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).
Balance, Creativity, Confidence, and Risk Assessment . . . Tree climbing has it all! Check out this list of 11 great reasons for climbing trees. And enjoy these photos from WSB’s Forest Aftercare and Nature Study program:
Despite old man winter’s attempts to chill us with his icy breath, the Waldorf School of Baltimore’s students remain valiant against his persistent blows. We have something that old man winter fears . . . FIRE!
Fire holds a wealth of endless intrigue. Its presence inspires and instigates all realms of knowledge. Before it, poetic and scientific thinking are equal. When fire is introduced to children in a way that respects its might, it unfolds secrets. There is a reason that in the great myths fire always had to be stolen from the gods — fire is a piece of the distant Sun dancing before us. When children are properly introduced to the real and inspirational power of a flame they learn to respect it. It is not enough to tell children, “fire is hot, don’t touch it,” or “fire is dangerous, stay away from it.” In fact, this type of “teaching” only encourages the behavior we want them to avoid — we’re telling them the very thing we want them not to do. Delivering a negatory statement doesn’t teach anyone anything; in fact, it raises curiosity and increases the likelihood that the object of your fearful disdain will be explored beyond your presence. Giving children answers robs them of discovering the questions.
In WSB’s Nature Study and Forest Aftercare programs students will be guided through doing their own a risk assessment of fire. In the months ahead, we will explore fire through guided discovery, conversation, storytelling, co-authorship of safety practices, cooking, and marshmallow eating. To study fire is to study transformation. We will examine how fire transforms darkness into light, cold into warmth, wood into charcoal, and fear into confidence.
Please continue to check out this blog as we unfold the fire mysteries. Future fire explorations will be tagged #FireMysteries.
Please check out these four simple tips our friends at Blue Water Baltimore have written up to reduce the harmful effects that snow and ice removal has on our watershed and all the living beings within it.
1. SHOOT FOR TRACTION, NOT MELTING
When dealing with slippery and icy conditions, use inexpensive alternatives such as sand, sawdust, kitty litter and even ashes to achieve increased traction. Click to Tweet This
2. KNOW WHEN TO SALT
There is a best time to apply salt and that is JUST before the snow falls. The logic is to prevent the snow from sticking from the beginning. If the snow is already present, try an alternative mentioned above. Click to Tweet This
3. LOOK FOR LANGUAGE LIKE “PET-FRIENDLY”
Don’t settle for weak language such as “eco-friendly” or “safe” when buying ice melt. If a product is safe enough for pets, it is likely to be safer for plants and people and to cause less polluted runoff. Click to Tweet This
4. AVOID SODIUM CHLORIDE
Avoid the temptation to buy the cheapest and most widely used ice melt: sodium chloride. This chemical concoction disrupts the salinity of water, harming the fish and animals. Likewise, this “road salt” erodes the soil and damages trees and vegetation. Look for products containing magnesium chloride instead, which is less damaging to the environment. Click to Tweet This
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Stay safe and warm and be sure to have some serious winter wonderland fun!
Did you know that playing outside in the rain is rapidly becoming a lost art in the USA? According to a publication by the National Wildlife Federation
“imperfect weather” is cited as the biggest barrier to outdoor play. And it shouldn’t be. Not only is fluctuation in weather one of the quintessential reasons life persists on this planet, but imperfect weather offers children (and adults) a unique set of dynamic play experiences…and they’re free! When’s the last time you dodged rain drops? Splashed in a puddle? Made a (real or imaginary) woodland creature a shelter? Worked in a mud kitchen?
Barring a few threatening conditions (thunder storms, flooding, etc.), at WSB our students go outside everyday. And not only during recess, they spend time outdoors during Nature Study class and Forest Aftercare too.
Below are some photos of our rainy day adventures:
Studies show that children who spend time playing outdoors grow up to be healthy, conservation-minded adults (here’s one
to geek-out on). So take solace in knowing that letting your child get blissed out in soggy mud is one of the best things you can do for them and the Earth!
For more ideas of what to do outside during “imperfect weather” pick up The Wild Weather Book
by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield (you can support WSB with Amazon Smile too). And remember . . . there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing decisions.
This Saturday, 11/21, WSB’s Ecoliteracy Coordinator, Michel Anderson, will be doing a workshop on Bokashi Composting at Brassicafest. Brassicafest is an annual celebration of plants in the brassica family (kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, etc.). The festival hosts food demos, speakers, and panel discussions, centered around food security and sustainability.
The Bokashi Composting workshop will happen at 10:45am. Brassicafest is located at Creative City Public Charter School: 2810 Shirley Ave, Baltimore, MD, which is only a few minutes away from the Waldorf School of Baltimore. WSB will be hosting its annual WALDORF FAIR on the same day! So swing by Brassicafest and then head over to WSB for some holiday fun and shopping.