A Shakespeare performance, a weeklong class trip, and graduation performances are just a few of the capstone experiences 8th Grade Richmond Waldorf students look forward to as they end their time with us on campus. This year, Mrs. Pollard revived an old RWS tradition — the 8th grade project, to add to the mix. With our school year taking an unexpected turn due to COVID-19, many of these long anticipated experiences were forced to be left behind. The 8th grade projects began to take on new importance during this virtual learning time, as students worked creatively and independently towards their individual projects.
These projects were planned and executed solely by each student (with a little help from teachers and parents, of course), and each is a unique reflection of that persons’ interests and talents. Projects included a yearbook, a documentary-style video of the 2019 100-Mile Bike Trip, and an original composition, recording, and production of a violin piece, are just a few of the amazing ideas that were brought forth into reality.
We are excited to highlight just a few of the outstanding projects our students completed. Class of 2020, you are destined for great things. Congratulations, we are all so proud of you!
Logan's Little Free Library
Name: Logan A.
Project: Little Free Library
Tell us your project: I decided to build a Little Free Library for the school. I found some old cabinets and took them apart to reuse the wood for the project. My dad helped me design the structure and taught me how to use the power tools. The project was a challenging but rewarding experience.
Why did you choose this project?: Throughout the years, I enjoyed hearing stories and reading books that my teachers chose for me. Now when I find a book that I really like it’s hard to put it down. I wanted to share my love of reading with others.
What is one thing you’ll take away from your time at RWS?: I will take with me a love of learning.
Daphne's Pollinator Garden
Name: Daphne R.
Project: Pollinator Garden outside of RWS’s front lawn
Tell us your project: I made a pollinator garden in front of the school.I wanted to create a source of nectar and nutrients for pollinators in the city where it would be hard for them to find it otherwise.
Why did you choose this project?: One of my favorite parts about Waldorf is the access to the outdoors through learning, and I got to learn about a lot of different kinds of native plants, and how they support wildlife. I think that is an important thing that everyone should have the opportunity to learn.
What is one thing you’ll take away from your time at RWS?: The fact that learning shouldn’t always come from a book, and the freedom to learn things that are not just for a test grade, but things that will make me a more resilient person.
“A home provides shelter and protection, but it is also a place where we nurture ourselves, creating a safe place apart from the world. As the third grader continues to move through the nine-year change and the experience of separation from the world, an inner need arises in them to build their own sanctuary. Creating a shelter allows this impulse to find an outer expression.” –Waldorf Teacher Resources, Micheal Seafort, 2020.
In Waldorf schools across the world, 3rd graders all work on a shelter-focused project. Students spend time discussing and studying all sorts of different primitive homes created by early human civilizations, as well as thinking more about their own shelters. Through this study, students are led through the exercise of choosing a shelter, and creating their own model version of it using any imaginative combination of natural materials.
The results each year here at Richmond Waldorf School are spectacular. Our 3rd graders take such pride in their work on this special project, and it shows. This year, our shelter project took on new meaning as 3rd graders worked through this assignment while ‘sheltering in place’ during the COVID-19 crisis.
Below, we’re sharing what this assignment looked like in the Google Classroom, and some fantastic final projects! Well done, 3rd Grade. We are proud of your dedication and attention to your studies and love your models!
Want to try it yourself?
Choose a type of shelter. Begin by sketching out your ideas in your journal. Make a list of materials you might need. Work with your parents to acquire the material you will need to build your shelter scene.
Begin constructing your shelter. Your family may give you ideas and suggestions and hold things for you as you put your shelter together, but remember it should be built by you. Once your shelter is constructed, begin to put in the landscaping and “scene” items that make it a complete example of life in the culture where such shelter would be found.
Try to use only natural materials as much as possible, hopefully with most of it coming from around the house. Once the structures are complete and structurally stable, the children can decorate their home, as well as create a garden around it.
Happy May Faire season to you and yours! While we are apart, we want to be sure our community is able to enjoy and celebrate May Faire at home. Below, you will find several resources for celebration ideas including songs, crafts and videos. As we do every year, we celebrate the beauty of spring and its promise of new beginnings. Let’s celebrate all that we are becoming in this time and all that we will be together when we are reunited.
#RWSMayFaire #WaldorfCommunityStrong #MayFair
May Faire Collage & Sing-a-Long
I’ve been a wandering all this night,
And the best part of the day,
And when I come back home again
I will bring you a branch of May.
A branch of May I bring you here,
And at your door I stand.
It’s nothing but a sprout,
But it’s well budded out,
By the work of God’s own hand.
The moon shines bright,
The stars give a light,
A little before ‘tis day.
I call once more unto your house,
All in this month of May.
My song is done,
I must be gone,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all,
Both great and small,
And send you a joyful May.
When the green buds show,
And May breezes blow
And the birds all call across the meadow,
Gay as bird on wing,
We’ll go wandering,
Sing a song of spring
The wide world over.
The wide world over.
Warm will shine the sun,
Far from home we’ll run
Greeting everyone so kind and friendly,
As we go we’ll sing
Tell the world it’s spring
Make sweet echoes ring the wide world over.
The wide world over.
May Day Flower Circle
Share with Us!
We’d love to have you share a short video clip or a few photos of how your family celebrates the season! Families are welcome to tag our Facebook or Instagram account, or email us! Please be aware that any photos/videos become the property of RWS and may be published on our website or in other marketing materials.
Thanks for celebrating with us!
The sixth grade recently spent three days at Spikenard Farm Honey Bee Sanctuary in Floyd, VA. Here is a description of their trip from Class Teacher, Roberto Trostli:
The ride down to Floyd County went better than expected, and the children enjoyed the chance to be together on a journey. When we arrived, we ate lunch, unpacked the cars, and set up the tents, only to find that the original plan for which group would get which tent was not going to work. In the end, every group but one had to switch tents, which caused some grumbling, but I told everyone that the whole trip was going to demand plenty of flexibility and accommodation, and that this was a good first challenge.
We had our first lesson with Alex in the classroom building where every beautiful detail shows the kind of care with which the sanctuary fulfills its mission. Alex is a very gentle, warm, and earnest man, and he spoke with the children in a natural, engaging manner. He began by asking the children what they thought a sanctuary was, and then elaborated on Spikenard’s mission to provide an optimum home for the honeybees. He then presented the life cycle of the bee, gave us a picture of how the hive is an organism, and told us about their approach to working in partnership with the bees.
After a snack, the students got a tour of the farm. Alex pointed out some of the different plants (there are over 75 species) that provide the bees with a healthy, varied diet that lasts throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. We also were shown the different kinds of hives and some of their distinctive features. This was followed by the first activity: working in the garden, digging beds, turning compost, weeding, and gathering seeds, and then we had some free time before dinner.
After dinner there was some free time, and then we took a silent walk as an opportunity to listen to the sounds of the countryside and to appreciate the beautiful sunset. They then played a game of flashlight tag, got ready for bed (which took a while!) and gathered again for singing and a story. Bedtime went smoothly and most were asleep by the time the adults turned in.
Some of the children woke up early enough the next morning to see the incredible clear, star-studded sky. In Richmond we don’t get to see such a sight, because there is so much ambient light, and I imagine that some children had never experienced the true grandeur of the heavens.
Hot chocolate helped drive off the chills of the early morning, and everyone ate a hearty breakfast. We gathered in the classroom for our next lesson, and Alex continued to entrance us with his description of the many jobs that bees perform during their lives and how the queen works constantly to lay eggs to preserve the hive’s population (1,500 per day for 4 or 5 years!)
The students then got to experience Alex’s work with a hive, and they were impressed by his gentle, unhurried manner and his close relationship with the bees. Alex told us that he talks to the bees and prepares them for what’s going to be happening so that they are not caught by surprise. Seeing the thousands of bees working so harmoniously on the honeycomb and flying in and out of the hive made everything that he had told us earlier come alive through direct experience.
Then followed an artistic activity—drawing bees with chalk pastels—which allowed the students to review what they had learned about bee anatomy and to render their observations artistically.
For our afternoon activity, we went to the cow pasture to gather fresh manure, which was going to be mixed with straw, ashes, earth, and bound together with eggs to make the plaster for the cob oven, which needed repairing. The students went from initially expressing disgust at the manure to enjoying finding especially fresh cow patties. Hauling the containers back to the farm proved arduous, but everyone helped. The students sifted through the manure to get out leaves, branches, and clumps, and then began to knead it and mix it with the other ingredients. Their arms were covered with the plaster, and no one seemed to mind. Then came the invitation to trample the cement with their feet, and almost all the students dared, and they enjoyed the squishy feeling on their feet and delighted in getting their legs covered with cow dung plaster.
The class worked on the cob oven, deciding that simply re-plastering it was not enough: they wanted to transform it into a bear, with the opening of the oven being the bear’s mouth. They did a terrific job and were very proud of their creation.
At the end of the trip, I asked Alex to tell the students how he became a bee-keeper, and he told us that when he was 17, he had his first experience of a bee hive and completely fell in love with the bees. He spoke so sincerely and earnestly about what the bees have meant to him throughout his adult life, and we were all touched. He finished by giving us each a day’s dose of honey (about 1/4 tsp.), which he said should be taken as if it is medicine, not as a food, and he presented us with three jars of honey to take back with us. I told the students that we can have a daily dose as a reminder of our time at Spikenard.
Going to Spikenard was an incredibly positive experience for us all, and the lessons that we learned about how a society can work together for the good of all will resonate for a long time to come. During one of Alex’s presentations, when he was describing the intelligence in the hive where every bee knows what is needed and what to do, I asked if I could say something to the class. He agreed, and I told the students that my goal for them before they graduate, is that they become like the bees in a hive, where everyone knows what is needed, what he or she can do to support the group, and that we would have a chance to experience the mystery and the magic of truly learning and working together.
Before we left, Alex told the children that of all the classes he has worked with, this was the most engaged, responsive, and respectful group he had worked with, and that he expressed gratitude for our visit. After singing a final Michaelmas song, the students said goodbye to Alex and thanked him for all that he had offered. As a final activity, we toured the farm again, saying goodbye to all the places that we had seen and worked in, and the students stood for a long, reverent moment before the hive that they had seen opened.
I am curious to see how what we learned and the work we did resonates in the coming weeks, months, and years, and how the bees will inspire us in our work together. I am grateful that we had this opportunity, and I think that our trip to Spikenard will live as a precious memory of one of the most meaningful steps in the journey that we are taking together as a class.
To read along with Mr. Trosli’s class’ journey, follow along on his blog: https://rwsclassof2022.wordpress.com/
In a Waldorf school, students learn through a rich sensory experience that brings visual arts, music, performing arts and movement into everyday lessons including reading, math, and science. In Waldorf schools, great care is taken to integrate movement and the arts into the curriculum in a developmentally appropriate way. We believe that through these experiences, students develop the intellectual curiosity, social sensitivity, and physical stamina to meet their full potentials.
Matthew Thornton joined the RWS faculty in 2017 to build our Movement Arts program. His teaching pedagogy draws from his experience with dance, physical theatre, martial arts, and mind-body work. In his artistic work he desires to establish a base for original and organic expression.
The Movement Arts program consists of imaginative play, games, exercises, and performance training. We approach movement in a holistic manner while exploring dance, theatre, cooperation, sport, and somatic practice. Learning developmental movement patterns, coordination with the breath, and focus on posture and alignment allows all students to grow at their own pace. Students develop healthy social engagement through movement practice while learning from a diversity of cultural perspectives.
Students in grades 3-8 learn aspects of Capoeira, an acrobatic Afro-Brazilian dance form that incorporates partner and group dynamics with instruments and singing. In fifth grade, students are trained to run, wrestle, throw the discus and javelin, and perform the running long jump in preparation for the Greek Pentathlon, where they engage with students from regional Waldorf schools.
Upper grade students learn partnering fundamentals: exchanging roles between leading and following, negotiating non-competitive touch, supporting and being supported, trust and responsibility, body control, and emotional stability. Students across the grades engage in developmentally appropriate games and present and perform their work informally at Friday Gatherings and at assemblies.
Waldorf schools around the world are gearing up to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the movement’s founding in Stuttgart in 1919. Of the over 1,100 Waldorf schools and almost 2,000 Waldorf kindergartens in some 80 countries around the globe some are planning to celebrate with things like newly created pollinator gardens, community service projects, regional alumni gatherings, performances of original compositions created for the occasion and international postcard exchanges.
But (so far as we know) only one school is literally gearing up to celebrate – and that’s Richmond Waldorf School! Beginning at the top of the academic year on September 3rd, over a 4-day period the RWS 7th and 8th grade classes will bike 100 miles from Hancock, MD to Seneca, MD along the C&O Canal Trail Towpath. In keeping with the worldwide Waldorf 100 theme “Learn to Change the World” and an emphasis on service, the students will be collecting trash along the trail.
RWS bike program coordinator Glenn Amey and 7th grade class teacher Letitia Amey are leading the effort which will include 6-8 chaperones, 3 vans, and 2 cars with trailers for bikes and gear. Several of the chaperones will follow the group in support vehicles and will meet up with them each evening with gear and food for overnight camping.
In a journey this long, the kids are bound to learn new lessons in self-reliance and develop a strong sense of group camaraderie. The instructors want the riders to embrace the unexpected and open themselves to the novelty of life on the trail. It is hoped that each rider gains a greater appreciation of the unplanned discoveries and experiences – from bald eagles soaring overhead to flat tire fixes on the go – that make life an adventure.
The students will return home the evening of September 6th presumably pleased and exhausted and ready for some brain work after all that leg work. You can follow their progress via the RWS Facebook feed. We will be sure to share pictures, reflections, and more about their adventure!
We often hear from schools and educators that they use a “hands on” approach when teaching students, but what does that really mean? At Richmond Waldorf School, it means that students learn from creating, doing, and being instead of from rote memorization of facts.
Take our sixth graders’ study of Medieval history, for instance. First, the Class Teacher, Mrs. Amey, created beautiful imagery on her blackboard to introduce the topic. It is not just a pretty picture – there is content in the details. The font is a gothic script; the trees and ground give the impression of stained glass from a Medieval Cathedral; a knight stands in his armor and shield. We learn so much just from the drawing, and are drawn into the topic through art.
To begin their study, the students performed Hi Ho Robin Hood. The outlaw from Nottingham forest who steals from the rich to give to the poor is a classic tale and a perfect way for the students to get into the characters’ minds and experience what it might be like to live in the 12th or 13th century. The characters, plot, costumes, dialect, and scenery all help the students internalize what life was like in the Medieval era. By re-enacting and living the tale themselves, an innate curiosity grows in the students to learn more.
Next, Main Lesson time is used to dive into content and expand on what they have learned. The students write compositions, draw and paint, and read more stories. They study the Middle East and rise of Islam to understand what other cultures and countries were like during the time period. Representing minority and non-European viewpoints and experiences is an essential component to helping students think globally.
To wrap up the study, the Class Teacher with help from the parent community, coordinated a Medieval Games tournament with other Waldorf schools. Our visitors arrived and the games began. Students tried their hands at jousting, knife throwing, and archery — all sports that demonstrated a knight’s strength and skill. The students were entertained by a Jouster dressed in traditional garb, who gave an incredible and hilarious performance. The students shared a medieval feast of chicken, bread, and salad – without utensils, of course!
Through these experiences, the children internalize and master the themes, stories, and experiences of the topic. By using not only their heads, but also their hands and hearts to learn, a deep connection and natural curiosity is forged. And to us, that is experiential learning in the Middle School curriculum.
Waldorf educators foster a learning environment that is designed to meet the unique needs of each individual student in the class. In this environment, students cultivate a deep connection to learning and to their classmates. The Class Teacher takes an artistic and holistic approach to teaching. For instance, in the lower grades, subjects are blended so that it is hard to tell where math ends and music begins. We meet the needs of the whole child by building connections between subjects and by connecting academic learning to movement, social skills, and art.
In the image above, students are learning times tables. A student will touch her head and say “three”, cross her arms and say “times”, put her arms down and say “four”, then cross her legs and turn to meet her partner. The student will clap hands with her partner and say the answer. The class goes through the whole multiplication table in this way. They are working on movement and using their bodies to help memorize the table. The teacher will then present multiplication in several ways to reach the needs of each child. The class will sing them, move with them, clap to them, write them, jump to them, and make patterns with them. By presenting math in this way, the students form connections with music, movement, language, art, and each other.
As the founder of Waldorf Education, Rudolph Steiner said, “The heart of the Waldorf method is the conviction that education is an art – it must speak to the child’s experience. To educate the whole child, his heart and will must be reached as well as his mind.”
Learn more about the Waldorf approach by visiting our school. Our next interactive Open House, Windows Into Waldorf, is on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 10:00 am. Join us to experience this unique approach to learning.
Letitia is a Richmond native. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Education from Long Island University (LIU). She participated in the Friends World Program at LIU, which had 8 academic centers around the world. This program focused on developing world citizens, critical thinkers, and self-motivated learners. Her studies led her to Waldorf methodology. While in college, Letitia took on internships at Waldorf schools in London, England and Byron Bay, Australia. Letitia did her Waldorf teacher training at the Sunbridge Institute.
Letitia became a class teacher at RWS in 2002 and led her class from grade 1 through grade 6. When her children were young, she took some time off from class teaching and spent 5 years leading a Waldorf-inspired, in-home, early-childhood program. In 2013, she resumed her role as a class teacher at RWS with her current class.
In addition to teaching, Letitia enjoys camping, biking, paddling on the river, and adventuring with her 4 boys and husband. She also loves traveling, reading, and cooking.
“It is important as a teacher to show my class that I have a love of teaching and learning. This will help to develop this joy in my students. What I bring to them, no matter how academic it is, must come from my heart.”