2014-15 School Year Issues
Mathematics in Grade 4
In our second block of the year, we began to look at some of the interesting applications of mathematics throughout history. From ancient China, we learned the story of Lo Shu and the origin of the oldest magic square and its mythical properties. From there we moved to 16th century Europe to see the magic square of Albrecht Durer that he incorporated into one of his most famous prints entitled “Melancholia.” (Mr. Lucas's chalkboard drawing of "Melancholia" is printed in this issue of the newsletter.)
Gerda's Gallery: Watercolor Painting in the Kindergarten
Watercolor Painting is a medium used throughout Waldorf school programs, from nursery-aged children to 8th graders to high school students. In the Kindergarten, stories are used to introduce the “feeling” of each of the primary colors to the students. After each story is told, the children are given blank sheets of watercolor paper soaked in water and one color with which to experiment the spectrum of hues of one or two colors.
Early Childhood Education Experts Agree: Shun Play, Shun Learning
We often talk about the importance of play in the Waldorf preschool. It is the basis for a healthy childhood - body, intellect, and spirit. Waldorf schools offer a pre-academic curriculum to preschool-aged children, and, like curriculums used in northern Europe, hold off on formal, direct reading and writing instruction until the elementary grades.
In a recent Washington Post article, the Alliance for Childhood touted the same. Report: Requiring kindergartners to read — as Common Core does — may harm some, states, “there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.”
Why Waldorf Education "just feels right" and how Physical Science Supports it
When parents first tour Alabama Waldorf School, many times there is a feeling that “this is the right place.” This seems to be especially true for parents of young children who appreciate the play-based, nurturing focus of the preschool. A parent can often tell right away whether the program is worth pursuing, not just for their young children, but for their whole family, as well.
But as the nursery child grows into the kindergarten child who grows into the 1st-grade-ready child, a parent may start looking down the street to see what the Jones’s are up to. The Jones’s 1st grade child is reading already, their 2nd grader has science homework every night, and their 4th grader was just given an iPad at school!
The Importance of Learning Secular Ethics (at school)
Last month Birmingham was fortunate enough (nay, blessed enough!) to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama for a series of talks at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Alabama Theater, and, where I saw him, Regions Field... A major focus of His Holiness’s speech was the idea of secular ethics, or, he explained, respecting all religions and non-believers alike. “We need to put more inner value secularly. Compassion is a human value..."
Perspective Drawing in the Middle School
Waldorf teachers try to meet the different needs of the middle school students with the form drawing curriculum: the 5th graders, who experience “the golden age of childhood,” proportional as they are in their physical bodies and balanced in their thinking; the 6th grader, who has to deal with the arrival of puberty which disrupts this golden age and creates an environment of polarity and opposition in the child; and the 7th grader, who at lasts gets some perspective and reawakens the beauty, truth and goodness touched on in the 5th grade...
Scan the headlines of the Times and major newspapers and you’ll find that scientific research is catching up to Waldorf ideals. Here are a few that have surfaced just in the past month...
Teaching Reading in Waldorf Schools
Short Answer: We teach reading “from the whole to the parts.” Long Answer: In Waldorf schools, students in the early elementary grades read by being met where they are. They learn to read by writing what they know from activities in class, and they then read aloud from what they’ve written...
2013-14 School Year Issues
Common Core Curriculum: A Waldorf Response
...[In the 1990s and early 21st century,] the internet, 9/11, charter schools, Head Start programs, and the push to dominate the global market all figured prominently into the educational goals set forth by the government, "No Child Left Behind," being a culmination of all of these motivators. All the while, the basic development of the child was unchanged; all the while the focus on the child took a backseat to the focus on the nation.
Waldorf Graduates: Onward and Upward
Read about where AWS and other Waldorf alumni are now! "8th Grade AWS students received wonderful news regarding their future high school plans: they were accepted to the programs they applied to, including Shades Valley High School's Visual Arts and Engineering programs, The Altamont School, and Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School."
How to Be a Child’s Frontal Lobe, or, Creating a Resilient Child
Last weekend Alabama Waldorf School hosted author and educator Kim John Payne for a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop. A few dozen people, mostly teachers and parents, attended the events, centered around the theme, “Raising a Socially Resilient Child: Breaking the Cycle of Reactivity, Exclusion and Bullying.” For me, the events served as both reminder and inspiration: a reminder for why I believe Waldorf is a key component in raising a healthy family, and inspiration for getting back on the bandwagon, turning away from the screens and back toward routine, rhythm, and play. And not just for the kids, but for the parents, as well...
Capital Campaign News
If you haven’t yet heard the good news, here it is: Alabama Waldorf School’s moving! Because our current location will be razed in 2017, AWS has been on the lookout for a new site the past several years. Earlier this year, on January 6th, we signed a contract for the property at 5901 Crestwood Boulevard - the former Crestwood Christian Church.
Technology as Teacher - by AWS Administrator, Lisa Grupe, Ph.D.
“They don’t have textbooks this year; everyone gets an ipad,” said my friend at lunch last week speaking about her 6th grade son’s current public school experience. “They do all their work on it. In a way, it’s great, but he already has a hard time reading handwriting…what if this moves towards non paper and pencil completely eliminates that ability?” A good question, but to take a step back and look at the whole picture, we need to be asking, What is the impact of this technology on learning?
Physiology and Anatomy in Grades 7/8 - by Lynda Powell
Both classes began their introduction to the study of the living human body and its complex systems last year. We will continue physiology through the study of the excretory system and the lymph system. In anatomy, the class studies the muscular and skeletal systems as the framework for the human body. The block seeks to balance solid, fundamental scientific understanding with an appreciation for the artistry of form and movement within the body of man.
Why Cursive Counts by AWS Administrator, Lisa Grupe, Ph.D.
Last month, I was subbing for the Spanish teacher in the combined 4th and 5th grade class. Unable to teach immersion-style as Waldorf foreign language teachers do, I decided to have the students write letters to Señor Spezzini about the things they liked and disliked: “Me gusta ______. No me gusta _________.” Before they started writing they asked me, (or, shall I say, they whined to me), “Do we have to write in cursive?” A teachable moment was upon me. “Of course!” I said. “Cursive helps you to keep your thought processes going because the letters are joined just like your thoughts are!”
AWS Brand Receives Timely TLC, including new mission and vision statements
The mission of Alabama Waldorf School is to cultivate healthy, confident, compassionate learners who excel academically, socially, and civically. The vision of Alabama Waldorf School is to be a beacon for the Birmingham community, offering a vibrant future grounded in an engaged, compassionate, and insightful understanding of the world.
Bullying: What it is, What it isn’t, and How Social Inclusion Can Help
It seems like the topic of bullying is coming up in more than just school offices and classrooms: sports headlines have revealed the issue surfacing in NFL locker rooms, and while flipping through a magazine the other day I saw that an ad for Secret deodorant was promoting a call for anti-bullying alongside their antiperspirant...
2012-13 School Year Issues
Administrator Ad Lib by Lisa Grupe, Ph.D. This time of year in the life of a school is one of many “firsts.” Certainly, we welcome First Graders into the Elementary program; we also welcome new students into many of the other grades... Personally, it is a favorite time for me. I reflect back on my own Waldorf journey which began a dozen years ago when I started the journey through the grades with my own four-person First Grade class with our “Rose Ceremony” in the Auditorium. This summer I had the opportunity to sit with one of those four students -- now, unbelievably, 17 years old! -- at a college recruiting fair, Colleges That Change Lives.
Economics in the 6th Grade by Class Teacher, Melissa Downs With the money-based economy, we looked specifically at the development of businesses, banking, and paper money. Using an imaginary candy factory, we looked at the flow of materials and money through businesses.
The Role of Homework in Waldorf Schools
Rudolf Steiner's view on homework went something like this: "You can give students homework, but it won't do any good -- it is not a learning experience." Daily homework at Waldorf schools does not start until the students are developmentally ready for it. Giving students regular homework when they are 7, 8, or 9 years old is (as parents of children these ages can attest) really just giving homework to the parents! At Alabama Waldorf School, daily homework begins in earnest in Grade 6, but the build-up is gradual...
Roman History in Grade 6
"One of the reasons that I think the sixth graders find Rome so appealing is that Rome was very adolescent in nature. Strong emotions often motivate the strong personalities in Roman history. Remus was jealous of his brother who was taking control of their new city. Romulus killed him in a rage after Remus’ jealous taunting. Much later, Hasdrubal holds such a grudge against the Romans that he makes his young son, Hannibal, promise to never be a friend to Rome. In addition to their strong emotions, the Romans had high ideals (also much like the sixth graders), such as courage, loyalty, and honor, which were worth more than life..."
Biennial State of the School Address: Where we're going and how we plan to get There!
On Thursday, February 7th, parents and teachers met in the school auditorium to hear Administrator Lisa Grupe’s biennial State of the School address. After being asked to complete a brief survey (see results in the sidebar), Dr. Grupe led a powerpoint presentation which gave a brief overview of the school’s historical benchmarks, how we got where we are today, and what we need to do to become sustainable, both as a nonprofit business and an educational community.
Astronomy in Grade 6
The following is an excerpt from a typical 3-week Astronomy Block Rotation. This particular Astronomy block was taught in Ms. Grupe’s combined 5th/6th grade class...“The skills that the students develop with compass and straight edge will be put to use again as we depict the arcs and circles that describe the paths of the stars in different quadrants of the sky. Our study of Astronomy will be based primarily on observations made with the unaided eye."
- Live and Silent Auction Donors make possible our 2013 Gala Fundraiser! Join us this coming Sunday, April 7th for our Spring Soiree at the Clubhouse on Highland from 5-8pm! See the Awareness for details.
- Research supports what Waldorf preschools already know: promoting curiosity in the young child is a direct path toward the development of critical and creative thinking skills.
- Classroom Clips: Watercolor paintings in 5th grade North American Geography, Physics in Grades 6 and 7, and AWS 3rd graders train for, write, and perform a Circus!
The Adaptibility of AWS by Lisa Grupe, Ph.D.
What does AWS have in common with bacteria? Adaptability! Bacteria continue to proliferate, adapt and morph even in the face of modern medicine. They are amazing microorganisms, adapting to almost any threat and emerging stronger as a result. In its almost 30 year history, AWS has met many challenges and, as a result, it has become more streamlined, more nimble, and more efficient.
Waldorf Olympics 2013 by AWS Parent, Dave Hall
Dave Hall participated in the 5th graders' 2013 Southeastern Waldorf Olympics as a chaperone. In this excerpt from his blog post he writes about how the experience went beyond his expectations "...What I didn’t know was how drawn in I would become, how in two short days I would come to care for and take a special interest in kids I’ll probably never see again, or how vital I would come to see this experience and how awesome it is I have a wife who’d be so insistent that this is the way our children would be educated."
What does an Age-Appropriate Curriculum REALLY mean?
One hundred years ago when Rudolf Steiner founded the first Waldorf school, he created an academic curriculum based around milestones in child development. This past April, AWS Administrator Lisa Grupe, Ph.D. led a discussion about how the Waldorf teaching method incorporates principles of child development and important rites of passage in the classroom each year...
6th Grade History, by AWS teacher Melissa Downs
“The changes that the students experienced this year were well-met by the sixth grade curriculum, which did an excellent job of anchoring the students in the world. We focused on Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages – time periods in which humans became much more grounded in the realities of earth and more separated from the spiritual world of the gods. Though the Romans worshipped their gods and could be very superstitious, they were more firmly anchored to the material world than the Greeks that we studied in fifth grade..."
2011-12 School Year Issues