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!

Kindergarten Circle: A Visit to the Farm (with French Songs!)

Our Hollyhock kindergarten teacher, Nicole, weaves a new story into her morning circle each week, drawing in the children’s attention as they say good morning to each other and learn new songs and full-body movements to accompany the tale.

Since our campus close in March, Nicole has shared a morning circle with Hollyhock families every week. In this charming circle, she leads the children on a visit to the farm with her assistant teacher Jennifer. This circle includes two songs in French, which a kindergartner can pick up and repeat easily, even if they don’t understand the language!

In addition to building a warm classroom community each morning, the morning circle is a time for kindergartners to learn by listening and repeating, to develop balance and motor skills by following the teacher’s movements, and to use their imaginations in stories and songs. In some circles, Nicole introduces tongue twisters, bean bag tossing, and partner games.

Families can listen to this circle at home and make up their own movements as the children greet the little chickens and farmers.

2nd Grade Haikus

This week, 2nd Graders demonstrated their creativity, as well as their understanding of parts of the English language, by composing and illustrating haiku poems that describe the world around them. Below, our 2nd Grade teacher Ms. Martin shares her lesson, as well as some samples of student work.

Dear second grade children,

In these past few weeks, you have learned about naming words (nouns), doing words (verbs) and describing words (adjectives) and have seen how they work together to make a sentence. Now, in writing a haiku, you are using these parts of a sentence , and also your senses! What do you see, taste, feel, hear? Remember, a haiku is a short poem that captures a moment in time. It is a small window into a moment or an experience. We have heard many stories of saints and sages in these past few weeks!

Do you think Francis of Assisi observed nature? Remember how he communicated with the birds and the wolf of Gubbio? Odelia did not have her eyesight from the time she was born until she was a young woman, and yet she knew of the ways of nature. She felt the wind on her cheeks and could feel the flowers growing in a way most of us are not familiar with. Do you remember that Kee-ten (the Native American author, Mourning Dove) had to learn as a child to listen to the river, the wind and all of nature which was trying to speak to her?

When we sit still to listen and see the tiny creatures of the earth, or the twinkling stars on an early morning, or the intricate, colorful wings of a butterfly, we too are listening to nature! What is it trying to teach us? What moment in time would you like to share?

In order to write your haiku you must:

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Sit, listen, observe
  3. What would you like to share? Count the syllables. A haiku is 3 lines, with the first and last line being 5 syllables and the middle line being 7 syllables.
  4. Write your haiku!

Here is the haiku I wrote, inspired by the fawns I saw in front of our
classroom.

Two fawns in tall grass.
Spotted, brown and white they lay,
Curious and calm

The most famous haiku poem of the most famous haiku poet in Japan.
古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.

The syllables are different in Japan than they are in English!

Thank you, children, for doing your best work in writing your Haikus. I look forward to seeing what you have created.

Warmly,
Mrs. Martin

Celebrating Pianist Carolyn Binford

Anyone who has the good fortune of meeting Carolyn Binford knows she is a ray of sunshine: kind, patient, always impeccably dressed, and a beautiful musician who has brought her craft to our choir and eurythmy programs. During her 20 years at Marin Waldorf School, Carolyn has accompanied countless eurythmy classes, provided music at hundreds of class plays and special events, become a reliable member of our faculty salad squad, and helped middle school students perfect their piano playing as an after-school piano teacher.

This year, Ms. Binford is retiring from MWS and we can already feel her absence!

“Her good will and receptivity has made that the intimate work between me as the Eurythmy teacher and her as the musician rich and filled with light for the students. It’s not easy for a pianist to play pieces over and over so the students can practice and learn their parts. Mrs Binford has given her whole heart ever and again selflessly and joyously for the Eurythmy program to grow. I am deeply thankful for her as a colleague and as a friend. May the wind be always at you back, Ms Binford!”

Juan Carlos Lancelloti, Eurythmy Teacher

We asked Ms. Binford to share a little bit about her 20 years at Marin Waldorf School. Read on to hear how she became our school’s pianist, what she knew about eurythmy before she took the job, and what she’ll miss most about MWS.

Tell us a bit about your history at our school. How long have you been at Marin Waldorf School as a pianist and parent?
My daughter Catherine joined the MWS Hollyhocks when she was 6 years old. She is 27 now!  My son Ben (24 years old) joined the Hollyhocks the following year. Catherine moved into the First Grade class with teacher Frances Santaguida. During Catherine’s First Grade year, a pianist was needed to fill in for the Winter Assembly because of a conflict their current pianist had. At the end of that school year of 2000, our Eurythmy teacher, Barbara Newman, asked if I would like the position of Piano Accompanist. I said “Yes!” with trepidation because I was terrible at sight-reading music. I spent most of that summer practicing all of her Eurythmy pieces so that I could “get them down.” Needless to say, my sight reading has improved over these last twenty years with experience and a few tricks learned along the way! Pablo Rodriguez joined the faculty as Choir Director that same year.

Describe your typical week.
In a typical week, I have 15 classes to play for, 14 Eurythmy classes and 1 Choir class. And no, I had never seen a Eurythmy class before I began accompanying the classes that fall!

In addition to the classes, I play for assemblies, class plays and musicals, the faculty Shepherd’s Play (I may know the lines by heart) and May Faire dance rehearsals. A typical day involves arriving early to receive lesson plans from the Eurythmy teacher and play through some of the pieces to help with choreography.

How many Eurythmy teachers have you worked with during your time at MWS?
Through the years, I have had the pleasure of playing for 5 Eurythmy teachers. I have learned to love the collaboration between my music and movement. Through the wooden flooring in the Eurythmy Room, you can not only hear the stepping, skipping, and stomping but you can also feel the vibration. Students can fly by as if they are playing along with me. It is a partnership and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed! Every class, every group of students is unique even after 20 years!

Every class, every group of students is unique even after 20 years!

What will you miss most?
One of the highlights for me has been the musical collaborations with many of the class plays. Rehearsals were during main lessons over several weeks. Being part of these class performances was the icing on the cake! 

Where are you off to now?
Within this new chapter of my life, I’m looking forward to working on more of the classical piano repertoire and continuing to teach piano lessons in the After School Music Program. Beyond that, I’m not exactly sure what the future holds, but I’m looking forward to it!

I will miss being a part of the inside of the Waldorf classroom on a daily basis, hearing beautiful poetry, songs, being part of the choir, watching the students grow, change and meet new challenges. I feel blessed to have been a part of this school in this capacity for so long! 

With love, 
Carolyn Binford

Third Grade Shelter Project

The 3rd Grade shelter project is a highlight of the year, a venue for cultural studies, creativity, and building for our students. Below, please enjoy the wonderful description of this year’s project by third grade teachers Ms. David and Ms. Stroud, along with colorful pictures of student work.

The shelter project is such a big part of the third grade curriculum and this year we took on the challenge of building each of our shelters at home whilst we all have had to ‘shelter in place’ — it certainly gave a new depth of meaning to our shelter projects!

Once the children had each decided on the shelter they wanted to make, the challenge was to find materials from around the home to build their model: Gautham used clay from his garden to build his cob hut; Colin chose to make his igloo out of sugar cubes; Bianca collected sticks in the woods by her house to make her log cabin; Noah found fennel sticks to make his tree house; Adam used a dish towel for his tipi cover and Roen used mud from his yard to make his mud hut.

The students not only created their own shelters but also the people and animals that lived in them, and the landscape around them;  Alona lives in Leah’s Clay House, she sleeps in a hammock that she wove from soft grasses;  Kiian’s Mongolian Yurt is in a desert which is cold by night and hot by day; Adrian’s pueblo has a large fire place inside the red walls; Oliver’s Swiss stone cottage is under the Matterhorn mountain; Alexandra’s Thai Water House is on stilts; Sofia’s grandparents home was on a Colombian coffee plantation; Leo’s Tabernacle has a lapis lazuli heart stone hidden inside and Dario’s barracks was to house soldiers, like his Grandfather.

The children had to think about life inside their shelter — what would the people living their wear, what would they eat and drink, how would they get all their food and clothing and necessities to keep warm and dry?  Sara’s imaginary ‘Hutacie’ had animal skins for warmth, Jude had two pigs and a chicken to help feed the peasant farmers that lived in his Chinese shelter; Angelo had cooking and sleeping inside his tipi which was situated near a lake for water; and Lucas’s shepherd had sheep for wool, meat and milk.

I am so proud of all the work that went into these shelters and so grateful for the patience and support of all the third grade parents!

We would usually have an event to display all this fantastic work and the children would all be there to answer questions.  We hope you will tour the gallery of photos and please do ask us any questions you have!!

Thank you, from all the third grade students, Ms Stroud and Ms David

A Knight’s Challenge

The interdisciplinary and experiential nature of Waldorf education encourages students to explore topics with their hands, with their hearts, through art, and through doing. A few days ago, we highlighted the way our gardening teacher, Ms. Betsyann, tied the 7th Grade curriculum to work in the garden with a video about spirals in the natural world.

In the video (left), our woodwork teacher, Mr. Neale, helped bring the 6th Grade study of the Middle Ages to life by providing students with materials and instructions for creating and painting their own knight’s shield.

The project dovetailed with 6th Grade Ms. Terziev’s “Knight’s Challenge,” in which she asked 6th Graders to complete a series of tasks to become like modern-day knights.

Here are pictures of some of the 6th Graders’ fine work on display!

Click here to see other pictures from 6th Grade main lesson books during the Middle Ages block.