Learning a world language is not just an academic exercise at Richmond Waldorf School; it’s a gateway to understanding cultural traditions and experiences in the daily lives of people. It increases the flexibility of a child’s thinking and also encourages a heightened awareness of our native language, highlighting its particular capacities of expression, its own beauty and musicality.
The 6th Graders have been studying Spain this year, including performing a play of the famous legend of El Cid. In the second semester, the class has been reading “La gitanilla”, a short story about a young Gypsy girl by the eminent Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. The story features much music and dance with castañuelas (a handheld instrument made typically of shells that dancers rhythmically clack together while dancing) and tamboriles (a type of percussion instrument).
For a fun Friday class, the students made castañuelas from cardboard, stones, and glue while listening to traditional Spanish music that would have been played around the time of “La gitanilla”. We were all fascinated by the differences in the sounds that our castañuelas made. The students also had great fun trying to play them as quickly as we heard the professionals playing them. Two of our boys created a rhythm and short dance to teach the other students, which we enjoy doing each day to lift our spirits and get in character.
~ Mrs. Stephanie Freeman, Middle School Spanish Teacher
Waldorf teachers know that artistic experiences leave lasting impressions. Information can be gathered or retrieved, but the experience of subjects through the arts enriches all learning and the whole of a student’s life. Every day Waldorf teachers strive to cultivate a sense of wonder and to inspire children to view the world, even in its most basic form, as magnificent. They deliver an education that is rich with meaningful sense experiences, classical academics, and artistic beauty in all subject matters.
Below you will see some of our own teachers’ artwork, prominently displayed in the classroom on large chalkboards and ever-changing to reflect the current lesson. Enjoy!
The annual Spiral of Light ceremony is a favorite of many in our school community. It is a truly unique and meaningful celebration of this time of year, a time of anticipation and preparation, as we look toward the midnight of the year. In all of us there is expectation and hope. As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, there is a growing mood of outer sleepiness in the world. The earth is growing more quiet with every passing day. The fallen leaves, the animals in hibernation, the shorter daylight hours which bring us inside much earlier, all contribute to this experience.
The Winter Solstice marks the turning point of the year, the shortest day, and with it, a celebration of the return of light. Throughout many cultures this midwinter holiday has had festival connotations of light and sun, of the time when winter’s increasing darkness begins to draw to a close with the renewed promise that spring’s light will soon increase. Among these festivals is Hanukkah (Hebrew), Diwali (Indian), Solstice (Druid), and Advent (Christian). The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.”
The Spiral Walk at Richmond Waldorf School is a way of acknowledging and honoring this time of year. We celebrate this time of year with the Spiral of Light, a ceremony of light, movement, and change. This ceremony heightens the awareness of moving from darkness to light in a simple way for the children. In a darkened room, students are invited to walk a path of evergreens, a natural symbol of life in the dead of winter, to the center of the spiral. The children carry a red apple with a candle in it and light their candle by the burning candle at the center of the spiral. As they walk back out, they find a place in the path to set down their candle. As each child kindles their light, the darkness grows slowly into a beautiful golden glow. The ceremony begins in darkness and ends brightly lit by many individual lights, each contributing to the bright warmth that envelopes us all.
Two years ago, when my students were just starting first grade, I asked RWS parent Glenn Amey, who I knew had a lot of experience with family biking, if he thought that all first graders should be taught to ride bikes. And did he think that they could get to the point where we could go out riding through Richmond, explore its trails, and take trips to interesting places. Perhaps by sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, might we even go on extended bike tours and camp along the way? “Sure,” said Glenn, without hesitation. “They can do that. Let’s make it happen!”
Thus began Richmond Waldorf School’s bike program. We quickly raised the funds to purchase three bikes, and the following summer we received donations to buy four more. Clint at Coqui Bicycles sold us the first batch of bikes at cost and donated helmets, and this year, a generous donor made it possible for us to complete our fleets: 10 bikes for beginners and 10 trail bikes with gears for intermediate cyclists.
During the first year, Glenn worked with the students on the school grounds. By the second year, we were going to Westover Hills playground to do laps around the field and work on skills on the pavement. Our second year culminated with a ride from the Carillon through Westover Hills back to school.
This year Glenn has been working with early childhood students, introducing them to strider bikes, and he has had weekly classes with the first graders and with the third graders. He and his wife Letitia, our fourth grade class teacher, took her class on an overnight ride through Williamsburg to Jamestown. He also helped John Humphries design a bike shed to house our fleet and has been assisting the third grade in its construction.
As he developed our program, Glenn recognized that there might be a way to combine his family’s love of biking, his work with our students, and his desire to expand his work to serve Richmond’s biking community. Thus was born Shift Bicycles, 113 N. 18th St., which specializes in family biking and provides proper bicycles for everyone in the family—ages two through one hundred and two.
The biking program would not have been possible without Glenn’s vision and commitment. Until now, he has volunteered his services, but I hope that that the day is fast approaching when biking will officially become one of RWS’s program offerings, with a budget for staff and equipment.At this time of Thanksgiving, on behalf of all of us who have benefited from Glenn’s initiative and generosity, I would like to express our deep gratitude for all he has done for us.
Thank you Glenn Amey!
~ Roberto Trostli, Third Grade Class Teacher and Community Relations Coordinator
For the last few weeks the 7th grade Spanish class has been discussing the beliefs of the Aztecs. The Aztecs felt closest to the divine when communing with nature and listening to poetry. The students practiced a beautiful verse of Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) that had been translated to Spanish while sitting among the beautiful trees that line our school. We used this nature vocabulary and reflection time to transition to an important cultural element of modern-day Mexico: Dia de los Muertos.
Dia de los Muertos is a time in which Mexicans celebrate the memories of loved ones who have passed. They bring offerings and celebrate alongside the graves of family members. This tradition was said to begin with the Aztecs. Indeed the word for the marigolds left on the altars to honor the dead (flor de muerto in Spanish) is cempasuchil– a Nahuatl word. Each year the RWS community brings flowers, fruits, photographs, and relics to add to the altar set up by our Diversity and Inclusion committee Mosaics. As Dia de los Muertos approached, our class focused on creating flores de muerto. On the flowers, the students wrote the names of loved ones they had lost, including a dearly beloved former teacher.
Today our class listened to a wonderful story about a family preparing for this special time and ate the traditional pan de muerto in front of Richmond Waldorf’s altar for Dia de los Muertos. We identified the different items that were put on the altar to honor those lost and then placed our flowers on the altar as well. It was a wonderful way to bring our history lesson on the Aztecs into a relevant and meaningful setting.
~ Stephanie McCully, Middle School Spanish Teacher
Every year our Grades and Early Childhood classes celebrate Halloween with a parade and a special performance of poems and songs for friends and family. Upon first glance, these festivities may seem no different than Halloween at any local school. However, if you look more closely, you’ll notice something about the costumes Waldorf children, parents and teachers are wearing.
For our elementary and middle school students, costumes worn at school come from the curriculum. Our first graders are kings, queens, knights, princesses, gnomes, and fairies. In seventh grade you may see Leonardo or the Mona Lisa herself. It’s wide open with one caveat: students don’t wear anything that comes straight from TV, movies, or video games. You also will not see students in masks covering their faces. We these suggestions in mind, children and their families put together costumes that represent something meaningful to them. They enjoy a rare chance to transform themselves into a character or myth that pertains to their lives.
These practices relate directly to our goal as a school: to foster a learning environment that promotes independent thinking, cultivates creativity, and builds confidence. Every day is a chance to develop curious, confident, and capable individuals!
On Friday, September 30, Richmond Waldorf School will celebrate Michaelmas with a pageant performed for the community by the students in the grades, a community lunch, and a “Feats of Strength” field day for the grades students. The season of Michaelmas is also felt in our classrooms, from Early Childhood to grade 8, in the songs, verses and artistic activities that characterize this time of the year. Because Michaelmas is not commonly celebrated or well known in this country, we’d like to share a little bit about the nature and significance of Michael, whom we honor on this day.
The archangel Michael is the embodiment of courage. It is he who casts out Lucifer and vanquishes the dragon in the depths. Michael gives human beings the courage to meet the challenges of the present and the confidence to look to the challenges of the future without fear. Michael lends his strength to those who struggle against the forces of darkness. The celebration of Michaelmas teaches the importance of overcoming fear and strengthening resolve. It educates and empowers children to find their own personal courage to confront dragons and work to make the world a better place.
At Richmond Waldorf School we are doing our small part to realize this vision. At Michaelmas time, we especially try to put ideals into action-to look beyond our narrow selves to what others need and to what the world needs. The world is full of dragons. These dragons spread hatred and fear, doubt and destruction, but they also present opportunities. In the pageant that our students perform, the dragon that terrorizes the kingdom is tamed, not slain. He is led into service, and his strength is used for the good. Let us hope that this picture strengthens our students as they move forward into the future.
The circle represents wholeness in body, soul, and spirit.
The color blue symbolizes trust, freedom, balance, and peace.
The prismatic colors create a rhythmic flow and feeling of movement, are welcoming, and are symbolic of inclusivity.
The energy of the circle moves clockwise to represent the rhythms within Waldorf culture (daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly, developmentally) and the continuous flow of learning and development within our teachers and students.
The prismatic order of colors moves counter-clockwise, symbolizing how Waldorf education is very different from mainstream education.
The open circle creates two opposite forces, which are actually complementary and interdependent of each other. These dualities are seen throughout nature and everyday life (light/dark, in breath/out breath, summer/winter).
The design has a feel of something created by hand, while the letters are crisp and modern with unique angles.
The word Waldorf extends beyond the circle in a sense of freedom. This same freedom is at the heart of what we want for our students-that a Waldorf education prepares them and allows them freedom (intellect, spirit, community).
This morning we had our annual Rose Ceremony to mark the beginning of the school year for all grades students. Our 8th graders escorted the 1st grade students to a flower arch where they were greeted by their teacher and given a rose to symbolize this new beginning. It was, and always is, a wonderful way to start the school year!
Our Annual School Beautification Day was held on Saturday, August 27th, and we had a great day sprucing up RWS for the new school year. Thank you so much to all the parents, volunteers, faculty, and staff who pitched in to make the school look so good! Thanks to our Parents’ Association who brought sweets for breakfast and pizza for lunch. It was wonderful to have such a big turnout and to accomplish so much.