Waldorf Makes the Most of Winter Weather

This week and last, Waldorf students displayed their resiliency by exploring the changes winter bestowed on the natural world. The key to enjoying nature, no matter the season, is appropriate clothing. A constant mantra in our Nature Studies and Forest After-School is:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”

Once we’re all bundled up, the exploring can begin. We  admire the outdoors not just with our eyes, but with all our senses. During the coldest days this week, we stayed inside, working on planting plans for spring, learning about the magic of spirals, and started to write letters to local organizations asking for their support. Here is what Sam in 5th Grade wrote:

“Dear ________________,

We are 5th graders at the Waldorf School of Baltimore, and in Nature Studies we are doing a final project because once in middle school we will not have Nature Studies class anymore. For our project we have adopted a small part of the woods to create a native garden. A couple goals of our project are to stop invasive plants, and to build our class legacy. We know it will be amazing when we’re finished. We would greatly appreciate if you could donate seeds, soil, etc. Thank you

Sincerely,

     Sam

 

Please stay tuned, as every week brings new adventures in Eco-literacy.

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An Introduction.

 

 

 

The Waldorf School of Baltimore’s Sustainability program has been growing in incredible ways, and one of our goals in this new year is to do a much better job of sharing our successes, celebrations, and even missteps with you. WSB Sustainability hopes to add an important voice missing from our conversation- the sound of our future, brought to you by the students of our Waldorf school.

Each week  WSB Sustainability Blog will bring a new perspective from one of our students, as well as updates from our Forest Aftercare Program and new developments in our ongoing efforts to be (and share) our best selves in our community. 

The Forest Aftercare Program is also growing. We have three teachers working with our Sustainability Coordinator to offer a unique after-school experience. In every imaginable kind of weather, Ms. Brooks, Ms. Jung, and Ms. Ferguson wander into the forest to mentor and guide our students as they wonder at the growth around them, and puzzle at all the growth within themselves.

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My name is Jason, this is my first year as Sustainability Coordinator at Waldorf School of Baltimore. I have  inherited a fantastic program from my predecessors, and have continued growing the “TerraCycle” Partnership with MOM’s Organic Markets. The Waldorf chickens are in good hands, since I also run a sustainable farm. This year we are introducing a Middle School elective on urban farming, working to secure grant funds for a *special* community project, and learning Nature Studies in the elementary grades.

As an avid hiker, I have a unique opportunity to overhear a broad range of people’s responses to nature. One way of thinking about our journey is as a means to a scenic end, but there are far greater opportunities for reflection here. While some monuments fail to live up to the hype, perhaps it is more beneficial if we look at them as milestones- moments in which our natural world demands we pause. Now, I’m inviting you to look at how far we’ve come together already, and help me search for clues to as to what might come next. As the impulse for reflection builds to resolve, we turn our eyes to the next leg of our journey.

Please check back frequently, every week brings new adventure!

Jason Reed

Sustainability Coordinator at Waldorf School of Baltimore

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Changing Horizons

Recently, it has become clear that it is time for me to make a career change from the front lines of teaching to behind the scenes. It’s a message tinged with sadness, as I have been walking the path of becoming that is the educator’s path for quite some time. But, when things are clear, they just are as they are, and it is time for me to begin my transition to being in a different role.  The unique first-hand experience offered through the Nature Studies teaching position has primed my trajectory, and although I do not yet know where I will land, I do know that my decision will be informed by fond memories of connection in this amazing community we have built together.  I look forward to lending my energy to an organization whose mission continues the work that I have been engaged in here at WSB.

In the last two years, we’ve built on what came before and continued our commitment to being green by becoming re-certified as a Green School, continuing to cement aspects of our unique green Nature Studies curriculum, and improving our gardens and outdoor classrooms.  We’ve got busy bees again, adorable little chicks, and energized green spaces. For me, getting to know the students and seeing first-hand the abject joy they experience in the woods has been a pleasure and a sustaining gift. From this vantage point, I feel that I cannot overstate the importance of their relationship with our woods. The continuation of this connection is of utmost importance to me, and it is my intention to pave the way for my successor with all the information I have gathered and the tricks I have learned.  I am deeply grateful to WSB for providing me the time, space, and trust to help in facilitating this transition.  Many thanks, to all, who have contributed to our green initiatives by dealing with muddy clothes and keeping track of myriad little pieces of gear. The woods are worth it, but you don’t have to ask me, ask the students. They have within them experiences that bring forth words that speak more convincingly than I. And, please don’t forget how important the woods can be to you, too. A weekly or even monthly practice of spending some time in the trees will have a ripple effect in your life, that I can promise.

In gratitude, Becka

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No Planning Necessary: Snow!

Tired of planning activities all the time? Well, look no further. There is no need to plan an activity on a snowy day. Let the snow be your activity. On this snowy day, I will allow the students to remind you that snow is just so magical by itself. Just get out there and savor it.

In the photos below students of all ages are overjoyed on a Friday to be out in the falling snow. It doesn’t even matter that it is barely accumulating. The energetics of being out in a snowfall are too good to pass up. Just suit up and get out there, they say!

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Who can argue with smiles like that? Look at those overjoyed arms and happy feet! Money can’t buy happiness like falling snow, Just Saying.

At the same time, don’t forget to go on forays to find piles of snow in the days following a snowstorm. Students found in this pile of clean snow from plowing the basketball court whole worlds of fun, even after all the other snow had melted away. We enjoyed this ephemeral pile for an entire class period. I had to pull them away: thank goodness lunch was next, or I wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on!

 

And even in an inch of snow there is enough fun to be had if you have sleds on hand. Our students didn’t mind finding patches of snow to sled on, or building areas up for sledding. The grass may be poking through, but we are still sledding until we see dirt. Don’t wait for the “perfect sledding snowfall,” sled anytime, they say!

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Remember:  When it snows, no need to plan an activity. Just get out there and enjoy it.

This Weekend: Biodynamic Beekeeping Event at WWS!

Join our sister school, the Washington Waldorf School,  for a two session workshop on Biodynamic Beekeeping with Gunther Hauk of Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary on Friday, January 19th, 6:30pm-9pm, and Saturday, January 20th from 9:30am -12:30pm. The workshops are free, and more information can be found below. RSVP’s are required and can be made here. The Facebook event can be found here.

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Our Gentle Bees, Friends not Foes!

I bring this up because I know our bees have been horrified by the actions of their stinging insect cousins the wasps and hornets of late. Our friend and resident bee expert reminds us that these stinging insects who are often labeled bees are in fact not bees at all.  And often, their aggressive actions give bees a bad name.  Getting stung by a bee is actually quite preventable, as bees are generally timid and do not sting unless they are protecting their hive, swatted at, or, most commonly, stepped on. Our bees at school are so friendly that I visit their hive without wearing gear!

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BULLET POINTS and Q&A with OUR RESIDENT BEE EXPERT

  • Bees are not hornets and wasps.
  • Some hornets and wasps, most commonly the Yellow -Jacket, may be aggressive.   Bees are timid and only sting when threatened.
  • What is usually found in the garden, bees or wasps? Answer: Bees
  • Where would I find a wasp (e.g. yellow jacket)? Answer: In nest in ground, around food, but not around flowers.
  • When and where is it more likely to be stung by a bee? Answer: When bees are collected in a huge (10,000 +) swarm, when you enter their hive, when you swat at them.
  • What is the chance of being stung by a bee in a garden? Answer: Very small,  so small that no one keeps statistics of bee stings
  • When might I get stung? Answer: If you step on a bee in the grass without shoes. If you swat at a bee.
  • Do I need to be more careful if I have a bee sting allergy? Answer:  If you wear shoes in the garden and do not swat at bees, you will not be stung.
  • Are bee stings dangerous?: Answer:  For most people the answer is that they are annoying, not dangerous and do not hurt very much.  About 0.5 per cent of children have bee allergies.  However, if you do not go after the bees, they will not go after you.

Pollinator Power

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The Bees are Back! This was taken the day they moved into their new home here on campus. Since then, they have increased their numbers significantly. I am working hand in hand with a local volunteer to nurture them through Biodynamic philosophy.

If you look very closely below, you’ll see a bee taking advantage of our early autumn pollinator garden foliage.  Last year the students worked with the Maryland Master Gardeners to put in a true blue certifiable pollinator garden.  If you build it, they will come.

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Below, bees enjoy late season Turtlehead blooms, also in our pollinator garden.

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And I just have to show off another photo of the showstopper goldenrod display we (and the bees) enjoyed just last week.

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Students planted the zinnia below for our butterfly pollinator friends. In our presentations with the butterfly lady last spring, we learned the importance of feeding caterpillars as well as their charismatic butterfly phases. And, just this year several of our friends in the Children’s Garden witnessed the magic cycle of caterpillar and chrysalis and butterfly!

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All the abundance of Milkweed we have here on campus guarantees the chance to catch a monarch coming out of its chrysalis! The garden pictured below has zinnia, calendula, parsley, dill, and milkweed- food for our caterpillar friends.

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