While in the mornings the 9th graders soak themselves in the work of a number of masters from different periods during their Main Lesson History through Art, their afternoon art block is much less restrictive and the students are asked to replicate--as a group--one of the most iconic pieces they studied: Leonardo's Last Supper. Since, thanks to a prior art class, they have already been exposed to charcoal techniques, it is not difficult for them to enjoy the freedom afforded by working both in such large format and shoulder to shoulder with their classmates.
On August 23rd, we plunged into the first day of school and aquatic sports: rowing.
This year’s Fall Colloquium centered on the book, The Boys in the Boat, a NY Times bestseller, which combines great storytelling, biography, and history on the Depression with aspects of 1936 Berlin Olympics, scrutinized under Hitler’s eagle eyes. The book is a wonderful read!
The opening lecture was off the beaten track. Led by Mr. Otero with an overview of Wall Street and the Crash in 1929, other high school faculty members told the stories of their parents and grandparents’ experiences during the Depression in different parts of the country. Ms. Castilla told of her grandparents’ struggle during the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Ryan talked about his grandmother’s emigration from Russia through Germany and eventually on to America.
Some tidbits on rowing:
- Rowing, they say, burns more calories than any other sport.
- In the 1930s, rowing was one of the most popular spectator sports.
- Rowing is the oldest team sport. It began in Ancient Egypt. (See some hieroglyphics.)
- This summer, the US women’s rowing team won its third Olympic gold.
- It takes a team, working in exquisite unity, to row straight, let alone, win a race.
- George Pocock, a British boat builder, changed the design and woods of the traditional crewing boat that led to a winning boat.
The book The Boys in the Boat tells the story of Joe Rantz who grew up in Washington State during the 1930s. Abandoned by his family in a farmhouse in his teenage years, Joe learned to hunt, fish, and forage on his own. Not only did he get jobs around the neighborhood (including bootlegging and selling poached salmon), he kept up his school work and was admitted to the University of Washington on a scholarship. To save money, he lived in a janitor’s closet at the YMCA. To shine, he went to crew everyday (in the same sweater for a year), and worked out in rain, sun, wind, sleet, and snow. A tough childhood, a tough training, a tough coach, an indomitable spirit, and a dedicated team resulted in the Olympic Gold in 1936—and later, a family reunion and an enduring marriage.
During the colloquium week activities ranged from racing our canoes at Abiquiu Lake (which meant all the students learned to canoe fast—or in circles), to carving boats with Fletcher Lathrop and Chris Sciarretta, to hearing a lecture on crewing by Fatima Van Hattun, to watching the movie Race about Jesse Owens and his feats in that same 1936 Olympics, and to discussing and comparing the experiences of Joe and Jesse—and what it takes to win an Olympic medal.
The final contest? To see whose boat (those carved in woodworking) stayed afloat and “sailed” straight! Winners were determined by applause: Luca Vera Ramirez (9th), Matias Gonzales (10th), Devta Khalsa (11th), and Julian Kneisely (12th).
All in all? It was an inspiring and wet colloquium—and a marvelous start to the school year! We’ve set sail!
Written by: Pam Colgate, High School Humanities Teacher and 12th Grade Sponsor
Photos by: Susanna Green, High School Office Coordinator
From The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2016:
The teenage years can be mystifying for parents. Sensible children turn scatter-brained or start having wild mood swings. Formerly level-headed adolescents ride in cars with dangerous drivers or take other foolish risks.
A flood of new research offers explanations for some of these mysteries. Brain imaging adds another kind of data that can help test hypotheses and corroborate teens’ own accounts of their behavior and emotions. Dozens of recent multiyear studies have traced adolescent development through time, rather than comparing sets of adolescents at a single point.
The new longitudinal research is changing scientists’ views on the role parents play in helping children navigate a volatile decade. Once seen as a time for parents to step back, adolescence is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to stay tuned in and emotionally connected. The research makes it possible to identify four important phases in the development of intellectual, social and emotional skills that most teens will experience at certain ages.
From AWSNA's Essentials in Education Blog, August 2016:
We all want our children to be happy, and while this is traditionally thought of as an at-home concern, we send our kids to school hoping that they will have an emotionally enriching and balanced day.
Carol Gerber Allred, President/Founder of the Positive Action Program, geared toward fostering more positive classrooms, believes that families and students both expect and desire well-being at school, but unfortunately, testing culture has shifted the expectations of educators.
Here in her Educational Leadership article at The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website, she says: “Unfortunately, the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind have created a different definition of positive classrooms for many educators. For them, positive classrooms have come to mean places where students arrive at school ready to learn; work diligently to master academic standards (particularly math and reading); go home and accurately complete homework; and return to school the next day eager to learn more. Often, teachers are so focused on ensuring that students pass achievement tests that they have little or no time to address students’ social and emotional needs.”
Now educators and researchers alike are beginning to realize that overlooking well-being’s connection to learning is a mistake. Perhaps we all instinctively know that happy children will be more willing to learn and less distracted. Now science is backing up that intuition.
From The New York Times, June 20, 2016:
Do children in a keyboard world need to learn old-fashioned handwriting?
There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.
And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.
From AWSNA's Essentials in Education Blog, July 2016:
We have dreams and hopes for our children that often extend beyond mimicry of our own lives. We hope they will do more, be more, and we define these “mores” in myriad ways. Yet the collective consciousness of “better” for a new generation persists, whether it is a desire for a better standard of living, better education, or a better world.
Throwing a wrench into this paradigm is the powerful force of modeling in learning. Children learn through imitation. It can be as simple as wearing a seatbelt. Parents who wear them have children who wear them. Or it can be as complex as using modeling as a teaching technique for self-efficacy and competence in reading and writing.
We know the power of imitation to be intuitively true as we often fall into the patterns of our upbringing. But it scientifically bears out as well. In fact, a recent study of indigenous children in Australia uncovered an important phenomenon in cognitive modeling.
Children in this study were found to “over-imitate,” meaning simply that they modeled all adult behavior in a teaching task regardless of whether it seemed to drive toward a purpose. The purpose in this case was opening a box. The children were shown a convoluted and complex method of opening the box and they imitated it exactly when given the task on their own.
From Liraz Margalit Ph.D on the Psychology Today Behind Online Behavior blog, April 17, 2016:
Screen time is an inescapable reality of modern childhood, with kids of every age spending hours upon hours in front of iPads, smartphones and televisions.
That’s not always a bad thing: Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills—not to mention the break these gadgets provide harried parents. But tread carefully: A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend a whopping seven hours a day in front of electronic media. Other statistics reveal that kids as young as two regularly play iPad games and have playroom toys that involve touch screens.
From Rae Pica, Education Consultant on parenttoolkit.com, June 27, 2016:
A mother told me that her son was seven months old when she first felt the pressure to enroll him in enrichment programs. She said, “Here I was with an infant who had just learned to sit upright by himself, and someone was asking me what classes he was going to be taking, as if he were ten!”
Another mom, this one an early childhood professional who understood child development, complained to me that she was under tremendous pressure to enroll her daughter in the local, competitive soccer program. When I asked her daughter’s age, she replied, “Two and a half.”
What these stories – and many others like them – have in common is the belief that "earlier is better" – that you just can’t start kids too soon on the road to success. Whether we’re talking about academics or athletics, this idea has become deeply ingrained in our society. But where has it come from? Why are parents and children being burdened by this false notion? Why are parents being made to feel terrified that if they don’t give their little ones a jumpstart on the “competition,” their children will fall behind and end up as miserable failures?
From AWSNA's Essentials in Education Blog, June 2016:
What motivates a baby to walk? Is it the same drive that motivates a business owner to work late or an elementary student to learn math facts? In the first case, most would label the baby as having intrinsic motivation – engaging in behavior that is personally rewarding.
But our other two examples? It’s difficult to know, but most would likely guess extrinsic – money, praise, grades – the carrot and stick concept that’s been in place to encourage workers and students for centuries.
What if, instead, the student and worker were intrinsically motivated? What would that look like and would that motivation be sufficient to accomplish the task at hand? Which works better, ultimately, for lifelong learning?
An inspiring message from Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Shaefer Bennett, as presented at the Santa Fe Waldorf High School Commencement Ceremony on June 3, 2016.
What does it mean to graduate? The dictionary states that to graduate means to complete a course of study and receive a diploma at the end in recognition of the completion. But is that all it is? A completion of series of classes that a person takes over the course of several years, supposedly leading to some sort of higher knowledge? Is a paper diploma really that important? Is it even real?
It depends on who you ask, but, if you ask me, I'd say no. No. A piece of paper, a robe, a ceremony, none of it means anything unless the participant, the pupil, me, my classmates, or a thousand seniors, take the next step and realize that we make the paper worth all its fancy lettering. We are stepping into the world, a world fraught with problems, with conflicts, with dilemmas so intimidating and huge that they take our breath away. It seems as though a single person can do very little to make the world a better place. But that's not true. Each of us can make huge contributions to creating a better world for the future. But we can't do it unless we, the participants, begin to act. And I don't mean completely changing the way we live, but instead making the way we live now a part of the way that we can make the world a better place. Each little thing we do has an impact, and no matter how small it may seem, if we are conscious about our actions, if we act with integrity and truthfulness, if we always ask ourselves "Is this what I really want? Am I willing to make a change and do something positive?" then we will always be active and contributing members of a new world order. An order in which people care about themselves, but in which they also understand the importance of community, of giving back, of a global awareness in which we make decisions based on the impacts that they will have, either positive or negative, but either way, consciously, so that we are aware of what the impact of our choices will be.
This is where Waldorf Education gets a quick and well deserved shout-out. As Waldorf students, we have been taught to think independently. We have been immersed in an environment that nurtures and cherishes creative individuality, while at the same time subjected to, at times a seemingly strange world of an all required curriculum. This, I think, is the key to Waldorf success. My classmates and I have, somehow, been able to learn about who we are as individuals, while at the same time focusing on a common theme. our classes, throughout our education.
I have spent the last 4 years, and in some cases, 9, even 14 years, becoming the person who I am today with these people sitting here graduating with me. I would not consider them my friends. I would consider them my family. And in this crazy world that we live in today, I could not be more proud to be standing here addressing you, at the forefront of this incredible senior class. I feel confident, that when each of us goes into the world, we will always bring with us an idea of the larger picture. We have been taught to think about the larger world community throughout our education, and if we can hold on to that sense of community, of family, then we won't be able to make decisions that put our future, the future of everyone here, and every person, and plant, and animal, and system, in harm's way. I am saddened to know that this is not the case everywhere. This is a rare and important opportunity that has been given to us through our Waldorf Education.
I am positive that each one of us will make the next step in our lives in his or her own way, but
each, as we move forward, will make the world around us a better place. Perhaps Gaby will
warm the hearts of her future fans in the pages of a novel, or five. Maybe Augie will become an
influential man of business. Evan might go on to show the world's hunks that being vegetarian is great way to build lean muscle, and Ivan might inspire others to follow their physical dreams.
Sean could design the next technology in aeronautical engineering, and Sienna could bring
beauty and creative genius to her future endeavors. Maybe Har Simran will create a handmade
skateboard or climbing company. Elle could continue to bring joy and life to elders in her
community, and Sundarta might bring her music and friendship with her wherever she goes.
And who knows what I'll do.
So, as we end this chapter in our lives and begin the next, I urge each of us, as well all of you,
to be active participants. Don't let this beautiful and amazing world pass you by. Find the beauty in the little things, and don't dwell on all the negativity. Do everything you can to make
yourself feel fulfilled, but don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Try to make everything you do
matter in some way, big or small, and don't forget to laugh as much as possible.
So please, reduce, reuse, recycle, and let's go make his(six)tory!
Last week Grade 10 was taken on daily outings by their adventurous teacher, Will, for the Forest Ecology Week. Experiencing a little rain and cold mixed with some hot and sunny days (in typical New Mexico spring fashion) the class visited the Santa Fe Ski Basin, Rowe Mesa, Villanueva State Park, Pecos, Truchas, Caldera Canyon & White Rock. Three of our newly-arrived international students joined the group, getting a special look into New Mexican ecology - what a great time for them to visit! And what a wonderful opportunity for all these 10th graders, and just one more thing that makes a Waldorf education so special! Thanks, Will, for being such a good leader and educator.
This is a guest blog by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan, who has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School. "Notes from a Parent" will be a reoccurring column here throughout the school year.
Recently at the monthly parent education meeting with Kay Hoffman, Pedagogical Director at Santa Fe Waldorf School, the group was discussing media—always a hot topic. Parents were sharing how they personally use media. When I shared, I explained that I use media to unwind. As the meeting was taking place just after the Richard Louv event, his discussion of how important nature is for kids and adults was present in everyone’s mind. In response to me, another parent mentioned going for a walk to unwind instead of using media.
Brilliant, but that can be oh so hard to do.
Getting connected to Louv’s message in a personal way involves changing habits. It’s possible, but it takes work and commitment. My own media consumption can sometimes involve either watching a movie after my daughter has gone to bed or surfing my Facebook feed on my phone for news to read.
Taking a walk doesn’t seem like an option unless I recalibrate my day—and my thinking.
Soon after the Louv event and that meeting—I had a particularly awful morning with my daughter. I hated leaving her at school when we had had such a difficult morning. I am particularly haunted by Sandy Hook at those moments. For me, there is nothing worse than a school drop off when a child is upset. Driving away I had that feeling of inflicting damage—but for what—at this moment I can’t even remember what was at stake. Clearly, my own triggers as a parent were fully activated. Tiredness, financial stress, having no physical backup with my husband working on the road were all contributing to the unhappiness of moment and the tone of the situation—a bad mommy day.
As I drove away, I had the quiet I needed to collect myself and think about what I could do to mitigate the situation. As my own anxiety was still present I felt that to leave the situation unresolved for the whole day was a mistake. After meditating I decided that I needed to do something different and I reasoned that being outdoors could be a new and possibly healthy antidote to address our stress. I returned to school to pick my daughter up for an appointment and I also planned to take her for a mini hike in Hyde State Park.
After arriving at our favorite little spot, I watched as the healing and restorative powers of being outdoors had an immediate and direct impact on her. The snow covered trail; the gurgling stream peeking through ice formations; the clearness of the air; and the brightness of the sunshine were truly restorative. She was so in the moment scrambling up the hillside shouting back at me “Mom, look at this.” “Mom can you still see me? Look how high I am.” And on it went—the awfulness of the morning melting away.
I felt myself relaxing too, but at times my adult brain was replaying the morning over again trying to think of how I could have handled the situation better. Bit by bit, through her infectious enthusiasm of exploring the snow covered scene, I became more mindful, present and just enjoyed focusing myself on really connecting with my daughter and all the beauty around us as she called out things for me to come and see.
My hope was that the angry intensity of the morning was obliterated by the unusualness of a quick outdoor moment during the school day. I think it was. I know for myself by the time I was driving her back to school I felt peaceful and she too was ready to head into her day more relaxed as well. This recalibrating to bring the restorative properties of nature into the everyday is something I am working to translate into new habits. It’s the notion of taking a walk or just getting outside to unwind or reconnect to one’s peaceful center.
In my ponderings and quest to recalibrate with nature I was also struck how different my life is now that I live in Santa Fe. Since my daughter was born our family lived inside a park, first at an Arizona State Park and then at City Of Prescott Park inside the Prescott National Forest. In these locations we just stepped outside our door into nature. We rarely “planned” to hike. We went for a walk on a daily basis to see what work my Park Ranger husband had done for the day. We took our dog for a run through the woods after the park was closed. We sat outside regularly to a wonderful fire in our backyard. Nature surrounded us. Being outdoors was easy.
Now getting outside in that kind of wilderness takes effort—planning. Last Sunday while doing errands, my girl asked to go to our second favorite spot in Hyde State Park. I hesitated. We both weren’t dressed for “hiking,” but I said yes. It was warmish and felt like spring was finally arriving. I decided—since “hiking” was not going to happen—that we would get food for a little picnic during our last errand at Trader Joe’s.
While parking and walking to the picnic tables I was reminded that in many ways childhood is a collection of many small memories that create a tapestry of feeling. Big events definitely have impact, but it is the accumulation of the nearly invisible moments that create a sense of happiness.
The spontaneity of just getting outside and frolicking at the edge of a very cold stream and the having a mini picnic can be as fun as if I planned for a whole outdoor day. Picking up trash; climbing on logs; and exploring can be as relaxing as doing a more traditional outdoor activity. Again I am seeing how easy it is to recalibrate my thinking and just get outside to unwind.
On the way home we decided to that we needed to put together a “spontaneous” hiking kit: old boots, socks, water bottles, hats, and an old TJ bag for picking up trash could just live in the truck so that whenever the mood struck us we could go outside and play.
For a few outdoor ideas consider checking out the link here at the bottom of the Santa Fe Waldorf School Louv event page, which has a regularly updated list of outdoor activities for kids and families and ideas for getting outside.
As a final thought—though some may consider it incongruous in a Waldorf blog post about getting out into nature—below are two video links (from nature-rx.org) about using nature as a prescription for what ails us. The shorts are funny—the deep belly laughing kind, so laugh out loud and then go take a hike… NatureRX Part 1 and and NatureRX Part 2.
Santa Fe Waldorf School was so pleased to host Richard Louv for his lecture in Santa Fe-- his message is of profound importance to children and parents both.
He spoke with Outside Magazine during his visit:
Louv has spent most of the past decade traveling the country and promoting his brand of nature parenting, and says kids not getting enough time outside. As a result, he says, we’re seeing increasing rates of childhood obesity, anxiety, depression, attention disorders, vitamin D deficiencies—the list goes on.
But here’s the good news: it’s never too late to improve. No act is too small. And each and every single child and family can make a difference.
Congratulations to the senior class for completing three short films which were successfully screened at the Center for Contemporary Arts last week!
This is the second year that our Senior class has been led through the detailed process of imagining, producing, and directing a short digital movie with this year seeing the creation of three short films rather than one longer work.
Great work, seniors!
Old Man and Boy
Lost and Found
An insightful article by SFWS parent, Maureen Eich VanWalleghan from The Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday, February 14, 2016.
In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its “Policy Statement: Council On School Health,” states that it “believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
Improved learning outcomes are noticeable at schools where more recess is included in the school day: less fidgeting and more focused attention in the classroom; more student friendships; an increase in independent thinking; and fewer behavior issues.
Imagine taking that a step further and creating nature-centered play spaces on playgrounds or taking students into nature on a regular basis — as Louv suggests — to promote a deep, personal connection with nature. The outcomes for academic success could be even greater. What if New Mexico, which is 49th in the country in education, looked outside and saw that its greatest asset is its own backyard?
Most recently, our School Administrator, Jeffrey Baker, has been on two radio shows:
- He was joined by SFWS Board of Trustees Member, John Braman, on Living From Happiness on KSFR hosted by Dr. Melanie Harth. They share "a lively discussion of the importance of nature in the learning experiences of children, as well as the overall health and well-being of everyone (no exceptions)." Listen to the podcast here.
- He was also on The Richard Eeds Show on KVSF discussing Waldorf education as well as Richard Louv's upcoming lecture. Listen to the podcast here.
Coming up this Friday, February 12, don't miss Richard Louv on The Richard Eeds Show at 9:00 AM. Tune into KVSF 101.5 or listen online.
An article from Green Fire Times, February 2016 by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan. Maureen is a filmmaker and writer living in Santa Fe and has a daughter in 4th grade here at Santa Fe Waldorf School.
On the surface, the world looks like a child-friendly place. There are kids’ menus that can be colored with crayons provided by restaurants. There are organized sports of every type and for every age of child. There are play structures in most parks in cities across the country. Kidsized anything can be found at major department stores. REI has kid-sized outdoor gear that is just like the grown-up kind and just as pricey. Children are the target audience for TV, movies, books, games, computers, even food, and the list goes on and on.
But where is the child in all this? When is a child most happy? Let a kid go outside to run wild with a pack of other kids, and one finds an exhausted, smiling child who doesn’t want to come inside when playtime is done.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, is worried that kids aren’t getting outside enough to play, explore, touch, smell and generally get dirty in the environment. And that this lack of outdoor connection and playing is impacting the future of the planet.
The Santa Fe Waldorf School is sponsoring an event on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, where Louv will be discussing this issue, which he refers to as Nature-Deficit Disorder.
From National Geographic Magazine, January 2016.
On the third day of a camping trip in the wild canyons near Bluff, Utah, Strayer is mixing up an enormous iron kettle of chicken enchilada pie while explaining what he calls the “three-day effect” to 22 psychology students. Our brains, he says, aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too. Strayer has demonstrated as much with a group of Outward Bound participants, who performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks after three days of wilderness backpacking. The three-day effect, he says, is a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield that occurs when we’ve been immersed in nature long enough. On this trip he’s hoping to catch it in action, by hooking his students—and me—to a portable EEG, a device that records brain waves.
From Outside Magazine, November 25, 2015.
“We evolved as human animals to be part of nature and to be outdoors, so even the tiniest bit of nature connection is good for us,” explains Buzzell. “We have a deep longing for nature; it’s in our genes.” E.O. Wilson called this primal urge “biophilia.” “You can see it in children so clearly,” Buzzell says. “Their need to be outside is not just a thrill, it’s a physical and emotional need. We’ve just forgotten it.”
The same treatments that are being used to help returning veterans suffering from PTSD can help bring balance back to kids’ lives: raising plants, spending time with animals, walking along the beach or a forested park. Exercising outside together may be the best way to help relieve stress. A 2013 study out of Princeton University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that physical exercisespurs the creation of neurons and stimulates growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates anxiety.