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.

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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.

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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).

Become a Green Dragon. Join WSB’s New Green Team!

Throughout the day, Sustainability Coordinators tend to get a lot of mind-bending questions revolving around matters of compost, gardening, wildlife, native plants, etc. But, hands-down, the one I hear the most is . . . How can I turn into a Dragon? Followed by . . . How can I become more involved in the sustainability initiatives at WSB? Well, I have a grand answer for you that will solve both these perplexing puzzles in one fell swoop! This year, we are starting a new Green Dragon Team for students, parents, staff, and New Town community members. Our goal is to begin implementing the Enhanced Schoolyard Plan, and our focus this school year will be on managing our stormwater runoff and planting more edibles in the schoolyard. The Student Council has already elected their Green Officer who will be sniffing out the other Green Dragons hiding in the classrooms.
We are in need of 3 more parents to join our fiery ranks (preferably from the elementary and middle school, as the Children’s Garden is already represented). Green Dragon Parents will meet the 1st Thursday of every month directly after drop off at 8:30am. The main meeting will be adjourned by 9:15am at the latest! In order to keep these meetings short, follow up information will be handled online. Bare in mind, you can still be involved without becoming a full-fledged Dragon. Over the course of the school year we will need volunteers to help implement the plan as well as keep all WSB’s events as waste-free as possible.

Please be in touch with Michel Anderson with your desired level of involvement. If you’re interested in full dragon status please submit a 1,000,000,000 word essay containing all relative experience, including mythological lineage, bloodline, region and castle property information, gold and jewel reserves, as well as involvement in any significant ogre battles.

Our 1st meeting will be Thursday, Oct 2nd.

Thank you for reading and your interest!

Introducing the Enhanced Schoolyard Plan

Greetings! And welcome to the new school year! I hope your summer was filled with wonder and glee. I wanted to take moment to fill you in on some of the new green projects that are currently underway at the Waldorf School of Baltimore. First off, the Parents’ Association (PA) has generously donated funds to kick off our new Enhanced Schoolyard Plan. You will be hearing a lot about this plan over the coming months. In brief, the plan is based on permaculture design principles as well as design principles that encouraging biophilia (love of nature) in children. We’ve already started folding it into the school with a few new items. Thanks to the PA, we now have new composting tumblers that are loose and can be rolled around the schoolyard as well as down hills. This gives our students a fun way to turn compost (cleverly disguised as play) during recess. We’ve also purchased new fencing which will allow our three hens more space to roam. When it’s complete WSB students will be able to freely enter the area and interact with the chickens on a more regular basis. I have started installing the fence, panel-by-panel, during recess with the help of a few eager 3rd graders. We should be finished within the next couple of weeks. This year’s Student Council will be instrumental in designing and phasing in the Enhanced Schoolyard Plan. We are developing a Student Council Task Force that will be making play-maps of the schoolyard and offering suggestions to the faculty to make changes to the physical and cultural use to our grounds. Among other things, they will re-write the recess rules to offer their unique perspective. Over the next couple of months you will see and hear about these exciting changes through this blog (which will host middle school student authors!). The integration of these plans will offer many opportunities for volunteers! So subscribe and check to blog often.
Needless to say, we have high hopes that this year will be our greatest (and greenest) thus far!

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