The Magic of Meaningful Work

(… And a recipe for a no-fuss fall soup to make at home.)

Gathering around a table to share a warm midmorning snack is an essential part of the preschool and kindergarten day at Marin Waldorf School. Each of our five classrooms have their own weekly menus for morning snack, and the children learn to recognize the days of the week by the food they share at school: Wednesday is “rice and beans day,” Thursday is “honey bun day” and so on. Soup day is special among them—a warming, handmade meal that all the children love. In fact, vegetable soup is the one snack that all five classrooms make every week of the year!

“Soup is a class community project, where everyone contributes by bringing a vegetable from home and then together transforms it into something that nourishes us all,” says Ms. Greta, lead teacher in the Manzanita mixed-age kindergarten classroom.

Tuesdays are soup day in the Manzanita room. Which means that every Tuesday children bring a fresh vegetable from home and then, together with teachers Ms. Greta and Mr. Rod, our 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old students use paring knives, crinkle cutters, and wooden cutting boards to help chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces for soup.

Added to a pot of browning celery, onion, and garlic, the vegetables are transformed into a colorful, aromatic, and warming autumn soup, which the children share with their teachers at snack time (and it makes plenty of leftovers for Thursday, too, which Ms. Greta tells us are “even tastier!”).

“It’s real work in the real world,” says Peggy Rock, our early childhood coordinator and a veteran kindergarten teacher. Part of that real work is using real tools, including small paring knives that fit in their hands and are sharpened to cut, a very good way to develop fine motor skills. “Children are more capable than you think,” says Peggy. “They may get a few ‘learning cuts,’ but that teaches them to respect the tool and learn to use it.” 

Plus, she tells us, “Making the soup means you enjoy it more. It smells wonderful and it’s magical.”

Manzanita teacher Ms. Greta agrees. “It is practical work with their hands,” she says. “The children have a vested interest in something they’ve made themselves.” In fact, many parents are amazed that their sometimes picky children will enthusiastically fill up on two or three bowls of vegetable soup at school.

Making soup with a young child is a wonderful way to spend an autumn afternoon at home, and the soup we make is super simple and incredibly versatile. Remember, we make it with whatever combination of vegetables the children bring to school — from mushrooms to eggplant to broccoli. Use whatever you have at home.

And, remember, of course, that the most important ingredient is love! 

Warming Autumn Soup 
(adapted from the Hollyhock kindergarten and Manzanita kindergarten soup recipe)


1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery
1 tbsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or tamari
10 cups of seasonal vegetables, chopped bite-size* (see note)
2 tsp fresh or dried herbs
16-18 cups filtered water

* At Marin Waldorf School, we make soup with a wide and wholly unplanned selection of vegetables, which are contributed by our parents. Carrot, broccoli, mushroom, potatoes, corn, kale, or spinach are delicious, but we find more atypical soup veggies work just as well. Try beets, parsnip, cauliflower, eggplant, or sweet potato. 

Optional: cooked rice, beans, garbanzo beans
Required: love


  1. Work with your child to chop small pieces of carrot, potato, and other veggies you have at home. An adult should chop the onions, garlic, and celery.
  2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. 
  3. Add the onion, celery, and carrots (if using) to the soup pot and stir until golden, about 15 minutes
  4. Add remaining vegetables and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes
  5. Add water then turn the heat to high and let the soup come to a slow boil
  6. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the soup rest until serving.
  7. Serve a ladleful of soup in each bowl, topped with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast. Serve with bread or crackers.

Warm homemade snacks are a part of daily rhythm in our preschool and kindergarten programs, one of the many details that make our classrooms feel like home. With homemade vegetable soup, you make home feel a bit more like school too!

Categories MWS

Fourth Grade Spends Four Days on a Working Farm

The fourth graders enjoyed their trip to Live Power farm in Covelo, a beautiful valley near Willits.   Live Power farm is a biodynamic farm (based on principles put forth by Rudolf Steiner) and is run by Steve and Gloria Decater.  Passionate and dedicated, they commit to using power from the sun to produce food for 70 families that participate in their CSA program. 

Sheep shearing, potato harvesting, building a biodynamic compost pile, removing brambles, chopping overgrown broccoli and shoveling cow and horse manure were just some of the chores the children completed during their visit.

Waking in the dark, layering up and donning their rubber boots, the children rolled out of their warm sleeping bags when the last stars faded in the dawn light.  They gathered in front of the farm house to begin their morning tasks which included wood splitting,  milking the cow and feeding the horses, steers, chickens, dairy cows and sows. 

Once morning chores were completed, the breakfast bell rang for the children, who then enjoyed a warm breakfast complete with hot chocolate made with milk from the cows. Once nourished themselves, the children went to put the sheep and cows out to pasture for the day. Throughout the day, farm chores continued at a slow easy pace, which allowed children time to be on the land without feeling rushed and to watch the cows chew their hay and to be at peace with the beautiful still work horses.  

For over 40 years, Gloria and Steven have generously hosted thousands of Waldorf students for a three night/ four day farm trip. Children leave the farm with an understanding that humans have been cultivating land for 10,000 years, and only in the past 100 years have they depended on fossil fuel.  The children learned that everything on the farm is connected- the land, plants, animals and humans, and that without one the others would fail to thrive or even exist.   

One of the many gifts we received at the farm was the benefit of sleeping in a new building that has been a dream of the Decaters for a long time. We arrived in the rain, and felt blessed to have an option to have a roof over our heads to protect us from wetness and the chill of morning frost.  They are still fundraising for this beautiful conference room which will one day have a kitchen, bathrooms and a shower.  Watch this video to meet Steven, Gloria and their work horses!

More farms we love:

Botany, gardening, and learning to cultivate and care for plants are all part of the Waldorf curriculum, with even our kindergarten classrooms caring for their own garden patches. Here are a few other community farms we love.

Bramble Tail Herdshare Program, Sebastapol, CaliforniaBramble Tail Homestead is one part of the Green Valley Farm + Mill land project, located in Sebastopol. Their herdshare program is an opportunity to co-own their herd of Jersey cows and become part of their mission to promote an ecological food web. Members of the herdshare get a portion of their raw milk. Learn more on their website or email if you are interested in becoming a member of the herdshare!

Three Springs Community Farm, Bodega, CaliforniaLast year’s third grade class visited this beautiful 80-acre educational farm in Bodega, California, goats, pigs, chickens and biodynamically grown produce. The children were assigned tasks like digging and sifting compost, harvesting radishes, garlic scapes, and peas, planting potatoes, and using hand scythes for cutting grass and then getting to feed the pigs, chickens, and goats.

Categories MWS

Firmly on the Earth I Stand: Michaelmas Pageant 2021

The early fall is often gloriously beautiful in Northern California, and last Friday afternoon the deep blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and leafy green canopy of Grandmother Oak were backdrop to our annual Michaelmas pageant—a festival that reflects the mood of the season itself. Through song and verse we celebrate the arrival of the autumn season and kindle our inner light as winter approaches. Below, we’d like to share some clips of the children’s performances at the pageant.

In her message to the community last fall, our school director Megan Neale wrote, “In many Waldorf schools in the northern hemisphere, Michalemas is the festival that celebrates and honors this transition and inner preparation. Many of the native people in California also celebrate this time, honoring the harvesting of the acorn that brings life and sustenance throughout the winter months. For the farmers, it is a time to begin to put the land to rest after an active growing season through the summer. There is preparation required for this transition to take place.”

Second graders play an important role in the pageant as the knights who tame the dragon. “In the Michaelmas pageant, the second grade plays the role of the knights. The seventh grade comes in as the dragon, and the second graders tame the dragon and save the people of the community,” explains second grade teacher Mr. Baril. In preparation for the pageant, second graders make their own swords, which, Mr. Baril explains, “are raised upwards to the heavens for strength, not downward, toward the earth, as a weapon.”

On a deeper level, we can each think of the dragon as those things that prevent our awakening to our own humanity. Michael’s qualities of courage, compassion and steadfastness are the qualities second graders are learning to live into as part of the larger second grade curriculum, through which they study the lives of inspiring people from around the world.

Here are some more snapshots from the pageant.

It was a beautiful day!

Categories MWS