“This is AWESOME!”
It’s not unusual to hear exclamations like these rocketing around the trees in Forest Aftercare. In fact, this same student even went so far as to make up a song about how much she loves the woods. It’s hard to believe that this particular student joined Forest Aftercare this year with much trepidation. She did NOT like the woods. No Thank You. Not Interested. But in less than a week, she didn’t want to go home when her mother came to pick her up. Now, of course I was optimistic that she would eventually come to like the woods, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear her shouting “This is AWESOME!!!” nearly every day in the space of two weeks! This is the transformative power of spending unstructured time in the woods.
Photo credit: Carling Sothoron
Within the breathing space of unstructured time, children are able to find their own special places in the forest. They develop relationships with these places that lead them to return again and again to experience the unique quality of simply being there. I knew something was shifting on the third day of aftercare, when this student asked if she could take her mother into the forest to see some of her favorite places. Since then, she has spent her class time in Nature Studies sharing the spaces she found in her afternoons in Forest Aftercare with her classmates. Turns out enthusiasm around special spaces is simply irresistible to those you chose to share it with. Several of her classmates now share her love for her special spots, and are starting to call them their own.
Michel Anderson, founder of the Forest Aftercare program at the Waldorf School of Baltimore, was recently published in Green Teacher. His article, called “Rolling Stones and Catching Beetles,” is about his adventures whilst creating our urban forest aftercare program. Designed to help other green teachers create similar programs in their schools, Michel’s article was a lovely reminder of how incredibly lucky we are to have a flourishing Forest Aftercare here at WSB. My hope is to continue to hold this space, not only for the students at WSB, but for students everywhere. As this trend catches on, and I do so hope it will, our Forest Aftercare will continue to inspire others to offer programs like these. What’s even more exciting is that Forest Aftercare is just one of many ways that the Waldorf School of Baltimore is blazing a trail with its inspirational and forward thinking approach to ecoliteracy. Last month we were approached by a school who is interested enough in our ecoliteracy programs to send one of their staff members all the way from PA to spend a day with me to see our program in action. When I took the reins, my vision for WSB was for us to be a hub for information about experiential ecoliteracy, with the hope of impacting the lives of students across the country. Michel’s article is an amazing avenue for us as we reach toward this vision, and I think I can speak for us all when I say we really appreciate this gift. Here are a few irresistibly celebratory high fives from Forest Aftercare, Mr. Anderson! Bravo! And many thanks.
Photo Credit: Carling Sothoron
The Forest Aftercare program at the Waldorf School of Baltimore is an important facet to our school community. At Waldorf, we recognize that today’s children are not spending as much time in natural environments as former generations. Our Forest Aftercare program is designed to provide a safe space for children to cultivate a deep bond with the more-than-human world.
Students enrolled in the Forest Aftercare program spend most of their time in the forest surrounding our school. Free play, gardening, animal husbandry, and exploration of the forest are key aspects of our program. We are outside everyday – rain, snow, or shine!
Forest Aftercare Staff prepare students to become empowered, responsible environmental stewards. Our playground is a certified Wildlife Habitat, with food, shelter, and water sources for indigenous species. We have been awarded a Baltimore City Master Gardener’s Outstanding School Garden Award.
Stay connected to what’s happening in our Ecoliteracy & Sustainability programs here, at sustainablewaldorf.com.
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.
WSB’s Student Council has approved an exciting new initiative . . . our Middle School is now a TerraCycle host site! Which means that we will be collecting certain hard-to-recycle waste products and sending them to TerraCycle for points. TerraCycle will then re-purposes and transforms these items into new goods; and with the collected points our students will be able to do a plethora of great things for our planet. Some of the things we can redeem our points for are: adopting & preserving wildlife land, reducing carbon from the atmosphere, giving clean water to people in need, supplying chickens & bees to those in need, and giving school supplies to at risk youth.
Tonight, your Middle School Student will be coming home with a list to stick on your refrigerator. It will consist of things to keep out of your trash/recycle bin and bring into school. The items we’re collecting are as follows:
- Hot & Cold Cereal Bags & Liners
- Cheese Wrappers & Hummus Containers w/ foil or plastic seal (please wash)
- Ink Cartridges & Select Toners
- Tech Waste (including old/broken cell & smart phones, GPS units & graphing calculators, ipods & mp3 players, old tablets & E-Readers)
Although this is a Middle School initiative, we invite the entire WSB Community to take part in this exciting program. The new TerraCycle Station can be found upstairs in the art gallery hallway. Please check it out next time you’re around.
We got clay this week. 10 tons of it! Big thanks to the Stancill family for their generous donation. The Stancills have been part of the WSB community for a long time and donated clay to build the earthoven many years ago as well. We’ll be using this batch to fix up the earthoven and build a cob bench in the garden this Spring! I would like this to be a community workshop & project. Please let me know if you’re interested in getting your hands & feet muddy! Have a nice weekend.
Before we’re covered in a golden blanket of leaves…. Our 5th & 6th grade students have the opportunity to join our Ecoliteracy Coordinator, Michel Anderson, after-school to learn how to ID & tag the various trees on WSB property. The program will run on October 8th – 10th (Tues – Thur) from 3:30 – 5pm. Pick up your signup sheet from Ms. Engelke at the front office.