7th Grade Class Trip to Camp Glen Brook

Monadnock“Our daughter was ill on Monday when the class left for Camp Glenbrook, so last night we drove up to New Hampshire so she could rejoin the class. As we drove up through the woods to this idyllic farm setting, we saw several members of the class playing volleyball in the sun. They all ran over and welcomed Maddie to the camp, and sent us up to the campsite “at the top of the hill.” We walked through a large grassy field, and we saw the cluster of tents at the crest of the hill, overlooking an incredible view of fields and mountains, with Mount Manadnock towering above the rest. Just into the woods we saw the rest of the class, gathering wood, chopping vegetables, cooking onions, rice, and other things over an open fire. Nearby were clotheslines hung with towels, swimsuits, and sweatshirts.

Mrs.Giles, Mrs. Palmer and John (Mrs. Palmer’s son) were supervising the various activities, along with a few camp personnel. The kids were all telling us about their canoe adventure that day, where they paddled (and carried) their canoes in 2-person teams over several lakes, ponds and dry land, finally landing at a great swim spot. Everybody was in good spirits.

As I prepared to leave, they were in a circle around the fire, saying their blessing and getting ready to eat. Many had changed into their heavier clothes for the night, knowing that after dinner it would be hard to find their clothes in the dark! Although it was starting to get chilly, everyone seemed to have what they needed, and they are sleeping 2 or 3 to a tent, so they are keeping each other warm! Today they had plans to hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, and tomorrow will be the high ropes course.

I left there thinking how lucky they are to experience these class trips – how it brings the class together (new and old members) in an amazing way. I was impressed with the teachers, the environment, and with the enthusiasm that the kids displayed.

Just thought you all might enjoy a little update!”

GBRSS Parent

8th Grade Study of W. E. B. DuBois

The following was written by the 8th grade, Class of 2012, and presented during the Spring Assembly in April, 2012.
GBRSS 8th Grade Study of W.E.B. DuBois
What would you do if you were faced with discrimination and heartache because of the color of your skin? What if you could not drink from the same water fountain or go to the same restaurants as white people? What if the rights assured to you by our constitution were taken away? Would you tolerate it, or would you take a stand? A man who grew up here in the town of Great Barrington took a stand.

“I was born by a golden river in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation….”

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born here and grew up as a young black man in a white community. He went to an integrated school near Searles Castle. He then graduated from Fiske, Harvard, and Berlin Universities.

GBRSS 8th Grade Study of W.E.B. DuBois
When he was a boy he picked delicious wild strawberries behind his house on Church Street and tasted his first orange on the green lawn of the Great Barrington Town Hall.

You may know some of the places where he played. During the winter he sledded down Castle Street, right across the Railroad tracks and onto Main Street! He played Indians in the caves on East Rock and swam in the Housatonic River. From an early age he visited the town meetings and became interested in politics. He was an excellent student, and since his mother could not afford college, the Congregational Church here in town funded his education.
GBRSS 8th Grade Study of W.E.B. DuBois
As a boy here in Great Barrington, DuBois lived a life sheltered from the cruel Jim Crow laws of the South. He knew that he was different, however…

“I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Housac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards–ten cents a package–and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card-refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others, or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut from their world by a vast veil.”

W.E.B. Dubois became determined to use his mind and his gift for writing to fight the battle against racial injustice. He started a magazine called, “The Crisis” and wrote many books. He helped to found the NAACP. He is considered to be the father of the Civil Rights Movement. He felt his strong African roots, and at the end of his life he moved to Ghana where he died at age 95.

GBRSS 8th Grade Study of W.E.B. DuBois

DuBois’ legacy lives on in his hometown in an inspirational mural. The DuBois garden at the bottom of Church St. by the “golden river” cleanses the water of polluting runoff just as W.E.B. DuBois tried to cleanse America of racism.

Fourth Grade Farm Trip

by Tracey Brennan, Class Teacher

During the first full week of school in the fall, the fourth-grade class goes on a traditional farm trip to the Hawthorne Valley Farm in Harlemville, New York. This trip, which follows the third-grade study of farming, is looked forward to and fondly remembered by all of our students. It gives children the chance to help with the harvest and with the care of the animals. They see where our food comes from and become part of the daily rhythm that produces it. The farming block and related gardening projects throughout the years at GBRSS and the Great Barrington Waldorf High School—including fifth-grade botany and high school “practicums” on the farm—are all very important elements of a Waldorf education. These subjects may be the most relevant and crucial ones that we teach to this generation. As Barbara Kingsolver writes in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Harper Collins, 2007),

Is the story of bread, from tilled ground to our table, less relevant to our lives than the history of the thirteen colonies?… Isn’t ignorance of our food sources causing problems as diverse as overdependence on petroleum, and an epidemic of diet-related diseases?

We teach respect for the farmers who feed us, and reverence and gratitude for the earth—from the very earliest years. At the Hawthorne Valley Farm the children experience local, sustainable, biodynamic agriculture firsthand. We have lots of fun spending our days and nights on the farm, being outdoors instead of in the classroom, extending summer, and getting to know one another even better. But this experience will also be one of the most important lessons of the year!

Camp Glen Brook

GBRSS at Camp Glen BrookThe Class of 2009 began the 2007 – 2008 school year with the traditional seventh-grade adventure trip to Camp Glen Brook in New Hampshire. Through a series of activities during the week-long trip—from high ropes courses, to challenging walls and impossible ladders—students faced personal fears and found creative ways to work together to overcome obstacles. Below are students’ personal accounts of how they pushed beyond their supposed limits to achieve feats they’d never dreamed of. Through these exciting and adventurous activities, students were challenged physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. They arrived back at school with a stronger sense of connectedness and ownership, and an expanded idea of what is possible to achieve, both alone and together.

Ariela Greenberg-Nielsen

My brain registers my fast breathing and shaking limbs, but my mind wanders. I look down, wideeyed, at the ground far below me. The ropes swing precariously beneath my legs. But I’m determined to make it to the top where Mrs. Palmer is waiting with a big smile. I start to lose my confidence as I climb higher. It seems like with each new step more certainty slips from my back and falls to the ground. The rational part of my brain, which can still think clearly, knows that there is a rope holding me up in case I fall, but my subconscious mind keeps drumming, “Hold on tight or you will end up down there, flat as a pancake.” I look up and am surprised to see Mrs. Palmer grinning at me from the platform, just inches above me. I finally make it to the top and take a well-deserved break (for now). Next I have to jump off the edge of the platform onto the Zapline!

Emily Richner

At Camp Glen Brook there were ropes challenges with names like Zapline, Pirate’s Crossing, Burma Loops and Giant’s Ladder. When I was on the tree where the Zapline began, I felt like I was on top of the world, and when I jumped from the platform thirty feet high up in the trees onto Zapline, I felt like I was flying. I think each of us overcame some kind of fear during the week. I know I overcame my fear of heights.

Jeremiah Leffler

Not long after breakfast, we went over to the high ropes course. First we had to climb some ropes that looked like rigging on an old sailing ship. At the top, there was a balance beam 40 or 50 feet off the ground. I decided not to do that and went straight across the Zapline. I then repelled myself down from the trees in time for the macaroni Chef Ash had prepared for lunch.

After lunch we could climb a rope ladder, some staples in a tree, or the Giant’s Ladder, which was huge and had rungs that were sometimes five feet apart! I took staples up the tree and went across the Postman’s Walk, a small tightwire up in the trees. Then I crossed the Burma Loops and took the Zipline down from the trees and across a field to safety.

Iolani Sommer-deRis

“Iolani, first you must climb that tree on those staples. When you get to the top, stop and I will tell you what to do next.” That’s Mr. Bullard, our high ropes teacher, speaking. I begin to climb up the tree by stepping on the staples, steel loops that protrude about two inches from the tree. When I reach the top I call, “Mr. Bullard, what do I do now?” He answers, “OK, now choose your direction.” “I think I would first like to try the Pirate’s Crossing,” I say. The Pirate’s Crossing is just two ropes, which, at both ends, are about five and a half feet apart and which cross in the middle. “OK, first you must attach the carabeener to your life loop and then show me that it is screwed on properly.” So I hook the carabeener to my life loop and screw it tight. I am attached to a rope by a strong wire that means, if I fall, I will only fall about two feet. So I begin. “Iolani, you need to push the ropes apart as far as possible,” says Mr. Bullard. I push the ropes apart, look down, and scream. I am so high above the ground. I begin to shake. I am coming to the actual crossing and the ropes are now about two feet apart. I sit down, turn around and start scooching further. Finally, I am unable to stand so I use my opportunity to begin slowly inching my way to the other side. I reach it! I jump off the platform and feel like I am flying! This experience was amazing. It helped me to overcome my fears and trust my friends.

GBRSS at Camp Glen Brook

Seth Waag-Swift

Ben and I decided to give the Giant’s Ladder a go. Oh, and did I mention that the whole thing swings, and that the rungs roll and twist a bit? We started out simply. Ben would jump up onto his stomach on the first rung and I would help him up to a sitting position. Then he would pull me up and we’d carefully stand up. Using this method, we made it up the first couple of rungs, but as they became farther apart, it became more and more difficult. Every so often one of us would fall back a couple of rungs (no worries, we had harnesses and were roped in) and the other would come back to help. But finally we came to the last rung—a square, sturdy beam—and easily pulled ourselves up; we had made it! Climbing the Giant’s Ladder showed how when we work together we can accomplish much more than we can on our own.

Ben Baum

Seth and I are about to climb the Giant’s Ladder. The first rung—which is six to eight inches in diameter—is close to the ground and we easily accomplish that. The rules are that, as you climb, you can’t use the cables on the sides. We can both reach the next rung. Chin-ups are out of the question because the logs are so thick. Seth kneels so I can stand on his knee and swing my leg over the next rung. Between falling, groaning, pulling and pushing, we make it up! Finally we reach the cross beam and descend rapidly on a zipline. We were the only team to make it to the top of the Giant’s Ladder!

Robin Graney

Some people say climbing a ladder is easy, but let me tell you, when the rungs are four or more feet apart and you can’t use the sides, it is extremely difficult. Fay-Lee and I climbed up to the second-to-last rung of the Giant’s Ladder with no less than ten new bruises each.

Fay-Lee Thung

The seventh grade faced many challenges at Camp Glen Brook, whether it was working as a class, or working individually. One challenge we all had to face was The Wall. The Wall was 13 feet tall with no handholds. How were we to get up? By trusting each other and working as a team. After we hoisted the first six people up, it became much more simple. At the end, it was hard to believe we did it.

Eli Shalen

We are not even on belay! I look up at The Wall and think, How are we going to get our whole class over this? After Mr. Bullard, the counselor, tells us the rules, we begin to discuss how we can achieve this feat. Finally we decide we are going to try a human pyramid. Sadly, the pyramid idea fails. We think more and realize we have to get Emily (one of our taller classmates) up first. We manage to hoist her up with a little help from Mr. Bullard. The rest of the class makes it over, including me, but we still have Robin at the bottom. We think we might be able to hoist Seth down by his wrists and Robin could jump and grab his ankles. Robin makes it, and with all of our effort we pull up Seth and then grab Robin. We rejoice. We did it!

Fauve Blaska

At Camp Glen Brook, we had many challenges as a class, but the wall was the hardest. The challenge was to get everyone up over the 13-foot wall. From our shoulders we pushed people up to the top where from above they could pull others up. Every time a third person went up, the first had to go down, leaving only two people to help at the top. We did it! It was a wonderful experience.

Logan Malik

The most intense and extreme high ropes experience was the Balance Beam. The beam was a log about five inches wide and 40 feet high in the air, secured to two trees. As I got on the beam, I held onto a tree and took my first steps. As I slowly walked along the beam, I felt my legs shaking violently. When I finally got to the other tree, I felt excited, but then I realized I had to walk back. Luckily the way back was much easier.

Ezra Marcus

We had a lot of fun at Camp Glen Brook, but like everything else, good things must come to an end. So on the last day, one of the counselors took us to a 13 foot wall in the middle of the woods. It seemed like Mission Impossible that we could get everyone over this block of rectangular, completely flat, wall. Finally, with a lot pushing, pulling, standing on backs, standing on shoulders, and hanging in very painful positions, we made it over!
GBRSS at Camp Glen Brook

8th Grade Production of “Twelfth NIght”

Eighth grade production of “Twelfth Night” or “What You Will” by William Shakespeare performed by the class of 2010 on March 19 & 20, 2010.

Fifth Grade Olympiad

Every year in May, the GBRSS fifth graders take part in our annual Greek pentathlon. Fifth graders from Hartsbrook Waldorf School (Hadley, MA), Greenmeadow Waldorf School (Chestnut Ridge, NY), Hawthorne Valley (Harlemville, NY), Housatonic Valley (Newton, CT) and Montreal Waldorf School (Montreal, Canada) join them for the day.

In ancient Greece the Olympiad was a time for the athletes to pay tribute to the gods. An athlete practiced long and hard to try and attain the qualities, gestures and disciplines that each event inherently carried. In this way the athlete could feel at one with the gods even if for a small moment during which the exercise was done. These five movements were seen as archetypes for the human being to carry for all of life. They were javelin, discus, wrestling, long jump and running.

In running the runner must come to a balance. The head is free, the chest leads and the legs move effortlessly through the air. The runner is neither too heavy on his feet nor unconnected to the earth. Hermes, the messenger god, is the god connected to running.

We connect the discus with Apollo, the sun-god. The discus is released or flung rather than thrown. The flight of the discus carrying messages to the gods is of utmost importance. Beauty and timing of the release are the qualities looked for.

If one can throw the javelin with clear precision, and the arc of the throw is graceful yet strong, then one can give honor to Zeus, the father god.

In the running long jump, a balance between levity and gravity is desired. In wrestling, muscle strength guided by the heart are qualities practiced over and over.

In addition poetry, song and dance are part of the festivities. We always look forward to our ancient Greek Olympiad and the students’ hard work as they bring ancient Greece alive.