Big thank you to all the Children’s Garden dads (and their children) that showed up for our volunteer afternoon last Friday. In a mere 90-minutes we transformed the school garden! We went from four awkwardly-positioned, falling apart garden beds to two new large ones; and we got a 3″ layer of wood chips around them to prevent weeds. The students were thrilled when they saw their new garden this morning. Thanks again…you’re the best!
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, bipeds and quadrupeds… Step right up… But don’t get too close. No one other than 4th graders are allowed beyond Fallen-Tree-Wall. (The only exceptions are made for their Chiefy-Weefy, Mr. Anderson, and their classroom teacher, Ms. Smith.) Fortville is the project by WSB’s 4th grade Nature Study class. It all started around October 2015. The class found a secluded space in the forest adjacent to the school and started building small forts (and picking up garbage and removing invasive species). Over the last few months we have instituted our own system of government (let’s call it an “inclusive participatory oligarchy with limited gerontocratic guidance”), have established a local currency out of found bits of coal (although bartering and timebanking are still prevalent and encouraged), and have created and signed various legal documents that include deeds, easements, and permits (to stabilize a balance between common and private property and keep our thriving wildcraft restaurants up to health code). This week we came across two box turtles, named Boxie and Boxet, which have now become the official animals of Fortville (species diversity protection legislation is underway). Their Chiefy-Weefy, Mr. Anderson, was hardly prepared for the complexity that has unfolded when he suggested the fort village to the class. He stores all of Fortville’s top secret documents in a vault deep inside Middle Earth. Please savor these rare photographs that document the fusion of freedom, intelligence, and imagination, the way nature intended it:
The world will be what they make it.
This Earth Day the students and teachers of the Waldorf School of Baltimore took action and engaged in Project Clean Stream. The 5th through 8th grades departed school grounds at 11:45 to a trash-laden site on the Jones Falls Trail. The site was identified by one of our 7th grade students a few weeks prior while on a family walk. We picnicked, explored, and then began our intensive cleanup. We ended up leaving the site with 15 bags full of garbage and 7 bags of recycling. Coach Harrington came down and picked up the bags afterwards (which filled his entire truck bed). The pictures below do not do justice to the difference we made, but rest assured, the difference is a clear as night and day.
Here are before photos of our site:
And here are after photos:
And here are our process photos:
The clean up crew:
As part of the Waldorf School of Baltimore’s What Works speaker series our Ecoliteracy & Sustainability Coordinator, Michel Anderson, will be conducting an experiential presentation entitled What Works: The Waldorf Approach to Nature Studies. The event is free and open to the public, and it will happen twice — Wednesday, April 13 @ 7pm, and on Earth Day, Friday, April 22 @ 8:30am. The presentation will be conducted outside in the forest behind the school and (just like our Nature Study and Forest Aftercare programs) it’s a rain or shine event — so come in weather appropriate attire.
At the Waldorf School of Baltimore we believe protecting and maintaining the Chesapeake Bay watershed is part of our responsibility. This Earth Day (Friday, 4/22) WSB’s Student Council will be hosting a stream cleanup on the Jones Falls Trail, just south of Cold Spring Lane. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students in grades 5 through 8 will be pitching in on the effort. All are welcome to attend! Please bring boots and gloves. Trash bags will be provided.
The cleanup will start at 12:30 and go until about 2:30. The details and location can be found here: http://cleanstream.allianceforthebay.org/event/waldorf-school-of-baltimore-middle-school-stream-clean/
Thank you. And be sure to get outside this weekend!
Next Wednesday (4/6), WSB’s Ecoliteracy & Sustainability Coordinator, Michel Anderson, will be offering a presentation at the Education Summit, which is part of the Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference. The conference is sponsored by the EPA and Antioch University; and author Bill McKibben (of 350.org) is a featured keynote speaker. It will be held in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at the Sheraton Hotel.
Michel’s presentation, Earthling Power: How Nature Study & Play Shape Our Understanding of Community, is based on his work at the Waldorf School of Baltimore. Here’s a description: When children fall in love with nature the world changes — a bewildering dimension opens and they realize we are no longer at the center of the universe. We are but a single creature among many; we are one of the Earthlings. When we study and play in the forest the presence of the other Earthlings (and the odd powers they exhibit) rouses our curiosity. And it’s exactly this interaction that teaches us about our primary power . . . our imaginations. Nature is the great equalizer. When we are enmeshed in the more-than-human world we realize that community isn’t solely a human affair — it is the domain of Earthlings. Big, small, bipedal, rooted, or tailed, we all play a vital role in shaping and maintaining a healthy, Earthy community. In this session we will explore how nature-based education and play fosters a more encompassing, complex, and joyful understanding of community, and how this orientation is necessary in building our sustainable future.
You can register for the conference HERE.
It is no surprise that children love forts. Chances are high that everyone reading this can recall a childhood memory of building a fort. And with good reason – forts offer humans (especially small humans) a plethora of sensorial and imaginative splendor. They are special places where learning occurs on an intimate level that is often overlooked by school systems.
At the Waldorf School of Baltimore we encourage our students to build forts in the schoolyard. We did this by offering them elemental loose parts – sticks, stones, string, leaves, and straw – and the modest invitation to “build something.” From those humble parts and simple words a magnificent kingdom was born. This kingdom isn’t some childhood paradise – it is as complex as our adult world (if not more so). Dragons, Spies, and Knights are everywhere – and, yes, dubious Bankers exist too. Life in the kingdom gets confusing. At recess, a teacher’s primary role is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the students; the secondary role is help them develop the mental tools needed to navigate the rich experiences they are crafting. Teachers are not there to solve their problems, they are there to help them learn how to solve their own problems.
At the Waldorf School of Baltimore we understand that learning does not only occur in the classroom, and recess is not simply “taking a break.” Recess is academic in its own right – it is a time of synthesis. Students are not only constructing forts; they are developing their social awareness and learning to manage the complexity of the world.
The special places impulse in a school setting invites children to relive the history of the species. They create primitive shelters, form tribes, battle over resources, learn to barter, create legal systems, invent currency, learn to monitor the own behavior, recognize the impact of the built environment on ecosystems. — Excerpt from the book Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel (Stenhouse Publishers 2008)
If you’re hungry to understand more about the academics behind the fort building impulse, Meet the World’s Leading Expert on Why Kids Build Forts, David Sobel (who also happens to be my graduate advisor at Antioch University New England).