Everything is Connected and Everything Changes

Dear Readers and Friends,

It is with mixed emotions that I post my final entry on Green Dragon Bytes. I have decided the time has come to make a life change. Starting next week I will embark on a new adventure with Blue Water Baltimore as their Education & Outreach Coordinator. In this position I will be developing and delivering nature-based education programing to under-served communities throughout Baltimore City. And I’m happy to report that I will still be able to engage WSB students with various nature related projects such as storm drain muraling, tree planting, and service learning.

So much as happened since I started this blog four years ago, and I am so happy to have shared this time with you and to have taken a lead role in developing Waldorf’s green ambitions. That said, none of the things we’ve done together would have been possible without the support of WSB’s wonderful teachers, staff, students, board members, and parents (past and present). And worry not! …the chickens, Nature Study class, Forest Aftercare, this blog, Fortville, and all the other cool green things we’ve done together, aren’t going anywhere. This summer I will aid the school in finding and training my predecessor. There’s still plenty of room to grow, and I feel we have only brought to maturity a few of the many seeds that will root nature and sustainability even deeper into the Waldorf program.

I believe that with a deep love and respect for nature sowed into their beings, the children of this school (and of the world) will make our planet beautiful and healthy for generations to come. Please enjoy the slideshow below of the many green memories we’ve shared over the last four years. I look forward to seeing you around!

All the best!
Michel Anderson (aka. Greenman, King Compost, Doctor Compost, Mr. Compost)

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Little Blood Monsters


Image used under Creative Commons from fairfaxcounty on Flickr

Ticks are tiny blood monsters that can really spoil a good day in the forest. Having said that, it’s important to keep in mind that they are also a vital food source for a multitude of reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Like mosquitoes they serve a purpose in our ecosystem (however annoying/harmful they are to us bipeds). And I’m sure they serve a greater purpose beyond being food, though I’m not privy to that information. Armed with that dose of compassion, let’s look at some measures we can take to stay away from them….

After playing in the woods, you should always check yourself and your child for ticks. Ticks don’t fall from trees, if you found one in your head it crawled up there. Ticks live in shrubs and tall grasses (hence why they like hair). They prefer to feel secure, so after hitching a ride on you they will seek out a tight spot to attach and feed. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers — squeeze the head close to your skin, not the body (which will push germs into you). If one’s been feeding on you, it’s good to sandwich the tick up in tape and bring it to the doctor for testing. Most sources say that a tick needs to be feeding on its host for 24 hours to transmit any diseases (but don’t quote me on that). Checking yourself or your child within 2 hours of being in the forest is recommend. Permethrin-based repellents are good to use on clothing, but not on skin — DEET (though gross) works on both. Tossing cloths in the dryer for 10 minutes will kill any ticks hanging around for a later meal. Light colored clothing is helpful for spotting them. If you find a loose tick the best way to dispose of it is via fire or a hasty burial.

Ok, with that knowledge, go out into the woods and have a good time. Remember…it’s your home too!

Oh…and here’s a cute picture to counterbalance that other one:
The woods are worth it.

Dad Garden Power

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!

Welcome to Fortville

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.

Earth Day: Project Clean Steam SUCCESS

pcs-logo-e1353525393829This 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:


Experiential Nature-based Education Presentation

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.

Earth Day Stream Clean – 4/22

pcs-logo-e1353525393829At 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!

Education Summit in Baltimore – 4/6

SaveTheDate_2016CCPCRNext 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.

Fortlandia: The Kingdom of Learning

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).