Teachable Moments in the MWS Parking Lot

In this sweet excerpt from our 2020 alumni panel, alumna Marissa Meyer (class of 2020) explains how her eighth grade teacher used a parent’s flat tire in the school parking lot to help bring their study of the Industrial Revolution to life.

“There wasn’t necessarily a right answer or a defined objective. It was, how do you figure it out?”

A Puppet Show in Spanish

To practice comprehension and review vocabulary with MWS third graders, our Spanish instructor Maestra Pineda created this lovely felt puppet show for her students. Follow along as grandma, grandpa, dad, and the whole family try to pull a giant carrot from the ground.

¿Cuantas zanahorias recogen los abuelos?

Feature image: “carrots” by The Bunny Maker is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

MWS Recommends: Resources for Parents

Since our campus closed in mid-March, our families have been sharing resources with one another. Following are a few of our favorite resources for parents.

MWS favorite Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, has many excellent podcast episodes related to parenting during the global pandemic and stay-at-home order, including “Loving Limits and Discipline During the Intensity of Family Time.”

Greater Good in Education, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, offers a wealth of resources and ideas for parents and educators to help navigate the COVID-19 shelter-at-home including activities, podcasts, videos, and practices.

You can also check out the center’s online Greater Good Magazine for articles and advice, including this lovely little post “Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself in Quarantine.”

Are you in need of some extra support? Parents Place, a part of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services, is offering a wide range of resources for families during the Coronavirus shelter-at-home order, including free and paid online workshops, remote counseling, a blog with advice and information, and videos for parents.

For Zoomed-out families, here is a very good article, “10 Ways to Protect the Brain from Daily Screen Time,” by Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. in Psychology Today about mitigating the effects of screens and WiFi at home.

Concerned about electromagnetic waves at home?
Here’s a parent-recommended article, “How to Set Up a Safe Computer Workstation For Your Child During COVID-19” from Environmental Health Trust.

Just for fun: first grade mom Anouk told us to check out the homemade re-creations of famous artworks throughout the world by following the hashtag #betweenartandquarantine. (Read about how the movement took off here.)

MWS Recommends: Activities at Home

Since our school closed in March, our families have been sharing resources with each other in our weekly newsletter and through word of mouth. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite activities and recommendation for children at home… and please send more if you have them!

“The Great Pause” — A Tale for Young Children
Once upon a time, in a land far away, but not too far away, in a time long ago, but not too long ago, there was a lovely little kingdom of very hard workers. This kingdom was built up of four villages, each ruled by a wise and kind Queen…
Click here to read the rest of the story on the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) website.

You can join the Marin County Free Library online then borrow from their huge selection of e-books and audiobooks at home.

During the closures, the Marin County Free Library has started recording their weekly story times for young children.
Click here to hear more about online story time or to check out the many crafts and activities the library recommends.

Audible is also offering free audiobooks while schools are closed.

Founded by preschool mom Heidi, Blue Dot Kids Press is a small press that publishes stories that connect us to each other and the Earth. Click here to check out their beautiful offerings.

A MWS kindergarten family recommends family-friendly martial arts with Oakland-based Peter Ajemian. He leads daily workouts for adults, and three weekly kids classes on Zoom. More info on Soja’s website.

MWS families recommend Quarantine Clay Club with Petaluma Pottery! Clay kits (for pickup), online tutorials, and more. Click here for more information about their programs.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is sharing free nightly live streams of their operas, which remain available to watch throughout the following day. Click here to watch the most recent performance.

Keeping it local, San Francisco Opera is also offering free streaming of their performances on their website, as well as steams of previous performances.

America’s test Kitchen Kids: Downloadable and printable recipes, as well as food-based activities, like salt painting.

Mapbox created a printable map coloring book to use at home, with instructions on how to download software and create your own color-able map. Click here to download the maps or create your own.

Now That’s Impressive!

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Marin Waldorf School campus, you’ve likely seen middle school students circling around on their unicycles. Unicycling is perhaps the most memorable aspect of our movement curriculum in the upper grades. As movement and games teacher Ms. O’Ryan says, “Unicycling and juggling help empower the students to make a new relationship with their sense of balance and make sense out of chaos—two hands, three bean bags.”

In this short, clip one of our 6th graders shows off her incredible balance and coordination while juggling on a unicycle.

Rising 3rd!

Ms. Martin’s class is onto 3rd Grade!

What a year to watch them grow … as knights in the Michaelmas pageant, singing grasshoppers and lions in their wonderful class play, and the shining force behind a winter coat drive.

Below, see the beautiful video Ms. Martin made to say goodbye to her class for the summer.

Below, a few snapshots from the year in 2nd Grade.

7th Grade: The Age of Exploration

At the end of the 7th Grade year, students are immersed in the stories, personalities, and legacy during the Age of Exploration. Below, teacher Ms. Deason explains the significance of this block and its themes to the 7th Grader. (Please scroll down to read her important addendum to this lesson.)

The seventh grader can be described as a person filled with interest and eager to take initiative. At this age, young adolescents look into the world and feel strongly pulled by the glimmer of new horizons and compelled to venture out and expand in new directions. The thirteen-year-old possesses a curiosity and a hunger for encountering and discovering the “new” which imbues their work with vigor and powerful enthusiasm. It is with good reason that exploration is a foundational theme of the year.

We recently ended our year with a culminating curriculum project focused on an individual explorer. The project required in-depth research, strong writing skills and artistry. Students worked for many weeks on multiple drafts and drawings to create their finished product. Despite the challenges of distance learning and being separated from peers and teachers, students reached new levels of excellence in their projects, directing their efforts with increasing independence and initiative. Last Thursday, we celebrated their work with a wonderful evening of oral presentations by the students, each one dressed as their explorer! Some of their work is posted below.

The creativity and diligence of the students in Ms. Deason’s 7th Grade class is evident in their finished reports. Look at the vibrant colors and fluid writing in 7th Grader Sydney’s report on Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Here’s an excerpt from a wonderful report by Aurelius on arctic explorer Matthew Henson.

Here’s a gallery of more illustrations and maps from the 7th Grade.

Addendum:
Recent Events and the Relevance of the Waldorf Curriculum
in the Upper Grades

            The topic of exploration is a difficult one to teach in our time – it is filled with stories of courage, ingenuity and tremendous human endeavors, which the 7th grader deeply needs. However, many of those stories are also fraught with injustice, racism and unfathomable inhumanity. All of this must be brought truthfully to the students, both as history and also as the roots of systemic inequity in contemporary society. Last Tuesday, as we were preparing for our final presentations, I was keenly aware that I had to acknowledge what is happening right now, today. I talked about the current protests and the longstanding systems of injustice and inhumanity people are challenging.  I connected the theme of exploration with colonialism, slavery, and the need for change. Then I pointed to the curriculum we would be taking up next year in 8th grade and its overarching theme of revolution and of how human beings can and must effect change. 

I talked about Alexander von Humboldt, whose short book the students recently began to read, and of his work as an extraordinary explorer, scientist and humanist.  I read them a passage from his biography, describing how he addressed Thomas Jefferson and his cabinet in his time and spoke passionately about the environment and the need to respect the earth, and also equally passionately against colonialism and slavery and the evil they represent, urging the third President of a new United States to dismantle these structures. It was an opportunity to connect 7th grade themes to 8th grade themes.  

It was also a moment in which the upper grade curriculum became incredibly relevant and potent. After all, the ultimate goal of Waldorf education is to guide the child, in loving, beautiful and truthful ways, toward becoming a truly free human being, unafraid to move into unknown territories and willing to apply themselves to making substantive change in the world. — Kristine Deason

First Grade Math: Bird by Bird

This week, our First Grade teacher, Ms. Weger, shared this lesson from the last block of the year.

The First Grade students have been reviewing the four math processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in their last three-week block of the year. Typically, a nature story of some kind is told, and the children follow along, inwardly calculating as they go.

During this block, the main lesson concluded with the students writing their math sentences from the nature story in their books with a drawing of their choosing. Here is the math story:

The birds have become a symphony of sound from the trees since their babies hatched earlier this Spring! While walking, I noticed a family of quail cross the road. First the mama quail, and then 4 juvenile quail, and then 5 more juvenile quail. Including the mama, how many quail are there? _____. As the quail finished crossing the street, the crows started shouting at each other from the Bishop Pine trees above. There are 2 crows in one tree, and 3 crows in the other. How many crows are there? _____. How many more quail are there on the ground than crows in the trees? _____.    

And here are some of the images the students created in response:

If you’d like to read more about the Waldorf curriculum’s approach to teaching math, The Chalkboard blog from Waldorf School of Moraine has a great introduction “Why is Waldorf Math Education Unique and Powerful?

Video: Flower Petal Mandalas

Last week, we shared some of the beautiful drawings of plants, trees, and flowers that our 5th Graders created for their botany block. Now, they are exploring the beauty of plants by creating natural, inherently ephemeral mandalas in the garden. (Pictured above, our school garden in the springtime.)

Says gardening teacher Ms. Betsyann:

This activity is my favorite garden class of the “usual” year. The students always enjoy it. This year I filmed a version with directions for the class so they can work at home, alone. It is not quite the same as having bubbling activity of many groups making masterpieces in the garden.

4th Grade Pioneers and Prospectors

In the 4th Grade block on the Gold Rush, Ms. Malon asked students to imagine themselves as children traveling on a wagon train following overland routes to California, arriving in the city of San Francisco, and heading for the hills of the Gold Country.

In a series of recordings and assignments, Ms. Malon describes the challenges of life as a pioneer, from sandstorms to prairie fires, as well as the daily lives of miners and merchants in the towns where gold had been discovered. Though Ms. Malon’s storytelling, students imagined sandstorms and prairie fires on the Great Plains or the breakfast a miner might eat before digging spending the day digging gold, while also learning about the way the Gold Rush changed the West.

In response, students filled their main lesson book pages with a first-person diary of their experiences as they traveled to California and drawings of scenes their journey.

They also drew maps, created newspaper stories, and wrote letters about their travels with thoughtful embellishments, describing the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of the pioneers.

Congratulations to our soon-to-be 5th Graders on their beautiful work!