The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues

Play has always been a integral part of Waldorf education, and recently more and more articles are coming out about the important of play in the early years of a child's development. Here's one from the Washington Post blog on September 1, 2015.

Preschool years are not only optimal for children to learn through play, but also a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions. We are consistently seeing sensory, motor, and cognitive issues pop up more and more  in later childhood, partly because of inadequate opportunities to move and play at an early age.

Read full article here.

High School Colloquium Week | Fall 2015

Photo Credit: Daniel Wendland

Photo Credit: Daniel Wendland

Last week marked the first week of High School for Santa Fe Waldorf School, which is also known as the Fall Colloquium Week. Colloquium week is meant to help the students transition from summer into the rigors of the academic year, and this year's colloquium - packed with adventures - was a great success. The week's theme was Jurassic Park, based off the school-wide assigned summer reading of the internationally known novel by Michael Crichton. Following Main Lessons, the students enjoyed a series of different Jurassic Park- themed activities. 

On Tuesday morning, students reunited and mingled over Ms. Colgate's homemade cornbread and hot cocoa, followed by dinosaur-themed games. They then welcomed a fascinating presentation, "Chaos Theory & Jurassic Park", by guest speaker and Santa Fe Institute scientist Justin Yeakel. Discussion groups led by the senior class followed, as well as chapbook making and apple-grafting workshops. On Wednesday, the entire school paid a visit to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque, during which they saw a 3D show of "Walking with Dinosaurs" at the DynaTheater and had lunch at the Learning Garden. 

Thursday saw students combing the Santa Fe Ski Area for local versions of the T-Rex and related critters, the King Bolete Mushroom and its minions. Friday brought the movie screening of none other than the blockbuster film, Jurassic Park. Through it all, the high school community got to know each other better and gathered again as a community of students and faculty.


Photo Credits:
Daniel Wendland
Pam Colgate

Four Phases of Teenage Development Reflected in the Waldorf High School Curriculum

With the first week of high school, here's another interesting article from the Waldorf Publications Blog.

In broad strokes, each of the four years in the Waldorf high school curriculum embodies an underlying theme and method that helps guide students not just through their studies of outer phenomena but through their inner growth as well. Obviously, these themes and methods are adapted to each specific group of students and take account of the fact that teenagers grow at their own pace. Hence, the “broad strokes.” And yet, one can identify struggles common to most any teenager even though adolescents pass through developmental landscape at varying speeds, they nonetheless have to cover similar terrain.

Click here to read the full article.

The Waldorf Classroom and the Cycle of Eight Elementary Years with the Same Teacher

With the new school year right around the corner, here's an interesting article from the Waldorf Publications Blog for new and returning parents alike.

... the eight-year journey of a teacher with a class in a Waldorf school is the best and most ingenious part about the whole plan. Where else on earth is practicing love and commitment an integral part of the educational plan? Where else does a child get to see a teacher show up every day for eight years for them? The self worth this establishes is profound.

Click here to read the full article.

Waldorf Education is Developmentally Appropriate - What exactly does this mean?

From Waldorf Publications, July 26, 2015:

In Waldorf teaching, the deep artistry comes in identifying the readiness in a child and in a whole class for a new capacity to be engaged toward practice, toward strength. Joy in learning, trust in the world as graspable and solvable, an inner habit of happiness and engagement, are byproducts of this approach.

Click here to read the full article.

Force of Nature: A Chevy Chase preschool encourages learning outside the box

From Bethesda Magazine, January-February 2012:

A boy, just 4, leaps into a puddle. Mud splatters high across his boots and pants. The boy races from puddle to puddle, leaping, splashing and laughing. He is exultant as he discovers his own power in the mud-puddle universe. He’s also gleaning an early physics lesson: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

At a lot of nursery schools, that reaction might include chiding the child for making a mess. But this boy goes to the Outdoor Nursery School, tucked away on the wooded grounds of a historic estate in Chevy Chase. Children here spend at least half their day in those woods learning and playing alfresco—even in winter deep.

Click here for the full article.

Early child development: Body of knowledge

An interesting article on forest schools from the Nature Journal, July 15, 2015.

A study of UK forest schools, commissioned by the Forestry Commission and run by Forest Research and think-tank the New Economics Foundation, found improvements in children's confidence, concentration, fine motor control and teamwork. Forest schools also offer tangible evidence of abstract phenomena such as life cycles, food chains and materials behaviour (such as why wood blackens in a fire).

Click here to read the full article.

Summer with a Young Child – Nourishing the Senses

By: Arina Pittman

This is a guest blog by Arina Pittman, who is raising a young son and finds tremendous inspiration in the Waldorf approach to education.


School is out and summer is establishing its claims on all ages – inviting rites of nature, outings, explorations, staying out late, gatherings with friends, and freedom.

The sacred right of childhood – roaming in nature, being free from adult consciousness and endless supervision, having hours of unstructured imaginative play, spending time in a dreamy world of stones, leaves, bugs and butterflies – how do we find a way to support it? As trees take time to put their roots down and out, so our young children truly thrive when their days are open to following their bliss – free play, imagination, cozy outdoor spaces.  

When my son was two years old, I was lucky enough to visit a Waldorf Summer Camp for young children, and observe a teacher creating a magical and nourishing space for a group of very young boys and girls. What I learned that summer, I have introduced into our life. It served us when our child was two years old and I was a stay-at-home mom, and it is serving us now, when he is nearly seven and I am working.

Yard as a Play Space

A shade tree or a canvas canopy, a large trough filled with clean water, watering cans and a tiny child’s garden (potted plants are ok!) – these are some simple elements to consider for your yard. Watering plants is something that can be done daily; it is refreshing, much appreciated, and it creates beauty. It also allows even the youngest toddler to participate in meaningful work that is appreciated by the rest of the family. Little hands get stronger when carrying water, little bodies learn more about balance and sense of space, and big discoveries are made by the child in such an environment. Plant something rewarding for your child to care for: peas and cucumbers are much loved by all; raspberries take a while to get going, but you will appreciated them for years; and salad greens are eaten by children with a whole lot more gusto when picked fresh and tasted on the spot. Pumpkins and watermelons are pretty much akin to a miracle, and various plants invite creatures that delight and amaze.

Add a sand box next to your shaded water play space and create a location for mud. Then you are set for several years. Suddenly, your yard is filled with wonderful things that support focused inspirational play, and that allow your family to need less external entertainment.

Find Safe Nature

The next possible destination for early years is “safe nature,” a spot preferably within walking distance, where grass sways in the wind, birds hop on the ground, dandelions scatter their little parachute seeds. A park that is contained and large enough for skipping, for rolling down grassy slopes, for laying on the ground, for smelling the flowers, and looking at ants and bugs doing their summer work. Then there is no need for playground equipment (more on that below). Is there an organic farm in the vicinity, where volunteers are welcomed and where a family can offer a few hours of meaningful work and in exchange find a place that supports nature play in an otherwise urban setting? The Rose Park in Santa Fe is probably the coolest summer spot in the whole town. It offers thick grassy expansive areas that are shaded and soft on bare feet. Other fabulous spots include Patrick Smith Park, Alto Street Park, the Santa Fe River (when there is water!), and many others. The apparent lack of playground equipment encourages children to use their imagination, to create their own play, to engage into discoveries and explorations, to use their focus and creativity in an unguided and unstructured setting, to experience the power of one’s own imagination – all the qualities that are so important and so hard to develop in our frantic world.

Urban safe nature is not wild, nor natural. It is a designed, constructed, managed setting – yet it supports free play, nourishment of senses, opportunities for explorations. It is, hopefully, in a comfortable proximity to home. It is not a day long outing. It is joyful without being taxing.

Forge Friendships With Animals

Children have an incredible affinity with animals, a soul-deep need to befriend and nurture them. Chickens and horses, goat kids and kittens, ladybugs and earthworms - animals of all sizes and shapes freely  share their aliveness and their true, unscripted selves. Bugs and spiders, lizards and ants all invite deep focus, quiet observation, and soaring of child’s inner self into the world of imagination and beauty.

At times, much effort is needed to teach children how to handle and approach animals in the best way: how to pick up and release a lady bug without causing it bodily harm, how to feed a carrot to a horse. When we embody love and care towards the living world around us, children follow. When we experience a sense of wonderment in the presence of a bug, we are kindling love to all living things in our children.

Avoid Playground Equipment

There is nothing as effective as playground equipment when it comes to taking your child’s play opportunities and reducing them to a small set of activities. But it is not the direction that I would want to encourage in pursuit of socializing. Gone, to a large degree, is the imaginative play in which children’s souls soar. Gone is quiet observation, deep gazing, reverence to the world, that is so inherent for children. At a park’s climbing structure, enter the peer pressure to conform, elevation of noise and increase of speed, physicality of most interactions that overruns other forms of play. Socializing is reduced to “speed-dating” with random children, connections that are formed are quick to go, and not much is really learned in such environment when it comes to relating to others. Climb a tree, play with good old friends – that is how simple it all is.

Create Opportunities for Freedom and Imagination

A friend shared an observation with me, how her tween child has no opportunities for true freedom. Their street is not so friendly for unsupervised play, and all other outings have inevitable adult supervision. Same is true of most institutional settings of childhood – playgrounds and indoor spaces are specifically designed to deny any opportunity for privacy, which is a valid point for group settings. Teacher must be able to see what is going on at any given moment. While this approach has its reasons, think about children and their needs. When, where and how do we offer freedom and privacy? If we are looking for “safe nature,” how do we provide for “safe freedom” that is true and real?

Benign Neglect

Here is a great inspiration: Practice benign neglect, and read this post by Carrie, my great online teacher, author of the awesome Parenting Passageway: “Benign neglect is that art of discernment in parenting; in knowing what really needs your full attention and truly needs to be addressed, but in also knowing what needs to not be seen and what should  have a blind eye on the part of the parent!”

So here lies the challenge of finding that space, time and understanding of where and how you will gift your child with freedom in nature, where and how you can practice benign neglect in a “wild” or “safe” nature, so that your child has an opportunity to find her wings, physical body, experience reverence to nature, gaze at the small wonders, and be unseen and unfold on her own.

What Do Children Learn in a Waldorf Kindergarten? Everything!

From the Waldorf Publications blog, July 8, 2015:

"There are in a child’s life many years for books and math and algorithms and science facts. There are very few years during which a little one can practice open-hearted kindness, sharing, consideration of others, building habits of making things beautiful, habits of appreciation for the abundance received in a meal. These practices done while young are likely to make an impression, build skills, cultivate inner quiet, and foster deep emotional intelligence and respect for everyone, to last a lifetime."

Click here to read the full article.

Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom

From The New York Times, June 9, 2015, an article on how many kindergartens are bringing play back into their curriculum.

PASADENA, Md. — Mucking around with sand and water. Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels.

Call it Kindergarten 2.0.

Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, this suburban school district south of Baltimore is introducing a new curriculum in the fall for 5-year-olds. Chief among its features is a most old-fashioned concept: play.

“I feel like we have been driving the car in the wrong direction for a long time,” said Carolyn Pillow, who has taught kindergarten for 15 years and attended a training session here on the new curriculum last month. “We can’t forget about the basics of what these kids need, which is movement and opportunities to play and explore.”

Click here for the full article.

Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build A Better Brain

From NPR Ed, August 6, 2014, a great article on the importance of free play for children:

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.

"The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain," says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. "And without play experience, those neurons aren't changed," he says.

Click here for full article and audio.

LUNCH BREAK - Senior Class Film

February 6, 2015

In the fall semester of 2014, the senior class experienced an 8 week Cinematography class, taught by Mr. Keppel. This course is a new addition to the SFWS curriculum, and part of a broader curriculum initiative in the high school, exploring visual literacy through creative engagement with photography and film. 

We only had 30 hours to complete the film, and a budget of two pizzas!
- Mr. Keppel, Cinematic Storytelling teacher

The seniors joined together in all parts of this cinematic project: screenwriting, story-boarding, sound-recording, directing, acting, cinematography, and editing. With only 30 hours to complete the film and a budget of "two pizzas" - as Mr. Keppel reported - this was no small feat! The film then was premiered at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design in February, and grades 7-12 attended. The result was a wonderful tribute to the Senior Class, their SFWS experiences over the years, and their talent at embracing their first experience in the art form of Cinematic Storytelling.


Both 'Lunch Break' and 'From Scratch to Screen' (behind-the-scenes) films are now available to view on Youtube. Click on the links below to watch!


Link to the short film:
Lunch Break

Link to the behind-the-scenes film:
From Scratch to Screen


If you would like to own a copy of "Lunch Break" (complete with the behind-the-scenes short film), you can order a copy from the Senior Class for $15.00 per DVD. Contact Ms. Green (505-467-6421) to place orders in the High School Office. This money will go to the Senior Class Fund, which will help pay for the Senior Trip at the end of the school year.

11th Grade Pastels Artwork with Mr. Otero

"In January, the 11th Grade Pastels class replicated Nicaraguan Murals as a compliment to their Latin American Studies. In addition to these murals, the Junior class was also given the freedom to render a pastel painting of their own choosing. The students enthusiastically and skillfully embraced both projects in the course."

-Mr. Otero, High School Humanities and Art Teacher, and 11th Grade Class Sponsor

2nd Grade's Winter Gnomes with Ms. McFeely

"In December, the students in second grade made felt gnomes. Careful sewing and needle felting was done for these characters to come to life. The class's sense of self-accomplishment, accompanied by love for their work brought these little creatures to life. A mood of contentment and great joy filled our classroom as we worked together. "

-Ms. McFeely, Grade 2 Teacher

Waldorf One World 2014

The students in Grade 5 and Mrs. Baudhuin have created Peace Prayer Flags, for distribution during the annual Michaelmas Festival on Monday, September 29th. This is the third year the class has participated in the Waldorf One World (WOW) project. The class is honored to be involved in this life-changing global effort again this year.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the WOW-Day campaign. In 2013   students from 230 Waldorf schools in more than 35 countries came together on Michaelmas day to participate in the traditional festival and raise awareness for the WOW project. WOW was created, as a program, to support Waldorf social initiatives and build schools for children who otherwise would not have access to education. The collective amount raised in 2013 was €390,850.86.

Please lend your support by sending with your child one dollar towards the purchase of a Peace Prayer Flag made by the Fifth Grade on Monday, September 29. This project is one of the many ways our students become aware of and involved in communities outside our region with local, regional, and global projects through community service and awareness.

To learn more about WOW please visit the Waldorf One World site.

High Tech Parents, Low Tech Household

This New York Times article, dated September 10, 2014 by Nick Bilton may surprise you: 

When Steve Jobs was running Apple, he was known to call journalists to either pat them on the back for a recent article or, more often than not, explain how they got it wrong. I was on the receiving end of a few of those calls. But nothing shocked me more than something Mr. Jobs said to me in late 2010 after he had finished chewing me out for something I had written about an iPad shortcoming.

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Please follow this link to read the full article. 

What's Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter..? Many educators think not, but this New York Times article by Maria Konnikova, dated June 2, 2014, describes new research being done by psychologists and neuroscientists. They are busy addressing the concerns around children losing instruction in handwriting skills as the keyboard becomes more popular at home and in the classroom. The new evidence "suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep" and "it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past."

The Waldorf curriculum has always honored the instruction of handwriting skills, and scientists are clearly supporting a positive return, on many levels, with that instruction. We hope you enjoy this fascinating read.


Celebrating 30 Years of Inspired Education

The Santa Fe Waldorf School is preparing to celebrate thirty years of inspired education on Saturday, August 30th! Please join us for a day of fun, games, food and thanks as we take the time to honor those who've made the past three decades possible. 

Rock climbing, face painting, challenge games, a bubble garden and much more! We will have activities for the whole family available from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Bring a blanket and some sun screen and enjoy a nice picnic lunch with your beautiful school community. We hope to see you there! 

Go to our school calendar for a full schedule of events!