Since outdoor learning began, our breezeways, amphitheater, and fields have been transformed into casual performance spaces. In the picture above, 6th grade tunes up before strings class outside. 7th Grade Orchestra plays “Tis a Gift to Be Simple” in the breezeway in honor of the season of gratitude on Thursday, November 19.
Another way our school has transformed this fall. Enjoy!
Our extraordinary autumn began with power tools and wheelbarrows, hammers and hard work, as faculty, students, parents, and staff came together in small groups to construct our outdoor classrooms. Right before campus opened, we were joined by two members of the Miwok tribal council to talk about the land and prepare the campus to receive our students.
On September 8, our preschool and kindergarten reopened with a new mixed-age model and a fifth classroom called Manzanita. Lots of time outdoors, plus our staple weekly hikes to the open space, made this year memorable.
Grades 1-6 also came back on September 8, and their learning began atop stumps and hay bales, nestled beneath the oaks and bay laurels. Two weeks later, our 7th and 8th graders joined us. We hiked to open space, observed the change of the season, and found monarch caterpillars in the Peace Garden milkweed.
An AQI-related closure postponed our Michaelmas celebration, but the dragon still came out the following week, with students watching each other’s performances from a distance.
The week before Halloween, children carved pumpkins in early childhood and the grades, and the 6th grade dressed up in pirate garb to serenade our school with a seafaring song.
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, several members of our faculty and staff created a new committee focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in our community. Since then, the DEI committee has led our faculty and staff in workshops, shared readings, and deep discussions as we strive to bring strong anti-racist and anti-bias teaching into the Waldorf curriculum and our school community.
Among the other things we discussed at last week’s parent evening is how our faculty is examining the Waldorf curriculum, from early childhood through 8th grade, to identify the ways we can incorporate diverse characters, images, and stories into the classroom. Sarah Whitmore, a member of our DEI committee and the lead teacher in the Manzanita early childhood classroom, discussed the various ways she is incorporating diverse characters, images, toys, and stories into her classroom, among other efforts to create a more inclusive environment for young children.
We also heard from 8th Grade class teacher Kristine Deason, who discussed the way the Waldorf curriculum connects children in the upper grades with the greater world, teaching them to view history as well as current events with a critical mind and from different perspectives.
On November 14, 1960, our faculty remembered Ruby Bridges, who at just 6 years old became the first African American student to integrate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Every day that year, federal marshals accompanied Ruby to school. Our music teacher shared the song “Ruby Shoe’s” by Lori McKenna (see her beautiful rendition in the video here).
Some of our teachers incorporated Ruby Bridges’s story into their classwork this week. In 3rd grade, Ms. Martin asked students to share words on the chalkboard that describe her.
After our campus closed last spring, our lovely 8th Grade class worked together to record the song “We Shall Be Known” by Ma Muse, under the direction of choir teacher Ms. Mallard.
May their beautiful voices and the poignant message of hope bring you of joy at this moment of great change!
We shall be known by the company we keep By the ones who circle round to tend these fires We shall be known by the ones who sow and reap The seeds of change, alive from deep within the earth It is time now, it is time now that we thrive It is time we lead ourselves into the well It is time now, and what a time to be alive In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love
We shall be known by the company we keep By the ones who circle round to tend these fires We shall be known by the ones who sow and reap The seeds of change, alive from deep within the earth It is time now, it is time now that we thrive It is time we lead ourselves into the well It is time now, and what a time to be alive In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love — We Shall Be Known, by Ma Muse
A native of the Netherlands and a graduate of the Waldorf teacher training program in Stuttgart, Germany, Marieke Duijneveld joined the MWS family two years ago as a mom to four students before taking a place on our faculty last year as a parent-child teacher. In the fall of 2020, Marieke took the lead in the Morning Glory kindergarten class, whereshe leadstwice-weekly song-filled play-based hikes in the hills around school. Read on to hear how Marieke’s free spirit and a love for adventure has propelled her across the world and all the way to Marin County.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from and where did you grow up? I am from the Netherlands, from a little town close to the coast—right near the polders, or reclaimed land. In the Netherlands, a lot of the land is created, because it’s below sea level, so they pump the water out and create land.
My father was a teacher in a public school, but when I was two, he became a Waldorf teacher. I went to a Waldorf school from preschool through 12th grade. We biked to school every day. We used the car to go on vacation or to visit my grandparents, who lived two hours away, but we never used it for school—only on my birthday! That was very special, because on my birthday my mother baked a treat to share with the other children in my class, and so we had to drive to school to bring it. Otherwise, rain, shine, snow, we always biked.
I was a very dreamy child. I had a vivid imagination. I would go into the woods with my friends in long dresses without shoes. I always dreamed of traveling, my ideal was with a covered wagon pulled by a donkey.
Did you imagine yourself being a teacher growing up? Not at all, because both my parents were teachers, and they taught at the school I went to. I thought I’d never be in that same situation with my own children!
And now you work at the school where your children go! Well, at least I don’t teach them.
What did you parents teach? My father was a class teacher—but in the Netherlands, there aren’t many subject teachers, so the class teacher also teaches subjects, like form drawing, music, English, German, gym. My mom was the woodwork teacher.
When I was 16, my father took his sabbatical and we moved to Sweden for a year where we lived on a farm with adults with special needs. I went to a school that wasn’t a Waldorf school. It was a huge shock! But it was good for me, and helped me to appreciate Waldorf education.
Then you went back and graduated from the Waldorf school? Yes, and then I went to college and I met my husband while in college. We were in the students’ choir, and one weekend we were all on the train and someone found out I went to a Waldorf school.
He called to Jasper, “Hey, Marieke, also went to Waldorf school!” So we sat together and talked about woolen underwear and no TV, and so on, and that was it!
How did you end up in California? When we were both 28, we wanted to move abroad. I had a dream: Let’s start an orphanage in Argentina! I was looking for something adventurous—something that sounded very far away. My husband is a bit more realistic. A friend of his worked at Weleda and it’s an international company, so Jasper applied to Weleda, and was hired in a role in Germany. Moving to Germany did not feel as adventurous as Argentina. And there were no palm trees!
Since we’d moved to Stuttgart, I decided to attend the Waldorf teacher training. I didn’t speak German very well, so I needed to find something to help me learn the language. I loved it. I studied to be a class teacher, and I taught in a local Waldorf school after graduating. Then our first daughter was born, and our second daughter soon after that.
When Jasper was asked to lead Weleda North America, we had to decide whether we would move to the United States. At first, it didn’t sound appealing to me. But we both like adventure, so we said, let’s do it and see what happens. We moved to Chestnut Ridge, New York, a little north of New York City.
We loved it there. I didn’t know much about the U.S., and the people were so helpful and so nice. It was nice to live close to New York City, because we could just go there for a night, for instance to Carnegie Hall. We loved the Waldorf school our children went to. In the Netherlands, all Waldorf schools are public charter schools, none of them are fully independent, private schools. So children have to take tests and the curriculum is heavily influenced by the public school system. The education at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge felt so much closer to what I think Steiner intended with Waldorf education.
I worked as a parent and child teacher, and later as a kindergarten teacher at Green Meadow Waldorf School. After a total of 10 years in New York, it was time for something new. I still missed those palm trees and wanted to go to California. So we chose to move across the country and embrace yet another adventure here in Marin!
Tell me about being a mom to four children. That’s a lot of kids! Yes it is a lot. And I love it!
I always wished for a large family and am so grateful to have four wonderful children. There is an anecdote about how to deal with a large family. With one child, both parents have their hands full, with two, it’s really, really busy but at least you have two hands, and in my case a partner. Three is stressful because you’re trying to stay in control, with four you just have to give up trying to keep everything under control.
Working with children in kindergarten every day inspires me to be a better mom. And vice versa, my experience as a mom probably also helps me professionally.
Kindergarten is different this year, but are there any upsides to early childhood during COVID? It is wonderful to be outdoors more than before. We added more hike days to the program, which I otherwise maybe wouldn’t have done. Being on these hikes in nature with the children is so sweet. We go to places where there aren’t any toys, and they just play! They play for an hour and a half without taking a break, and they enjoy being in their dreamy worlds.
It’s lovely to be in kindergarten and to help create a world that is good, and forget about everything else that is going on.
Also, I love that the groups are smaller as a result of the Covid pandemic. It seems to benefit the children socially. It feels more natural.
On Monday, our students came together to create a colorful altar in observance of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), overseen by Spanish teacher Maestra Pineda. (You can read her description of Día de Muertos by clicking here.)
As an assignment for Spanish class, 7th and 8th grade students created beautiful individual tributes for the altar and wrote biographies of their loved ones to accompany them.
Their work was on display in the Peace Garden on Monday, November 2. Throughout the day, different classes visited the altar with their teachers, viewing the pieces and leaving their own photos and mementos.
In the morning, the 7th and 8th graders gathered to sing together. Enjoy the beautiful video below.
Under the guidance of Spanish teacher Has Pineda, the traditional Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos has become a part of our school’s annual celebrations. Last year, as part of the school’s festivities, our 8th grade class presented a wonderful play in Spanish to the student body, 3rd graders baked the traditional sweet bread pan de muerto, and we all brought mementos and photos to assemble a traditional Día de Muertosaltar to remember departed loved ones.
This year, students worked with Maestra Pineda to create a beautiful altar in the Peace Garden (click here for photos). Below, Maestra Has Pineda describes the origins and meaning behind Día de Muertos celebrations.
El vuelo de los Ancestros Return to the ancient path, the roadmap of greatness, the elders call must be obeyed, thoughts of the ancestors is enough, everything is hidden within it. It is the beginning of healing for all of us and our land. Put your ears on the ground to listen to what they have to say. Tilt your head and look up for the sky bears witness to this truth. The air still sings their music, even the waters also whispers their songs for they drank from the same well as you. Emeka Mokeme, The Elders Call by Morgan Vierheller
Death has been in all cultures and throughout history, an event that invites reflection, rituals, ceremonies, the search for answers, which causes fear, admiration and uncertainty. The festival of the Day of the Dead in Mexico is a tradition that began long before the arrival of the Spanish. About 3,000 years ago, the original Aztecs left a legacy that shows, in the eyes of the world, a culture of great intangible wealth: the spiritual. Through these practices and beliefs they speak to us of respect and love for connections even after physical death.
Pre-Hispanic cultures shared the belief that there is an immortal and soulful entity that gives consciousness to the human being and that after death continues its path in the world of the dead, where it continues to need utensils, tools and food.
Every year, as the fall season arrives Mexicans and many other people from around the globe turn their hearts and minds to loved ones that have crossed the threshold and once more enlighten the bridge between the dead and the living by celebrating “dia de los muertos”. The most representative element of the Day of the Dead festival are the altars with their offerings, a representation of the vision of death, full of allegories and meanings.
This year at Marin Waldorf school we will be honoring with respect, wonder and inclusivity this festival of remembrance. Each class will be offering a gift to the “ofrenda”. First graders cut out pieces of paper to make banners or “papel picado” that will represent the air element. Fifth grade will be making Cempasúchitl flowers(marigolds). They are a symbol of the impermanence and fragility of life and have many uses in Day of the Dead celebrations. 7th graders learned about the history and the components of an altar while 8th graders will write biographies of a loved one they will be honoring during day of the dead.
We set up an altar in the peace garden to allow all students to walk through and in reverence take part of this beautiful celebration.