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2015 Screen-Free Week Activities May 4 – 8

ScreenFreeWk Visual

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm invites you to participate in Screen Free Week with us. We’re offering a variety of activities that are FREE and open to the public that encourage us all to disconnect from our screens, reconnect with nature, get outside and have some fun!

For more information, or to register for any of these events, please contact Erin Milner at 978-927-1936.



Our Week of FREE Activities Includes – 

Monday, May 4th: Fairy House Building, 1:00 – 3:00 pm & Family Pot Luck Dinner, 5:30-7:30 pm

Tuesday, May 5th: Kids’ Yoga with Kara Harris at 4 pm

Wednesday, May 6th: Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting, 4:30-6:00 pm

Thursday, May 7th: Nature Journaling, 10:00 am-12 pm

Friday, May 8th: Invertebrate Scooping, 3:00-5:00 pm (Grade 2 and up, limit 10)

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm Alumni Stand Out in Science

Earlier this year, one of our class of 2011 students was selected as a finalist in the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair for her research on the Effects of BPA on the Regeneration Rate of Lumbriculus Variegatus (Effect of plastics on worm reproduction).  She presented with other finalists at MIT in early May.

From the class of 2014, we had a student selected to represent his high school in the New England 1:1 Summit in Burlington, Massachusetts. This is a regional education summit where schools leading the way in technology-based education systems share their successes and challenges. Students are selected to represent the school based on their mastery of the technology and their clear perspective on its educational value.

Well done Waldorf School at Moraine Farm graduates!


Hey Kids! Go Outside, Already.

WBUR Radio’s On Point recently explored the trend of today’s children being further and further disconnected from nature and what is being lost along the way. Tom Ashbrook and guest, Dr. Scott Sampson, author of the new book, “How To Raise A Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling In Love With Nature,” discussed the shocking drop in outdoor time seen in our children’s generation — they are spending up to 90% less time outdoors than most of their parents did. And the cost is high. Sampson cited the “skyrocketing” instances of childhood obesity, diabetes, attention deficit disorder and depression faced by this generation. Sampson’s position is that while going outside isn’t the entire answer, that, “Nature is a great step in the right direction to get these kids more active and engaged.”

This discussion is well worth the listen — please click here for the full story. The insights shared are so consistent with the values of Waldorf Education because it’s really a discussion about the health of our children and the health of the places we live. As Sampson notes, in order to solve the big challenges facing our planet today, “We need to engage people with where they live, so they understand it and care about it if we’re going to be sustainable as well.” Anything less impoverishes our children’s growth and the health of the places we live.WaldorfKids


Five Reasons Why Parents Choose a Waldorf Education for Their Child

(reposted, from our northern neighbors at  Waldorf Canada, www.waldorf.ca)

As a parent you can be sure that choosing a Waldorf education for your child is a safe and smart choice.  Your homework has already been done by millions of parents who’ve sent their own children to Waldorf schools across the globe. Here are 5 reasons why, over the past century, parents have made Waldorf one of the world’s largest independent schools systems:

1) Waldorf parents can be sure their child will be prepared and successful
Research shows that 94% of North American Waldorf graduates attend university and an incredible 50% attain a Masters or PhD. University professors speak very highly of the assertive and engaged Waldorf graduates in their classes. Yet, leaders and employers are not looking for people who can simply pass tests and follow orders. Waldorf graduates are successful because they are confident, creative thinking individuals with the courage to change the world. Our alumni go on to rewarding careers and continue to value learning, work, relationships and an ethical approach to their chosen path.

2) Waldorf teachers are personable, insightful and committed A Waldorf teacher working with students at the chalkboard
Waldorf teachers are well trained professionals whom are experts at understanding what makes children tick. We know how to orchestrate a class of diverse learning styles and temperaments, using multiple methods of teaching to ensure that each child is warmed in their heart, skilled with their hands and sees clearly with their mind before advancing to the next thing. In the classroom Waldorf teachers interact with others with thoughtfulness and compassion, are capable and interested in many things and they make good decisions. They are like this so that every day your child has an exemplary role model working alongside of them. Waldorf teachers are continuously developing their skills, studying teaching practices, student learning styles and insight into the changing relationship between human beings, the world around us and how that effects student learning. Finally, our teachers make themselves available to parents as much as reasonably possible, hosting nearly monthly meetings with the parents of their class, regular parent-teacher interviews and crafting detailed, individualized reports on the progress of your child.

3) Waldorf teachers focus on the unique needs of your child
As every parent knows, each child learns and acts in their own unique way. Waldorf teachers work with your child according to their own gifts and challenges, nurturing and encouraging them just the right amount so that your child will want to be interested in and skilled at the many things they care about. Waldorf teachers know that education is not a competition and young students don’t need more pressure. Instead, we use the philosophy “the right thing at the right time,” meaning that we take the necessary time to discern how your child learns, what they need and when and we know how to draw out their desire to reach for and attain it themselves. Our teachers are ready when your child is, and when we let you know how your child is doing, it is relative primarily to their own development and expectations, not just to the other students.

4) Academic excellence is only the surface of Waldorf education
Waldorf teachers have a century of student observation at their disposal and they use proven learning techniques based on insight into brain and physical development, kinesthetic learning and emotional intelligence. By engaging their minds, emotions and bodies, students take in more, and they take it in much deeper. When Waldorf students excel at math, science and languages it is because they learn them experientially, integrated with physical education, music, arts, drama, woodwork, fiber arts and, yes, recess. Rather than simply teaching to the test, we make sure our students are happy, healthy, interested and motivated to create things as they learn, making sure they are not only prepared for university, but for life as well.

5) Waldorf schools are virbrant cultural communities
While Waldorf schools are largely independent from governments and therefore must charge tuition, they are not-for-profit and known for supporting many families that couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. This economic diversity, as well as gender, racial, religious diversity are the thread of the social fabric that Waldorf schools thrive on. Although Waldorf schools are not religious the movement was born out of a spiritual idea that humanity has evolved due to the dynamic between spiritual wisdom and earthly work and that each child will also develop on this path before having their own capacity to advance it themselves. We celebrate the changing seasons, rites of passage, diverse cultural festivities and more human ways of working together in order to show children that we are all equal under the sun, we all develop wisdom, have something to share and are part of a much larger whole…and that is something worth celebrating.


Torin Finser on Parent-Teacher Relationships this Tuesday

Please join usfinser_whidbey on Tuesday evening, March 17, to hear Torin Finser speak about his latest book, “A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School.”

Torin Finser, PhD., is Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England.  He has written extensively on Waldorf Education and consulted world-wide.

More information on the event is here: http://waldorfmoraine.org/event/adult-speaker-series-3/


BOOK REVIEW: A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School|by Kathy McElveen, Austin Waldorf School

The doorway to a classroom is a threshold where teacher and student meet. There is another kind of meeting at this threshold, that between the child’s parents and teacher. This important relationship receives thorough attention and its just due in Torin Finser’s book, The Second Classroom. “How adults work together can be as important as the curriculum on any given day.”  This is true at all levels of work in a school, in what the children learn as they watch adults interacting, in the effective working of the school community, and in the success of addressing the needs of a particular child.  Consciously and carefully cultivating relationships is the hard work of community building and this book is a treasure trove of practical advice, diverse experiences, and a call for action.

There is value here for new and experienced parents, teachers, and school administrators or anyone interested in education.  There are practical tips for improving parent conferences and class meetings, strategies for “hard to handle parents”, as well as chapters on parent volunteers and the value of effective administration. Parents are challenged to be “co-responsible for the social health” of the class and encouraged to become part of an active learning community.  The author does not shy away from traditionally taboo subjects such as burned out teachers, the “uber” volunteer, or Waldorphans, the students of faculty members.

Like a many-faceted gem, a multitude of perspectives and ways of approaching the subject are explored. The chapters alternate between practical advice and inner dimensions that encourage self-reflection and inner work.  Together they form an “outer path thread” and an “inner path thread” weaving together practical application with philosophical foundations, support for personal development, and esoteric considerations.  “Outer challenges are often a manifestation of inner challenges and the more inner work one does, the less likely personal issues will need to be played out in the community.”  While much advice is offered, at least as many questions are raised and left for the reader to consider.

The author is honest, personal, and direct.  He draws on his own experiences as a parent and teacher of over three decades. He shares many personal stories humbly revealing his own blind spots, vulnerabilities, and mistakes. While he could have drawn upon these experiences alone, he is an advocate for research and reached out to current parents, teachers, and others through surveys and interviews.  He also incorporates related work by Marshall Rosenberg, Karl Konig, Martin Buber, Carl Jung, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, and others.

Voices of teachers and parents ring out in a chapter summarizing the results of the survey and interviews. Questions include: “What do parents need from a teacher in order to feel met and supported?” ,“What advice can you give a new parent in terms of establishing an effective parent teacher relationship?”, and “What makes for a successful parent meeting/class night?” There are also stories of lessons learned when “relationships broke down” and when they worked especially well in service to parents, teachers, and children.  These represent real-world case studies that support the other chapters in the book.

The book includes insights from the work of professionals and academics in communication, parent/teacher dynamics, and education.  From Marshall Rosenberg and collaborator John Cunningham there are the techniques of nonviolent communication.  The author presents Rosenberg’s method of how one can participate more consciously in a conversation then offers examples of what that might look like for a parent or teacher in “before and after” scenarios.  Rephrasing a comment in terms of observations rather than judgment can shift how the other person experiences it and responds.  Effective listening includes checking for understanding, catching errors quickly, as well as developing empathy for the other person.  Parents and teachers carry equal responsibility for rxamining listening habits and working to open clear pathways to understanding.

From Karl Konig there are ideas about the impact of family of origin on social behavior and specifically birth order.  Becoming conscious of these “childhood tendencies,” Finser suggests, can help move us “from reactive behavior to a more proactive, enlightened approach.”  Harvard professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has looked deeply into the nature of parent-teacher conversation bringing greater understanding about why there is so much at stake in these meetings and how participants can become more conscious about the emotions that often arise.  She describes how adults arrive to the parent-teacher meeting believing they are working in the present but suddenly find themselves visited by “ghosts” from their pasts, “filling the spaces with the voices of people who are not there.” Finser comments: “There is a vast sea of drama under the surface of parent-teacher conversation.”  He goes on to offer suggestions for both teacher and parent in working sensitively and respectfully with one another.

“The door of the classroom is the portal through which both child, parents and teachers pass. It marks the threshold of moving from the old to the new, from what we are to what we can become. The doorway of a classroom can be seen as simple lumber, nails or mortar, an “it.” Or it can be crossed with devotion and reverence for a threshold experience, a moment of “I – Thou.” It contains both the ordinary and the loftiest portion of human experience.”  Many of the chapters in the book challenge the reader to become more conscious in the encounter with the other, to struggle to see who is really there to be met. By offering examples of different points of view, the obstacles that can be in the way, and tools for working with them, Finser urges us to improve the quality of the third space, the meeting place in the middle between two human beings. In doing so, we can better serve one another and the children in our care.

While the book is written especially for Waldorf parents and teachers, it is relevant for anyone interested in education.  As a teacher who recently graduated an 8th grade and a Waldorf parent of many years, I know firsthand the critical role that parent/teacher relationships play in the success of a class.  This book will give you much to consider and it is highly recommended.



Middle School Brings Math Outdoors on Pi Day

Pi Day Photo 1

Last week the seventh and eighth grades celebrated Pi Day, marking the once-in-a-century 3-14-15, with some scientific, artistic, and culinary experiences. 

Our main activity was a project to estimate the age of trees on part of our campus. Armed with tape measures and field guides, we went outside to record the DBH, “diameter at breast height,” for a range of trees on the property. Of course, we did not want to cut down the trees to measure the diameter of their trunks, so we measured the circumference and divided by pi to get the diameter. We then multiplied the diameter by a species-specific growth factor to get an approximate age of each tree.  In the process, we needed to solve several challenges we encountered, especially given the extensive snow cover—measuring the circumference at 4.5 feet (the standard for “breast height”) while standing on several feet of snow, and identifying the tree species without leaves and cones to examine. We resolved to return again in the spring to verify and augment our data!  Pi Day Photo 2

Back in the classroom, we explored properties of irrational numbers in general, and we heard music based on pi (which some of the students played for us) and looked at some creative data visualization techniques, also based on the digits of pi. And, of course, we ate some pie—chocolate cream and apple, to be

exact. Thanks to Daniel Foster (not only our Spanish teacher but also an environmental educator) for suggesting the idea of measuring DBH, and to Mrs. Babcock for baking the pies!

—Mrs. McGaunn and Ms. Helmick

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm

701 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915

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