Rescheduled from April 26. Boys Baseball Game-Away @ Mt Everett.
Start at 3:30. return time 5:30-5:45.
Rescheduled from April 26. Boys Baseball Game-Away @ Mt Everett.
Start at 3:30. return time 5:30-5:45.
Wednesday 5/8 – 2pm – 4th grade class recital
Musical literacy and expression is an important component of Waldorf education, and anyone who’s seen student performances at Steiner knows how students’ musical education is being tended and nurtured. Whether it’s our 9-12 year olds performing in Presto Strings ensemble throughout Berkshire County, or members of the earlier grades singing and playing Choroi flutes, we are fortunate to have a rich music program that includes both vocal and instrumental music integrated throughout the curriculum.
Waldorf teachers utilize music’s unifying gesture from the very beginning. In Early Childhood classrooms, when teachers sing and children instinctively imitate the song, the classroom is calm and relaxed, and moves gently through transitions such as dressing in winter gear or tidying up after snack. Waldorf early childhood teachers are sometimes called “child whisperers,” and music is one of their most effective methods! They might also pick up and softly strum a harp or lyre during stories and before nap time.
At Steiner, instrumental music lessons start in first grade with pear wood interval flutes that have one or two holes. The children learn form – how to sit like musicians, hold their instruments and care for them, and practice proper breathing technique while playing their instrument – and they learn to differentiate tones by ear. In second grade, students move to the pentatonic flute, which has the notes of the pentatonic scale from D to E (and no wrong notes, as they all sound good together). In third grade, students begin to play the Choroi diatonic flute, based on the more complex diatonic scale. Starting in fifth grade, students learn the recorder, and by the time they reach middle school they become part of a recorder ensemble with soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders playing multiple parts, and often provide the music for their own dramatic performances. As in singing and in dramatic roles, they start in unison in the younger grades, branch into parts as they become more experienced and accomplished, and eventually step out as soloists. By middle school, students participate in both chorus and orchestra.
In The Guardian, Mo Costandi writes, “Musical training has what psychologists refer to as transfer effects; in other words, learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.” Studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them. Other research shows that musical training also enhances verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills. “Music probably does something unique,” explains neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.”
The strings program at Steiner starts in third grade. Students have the choice of violin or cello. They learn in groups by instrument, as part of their school day, for the first two years. In fifth grade, they can continue with strings or choose any orchestra instrument. Individual after school lessons often start in fifth grade as well, and students may audition for advanced extracurricular ensemble groups Presto and Allegro, which present their “Meet the Strings Family” and perform at various community events, schools and venues including The Norman Rockwell Museum, Hancock Shaker Village, The Colonial Theater, Pine Cobble School and St. Mary’s School.
Music Director Eileen Markland discussed the Steiner advantage for students, for whom music is not an “extra” but an integral part of learning:
Thumb in the thumb place, fingers all together
That’s what we say when it is mitten weather
Whether they are wool or made of finest leather,
Thumb in the thumb place, fingers all together….
For children to grow, thrive, and live in harmony with others they need plenty of restorative sleep and whole food nutrition, both of which give them strength and energy to meet the world. Children also need the protection of warm layers during cold and wet months, which can be a significant portion of our year in the Berkshires.
As an “all-weather school,” Steiner students spend a good amount of time outside; being well-dressed here has much to do with conserving warmth during their outdoor adventures so that their bodies can focus on building, growing, and maintaining their immune systems, rather than on keeping warm.
For base layers, natural fabrics are the best options for protection and warmth. Wool and silk breathe and absorb moisture, to keep it away from the skin so little ones stay warmer. Merino wool and silk (or a combination), both on top and bottom, is the most effective combination. (Cotton absorbs moisture but does not wick it away from the skin, so it becomes clammy. Synthetics tend not to breathe or absorb moisture, and can create painful static. However, for children who are very sensitive to fabric next to their skin, parents have been successful with wicking polyester undergarments such as Uniqlo’s Heattech line).
Next comes a thick wool sweater (lambswool or merino wool preferred – envision the sheep on our local farm, with only their fleece to keep them warm) or polyester fleece, topped by a vest if the sweater layer is thin. Thick pants such as flannel-lined cotton, corduroy or wool, covered by waterproof insulated snow pants, snow suit (no snow surprises between top and bottom!) and/or parka. Alternately, there is fleece-lined rain gear which can be worn with a packable down layer underneath on the coldest days.
For fingers and toes, wool socks (we like cozy merino wool) are the only ones that keep feet both warm and dry. Early childhood teachers recommend Bogs or Muck brand boots for the same reason. (Snow boots keep feet warm but not always dry in icy mud puddles, and remember that, unlike adults, it is your child’s job to walk through every icy puddle.) Insulated, waterproof mittens are warmer than gloves for snowy and icy weather, and wool mittens for dry cold days.
A soft wool hat that covers the ears or a wool or silk balaclava under your child’s jacket hood protects them from wind, cold and moisture. Their neck also needs to be covered by a sweater, balaclava or scarf. (One trick we learned for very cold days is to wear a silk scarf next to the skin with a warm wool scarf on top.) Balaclavas are the head and neck protection of choice, as they allow for the most coverage and warmth while children play and explore.
And remember, singing through transitions (such as the mitten song above) is a great help to getting all these warm clothes on and off! Middle school math and science teacher Lynn Arches notes that the children’s “work” of learning to dress appropriately for Berkshire weather is the beginning of logic and processing, since children learn by doing that pants have to go on before boots, and mittens last, once the buttons and zippers are done up.
As an extension of our offering at the Holiday Handcraft Fair, the Steiner School is excited to offer a final opportunity this year to order warm woollies for children and adults from Danish Woolen Delights, a European company that produces the highest quality “soft & soothing organic clothing and accessories that promote the health & well-being of those who wear them, those who produce them, and, ultimately, the well-being of our Mother Earth!”
Parenting expert, author and Waldorf parent Kim John Payne visited the Steiner School in Great Barrington, MA in October to talk about raising resilient children in anxious times. Mr.Payne‘s suggestions can often be implemented right away, and can make a world of difference for families. His book Simplicity Parenting is available in the Steiner School Library, while early childhood parents are currently reading The Soul of Discipline. A big thank you to the Steiner School Parent Association for co-sponsoring this important and timely lecture from Kim John Payne.
Mr. Payne discusses:
As a beautiful, heavy Berkshire snow made its grand entrance, we have wonderful holiday celebrations and significant lessons that go with the season here at the Steiner School. The meaning of Advent is “to come,” and we are now symbolically looking forward on these early, dark nights to the light ahead as we celebrate the Season of Light. Festivals gathered together in this season include Hanukkah (Hebrew), Diwali (Indian), Solstice (Druid) and Advent (Christian).
At Steiner, the Spiral of Light marks a turning point of the year, Winter Solstice (the shortest day), and looks ahead to the return of light with a hope and inward promise for spring. Eurythmy teacher and festival committee member Patti Regan comments, “The festival of the Season of Light is an experiential one, which happens in a silent mood of reverence except when we are singing. It’s about learning to find the inner source of inspiration.”
Second grade teacher Tracy Fernbacher explains, “An important component of the second grade curriculum are legends that celebrate good, wise and kind people, so December is a busy month for second grade. Our month-long celebration of the Season of Light begins Monday, December 3rd. Hanukkah begins on this day as well. After Early Childhood students will walk their Spiral of Light on Sunday, December 2, first and second graders will celebrate an in-school Spiral of Light celebration Monday during main lesson, followed by an all-school assembly where we will light the menorah and the first Advent candle, sing songs of the season and hear a story from Mrs. Palmer that will carry through the three weeks of Advent. We will recognize the legend of Saint Nicholas on December 6th and Santa Lucia Day on December 13th.”
Steiner classes celebrate St. Nicholas Day in several ways. St. Nicholas was a bishop with a compassionate heart, especially for children. As the giver of gifts, when he visits the classrooms in first through third grades, he is known by the tall miter he wears and the crook he carries, as well as the great book he reads from, full of wisdom and understanding for each class. The teacher will call each child by name to receive a piece of golden fruit from St. Nicholas himself. Grades 4-8 will receive a basket of fruit from St. Nicholas, with a message tucked inside for their class. Early childhood students will not see St. Nicholas in person, but when there is a knock on their classroom door, will find a basket of fruit as a surprise gift!
The color gold and yellow blossoms like yarrow or tansy are connected to this holiday, representing bags of gold that the historical St. Nicholas famously distributed to the needy. For centuries, children around the world have left their shoes outside the door (perhaps filled with a carrot or a little hay for St. Nicholas’s great white horse) on the night before December 6th, hoping that St. Nicholas might leave something for them as he journeys on his way, such as clementines, gold (chocolate) coins or a golden walnut!
December 13 is the shortest day of the year and also the day Nordic European counties and many Italian areas celebrate Saint Lucy and the return of light. Santa Lucia day brightens the dark days of midwinter and celebrates the life of Saint Lucia, an Italian saint known for her kindness and love. Saint Lucy or Lucia, whose name comes from the Latin word “lux” meaning light, links this celebration with the days growing longer after the Winter solstice.
In our celebration, the 2nd grade students, dressed all in white, process through the school, visiting each class from Early Childhood through 8th Grade, singing Lucia songs and delivering saffron buns, a traditional St. Lucia day treat. The 2nd grade especially enjoys the experience, as the St. Lucia story is one they have heard as part of the 2nd grade legends curriculum.
Here is a recipe by Sam Sifton from the New York Times Magazine for Santa Lucia buns:
Yield: 30 Buns
Time: 1.5 Hours
6 ounces butter, melted
2.5 cups lukewarm milk
3/4 teaspoon saffron
1 cup sugar
1.7 ounces of fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds wheat flour, or as needed
Beaten egg, for brushing
Raisins, for garnish.
Place the butter and milk in a medium bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron with a pinch of the sugar, and stir into the mixture. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a little of the lukewarm butter mixture, then add the remaining butter mixture, the remaining sugar and the salt.
Gradually add enough of the flour (almost all of it) to make a workable dough, kneading for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook. Shape into a ball, sprinkle with a little flour and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 to 45 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, and knead in additional flour if the dough is sticky. Shape as desired into buns, braids or lengths. Place on lined baking sheets, and allow to rise again for 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400.
Brush the buns with beaten egg, and press raisins lightly into the dough. Bake until golden and risen, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a bun comes out dry. Smaller buns may take 8 to 10 minutes; larger lengths and braids, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the buns on a rack under a cloth.