It is true, a child’s peers may recognize when someone is a slower reader, but if that same child is encouraged to help others struggling in math class, then the entire class comes to value each individual’s excellence and uniqueness. In this way, a classroom can come to feel like a family.
Focus on Learning
This individual attention and social cohesion brings the focus back onto learning. The one teacher model sidelines a myriad of common distractions within other classroom models, such as getting to know a new teacher, new students and assimilating to a new (or multiple) classrooms each year.
While these factors might seem trivial, they are very important to students, and Waldorf students don’t experience any of the anxiety brought forth by these constantly changing environments. The biggest change each year for students is the material they learn.
In addition to bringing the focus back on learning, the one teacher approach helps children learn by respecting and modeling a stable authority figure. Keeping the class teacher (by no means the child’s only teacher) as a steady authority in a child’s life is beneficial to social and intellectual learning.
Although it may be surprising, even older children model their behavior to the adults in their lives more so than their peers. A positive relationship with teachers have been proven to boost children’s esteem and learning.
But, What If . . .
My child and the teacher do not get along? While one could see the long term togetherness of varying personalities a potential disadvantage, the Waldorf approach sees it as an advantage. As with family, if a teacher and a child are struggling to work together, the teacher takes on the responsibility of working with the family as a whole to help develop a strong and positive relationship over time.
Waldorf teachers are specifically trained to both work on their own inner selves and learn to balance their relationships with each student. This includes a study of how to work with different personality types and learning styles, home visits to understand the child’s world, and regular parent teacher conferences and class meetings to better understand the child and his or her family. The positive experience a student can have when the teacher, child, and parents are working together over eight years, through difficult times and joyous times, cannot be matched.
What are you doing with your little ones this summer?
Consider the Spring Garden Waldorf Parent Child Classes held weekly for seven weeks, 9:30-Noon, on either Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays. Classes start June 9,10 & 11 and parents register for the day of their choice.
Parents and children (ages 18 months to 4 years old) join together in a class that is held mainly outdoors and imitates the rhythms and atmosphere of a Waldorf early childhood class experience. Classes are taught by Marina Ristev Rana, an experienced Waldorf early childhood teacher. Children are guided through the morning by the gentle rhythm of circle time, nature walk, creative play, snack, and story time. Young children learn through imitation. With this in mind, we will ask that parents participate in each of these activities or help with daily tasks depending on the lead given by the teacher.
The natural world and seasonal festivals are reflected during circle time. This provides the opportunity to learn through music and rhyme. Games and movement activities engage both large and fine motor coordination. Stories and puppet plays nourish the child’s imagination and provide rich material for creative play. Time in nature throughout the seasons allow for awe, wonder, and discovery of our world.
During class, we will offer information and give parents an opportunity to discuss child development, parenting questions, and Waldorf education with an experienced teacher.
Cost per session is $200/parent and child and $100 for each additional sibling. Limited space available. Register today!
Register for Thursday’s Class Starting June 9th. Click HERE.
Register for Friday’s Class Starting June 10th. Click HERE.
Register for Saturday’s Class Starting June 11th. Click HERE.
by Nancy Stewart
The 2016 SGWS Jaguars Track and Field season has come to a close. The season was filled with record breaking performances by almost all of the athletes. Several athletes set new school records for Spring Garden: 8th graders Anycia Jimenez and Megan May, 7th graders Catherine Greer, Dominic Denney, Eric Huber, Ian Matias, and 6th graders Gaby Miller and Ian Huber.
All athletes continued all season to improve their personal records which made it a very rewarding for them! If you would like to see the school records, check the wall by the gym entrance.
Megan May, Anycia Jimenez, Grace Rossi and Gio Palermo also qualified for the Championship Meet on Sunday, May 22. Megan finished 6th in Shot Put, and 8th in Discus. Anycia finished 7th in Long Jump, and 5th in Hurdles. Grace finished 8th in the 800m run, and Gio finished 5th in the Shot Put.
On Sun. May 15th, the sixth and seventh grade athletes competed in their Championship Meet. Congratulations to the following for winning medals/ribbons in the championships: Gaby Miller 3rd in 100m, 4th in 200m, Grace Pryor 6th in 100m and 5th in 200m, Karlie Koontz 1st in Discus, 3rd in Shot Put, Catherine Greer 1st in Long Jump (with a shattering jump of 13’9.75”) Ian Huber 5th in the 800m, Avery Kuhn-Brooks 5th in Shot Put and Discus, Ian Matias 4th in Discus and 6th in Shot Put.
As you can see, it was a very rewarding season for all involved. Thank you so much for the outstanding parental support all season long!
Waldorf fifth graders across the U.S. gather together once a year to compete in a Greek Pentathlon. It is a coming-of-age competition and a celebration of grace, athleticism, sportsmanship and the upcoming independence of adolescence.
Waldorf students study Greek history at the end of their fifth grade year, learning about the Gods and myths and also about historical Greece and its cultivation of democracy, philosophy and the arts. These lessons intertwine and culminate into a day when the intellectual meets the physical and academics reach a peak of relevancy in the student’s minds.
As the student’s come together with other schools to compete, they do not compete by school, but are instead combined together in cooperative relationships with new peers. All student are assigned to be part of one of four teams representing the Greek city-states of Thebe, Sparta, Corinth and Athens. From there they are directed to the stations of competition for one of the five classic Greek events — Javelin, Discus, Long Jump, Foot Racing and Greek wrestling.
The events are not scored on athletic performance alone, but instead on a number of factors including the athlete’s form (grace and beauty which the Greeks revered) and also on sportsmanship with the other players.
There are many learning opportunities which are both essential and developmentally appropriate for 11-12 year olds to learn during this event. They must learn to test their physical abilities, manage and accept disappointment in their performance, make new friends, strive to out do their personal bests and be gracious in the face of loss.
Surrounding both sides of the competition itself are times of community togetherness. Before the day of festivities, the students gather to read oaths from their school regarding the event and sing Glorious Apollo before a Greek dinner with families. On the day of competition there is an opening ceremony complete with trumpet fanfare, an Olympic pledge and the torch run.
These gatherings hold reverence for the students as they begin and complete this coming-of-age event which inspires aspiration, determination and celebration.