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.
We all have values or core beliefs that are important to us, that define who we are and how we engage with the world around us. As human beings, we seek friends, leaders, jobs, and lifestyles that speak to our value system. As parents, we strive to instill strong values in our children, so that they too can grow up with a sense of purpose.
When the first Waldorf School opened a century ago, its founders sought to inspire peace, goodness, and humanity in the younger generation of a country that was bitterly divided and almost destroyed by war and suffering. Waldorf education still aspires to instill strong values in children who will grow into adults who can make a positive impact in the world.
Richmond Waldorf School’s values live in the hearts and minds of our faculty, staff, and community.
We believe that…
- Students thrive when exposed to a hands-on, integrated curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and grounded in artistic and practical work.
- Students must develop intellectual curiosity, social sensitivity, and physical stamina in order to meet their full potentials.
- Students who are exposed to world cultures through story and sensory experience will become thoughtful, clear-thinking adults who understand and take an interest in the world and its people.
- Schools must have a safe, inclusive learning environment where the interests and strengths of all students are honored and encouraged.
- Schools should awaken social responsibility, service to community, and stewardship of the earth.
- Open, clear, and direct communication is critical for maintaining a supportive and productive educational community.
- Effective teachers are committed to building long-term relationships with students, while demonstrating enthusiasm and honest striving in the world.
- Cooperation and collaboration between parents and teachers play a vital role in helping students meet their full potential.
- Strong schools rely on initiative and commitment from all members of the community.
- The human spirit has the power to invoke positive change in the world.
When the first Waldorf School opened in 1919, it pioneered a new way to educate children: one which could inspire humanity, peace, and goodness in an ever-changing and complex world. Over the last century, Waldorf Education has become the fastest growing education model across the world with more than 1,100 schools and 2,000 kindergartens in over 80 countries across the globe.
Waldorf100 arose from an international desire to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of Waldorf Education and to deepen our connection with one another through a series of projects. The festivities will culminate with an Anniversary Celebration on September 19, 2019.
One of Waldorf100’s projects is the World-Wide Postcard Exchange, where every Waldorf School around the world will send personalized postcards to every other Waldorf School by the end of 2019. These postcards, decorated by students, show the receiver something about the author’s country, school, or self. Richmond Waldorf School students have begun creating postcards and receiving them from schools across the US, Europe, Asia, and even New Zealand!
To display the network of schools, each Waldorf School will create a world map on which the cards will be visible, showing where each card came from. Our World Map has been painted in the gymnasium — stop in next time you are here to take a closer look.
Want to help us make this possible? Mailing 1,100 postcards across the world is expensive. If you would like to support us with a donation for postage, please get in touch with Pete Sokol.
Keep in touch with the Waldorf100 movement and all of the projects to celebrate the Centennial at https://www.waldorf-100.org/en/
The World Map in the RWS Gym will eventually display all the postcards we receive.
This April, Richmond Waldorf School celebrated the one-year anniversary of the purchase of our new building. With summer upon us, we are taking time to reflect, to dream, and to work. As we look back on how far we’ve come, we are inspired to dream about how far we have yet to go: to truly embody our mission as a school that provides an education that inspires peace and purpose.
Halfway through summer we can be proud of the progress we’re making: our first season of a full-fledged summer camp and early childhood program; a beautifully lazured rainbow hallway; a newly divided classroom; an inspiring Board-Faculty retreat. At every point we are encouraged by the vision and dedication of our faculty and volunteers.
On a larger scale, the Waldorf Education movement also continues to gain momentum and is actively celebrating the Centennial anniversary of Waldorf Education with ongoing projects to unite and connect the 1,100+ Waldorf Schools across the world. Stay tuned for later posts for how RWS is involved in Waldorf100 efforts.
There is much to share, so follow the blog this year for a closer look at the action and impact of Waldorf education, both here at home and across the world. We hope you will stay tuned for our journey. Until then….
Richmond Waldorf School is proud to welcome Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary to our campus on March 2 and 3 to lead our community and other interested individuals in exploring sustainable solutions to the Honeybee crisis.
The greater Richmond community has a wealth of clubs and resources for beekeepers, but the approach of the beekeepers at Spikenard Farm is unique. Gunther Hauk, the founder of the Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary, has been teaching at Waldorf Schools and working with bees for almost 40 years. He co-founded the Biodynamic Pfeiffer Center in Spring Valley, NY in 1996 and has taught at Waldorf schools in Germany and the US.
As Waldorf education celebrates 100 years in 2019, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) has requested that Waldorf Schools celebrate next year’s important anniversary by creating gardens for pollinators and possibly having honeybees as part of our campuses. These events at RWS will help us join the nationwide Waldorf movement to support safe spaces for pollinators.
Spikenard Farm is a remarkable place which the fifth graders from RWS experienced during a fall trip there. The principles of Waldorf education, Anthroposophy, and biodynamics are at the heart of their work, and they are excited to bring their deep understanding of stewardship of the earth to the Richmond Waldorf community. The lecture and workshop are open to the public and will enhance everyone’s understanding of the honeybee while enriching our knowledge of Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner’s work.
Schedule of Events:
Friday, March 2, 7:00 – 9:00 – Lecture and Q&A led by Gunther Hauk and Alex Tuchman
$10 recommended donation
Saturday, March 3, 9:00 – 4:00 – Biodynamic Beekeeping Workshop
$45 – $60 sliding scale (payable in advance or the day of the event)
We hope you will join us. Anyone interested in participating in the lecture on March 2 or workshop on March 3 is encouraged to call Richmond Waldorf School at 804-377-8024.
Join us for Richmond Waldorf School’s Annual Spring Auction and Gala. Our festive evening celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with style while raising money to support the programming at Richmond Waldorf School. An Emerald Evening is open to the public and will be fun-filled party with:
• Music by E3Rocks
• Silent Auction
• Cash bar
Raffle – $10 per ticket
What: A five course gourmet dinner for 8, along with fine wines, poured and discussed by wine professional, Nancy Collie-Beard (WSET Level 3, Sommelier, VA, distributor for International Cellars, and Wine Whiz Kid writer).
Where: Right in the comfort of your own home!
When: Use before September 30, 2018 at a date mutually agreed upon by the winner and the chef, Deane Collie. Please allow 30 days lead time for planning and preparation.
Estimated value: over $1200
All proceeds from An Emerald Evening benefit Richmond Waldorf School, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Richmond Waldorf School provides a learning environment that promotes independent thinking, cultivates creativity, builds confidence, and develops practical skills. Our proven, holistic approach to education lays the foundation for a life full of meaning and purpose.