here we are enjoying our snack in the forest.
There are so so many huge concepts that teachers and parents feel responsible for imparting to our young charges. It is a daunting task, introducing someone to the notions of empathy, collaboration, self-reliance, reflection and confidence, to be sure.
We would do well to remember that so many of those same lessons were imparted to us not through the wise words of a mentor, but through the silent (and likely VERY intentional) modeling of a teacher, a peer, or the greatest teacher of all, our Mother Nature.
I overheard this interaction recently, while in the forest with our students and teachers:
Ms. Jung: Hi there, M, watcha doing? It looks like you are trying to uproot this poor little tree.
Student M: Pulling on dis twee
Ms. Jung: Aw, Poor tree. Let’s not pull it. It wants to grow leaves in the spring.
Student M: Why?
Ms. Jung: So it can give us shade, and it can feed the animals
Student M: Oh. Otay. De twee wants to gwow?
Ms. Jung: Yes. It does
Student M: Otay
Our teachers work very hard to facilitate safe, revelatory experiences for our students, and sometimes the smallest interactions can have profound impacts. Student’s time in the forest gives them examples of caring for others, working together, and following through on plans. When we are climbing tress, balancing on fallen logs, or swinging from vines, we’re developing upper body strength, balance, courage, building self-esteem, gross motor skills, and learning how to experience joy.
If we can muster the courage to throw the door of the world open wide and to then step back in courage and make room for new experiences, our reward is getting to experience again, as if for the first time, a true and pure sensation of joy and freedom.
Our recent week at the Waldorf School of Baltimore has been filled with imaginative play and inclusive outdoor experiences. Some of our younger students in the Forest Program are excavating ancient relics (or at least, interesting looking rocks) and preparing them for display in our Forest Program Museum of Odds and Ends.
Members of our Terracycle team are collecting recyclables and designing posters to better inform the student body.
Our Terracycle program is in partnership with MOM’s Organic Markets, if you’d like to know more, click here
Other students are participating in the “Urban Agriculture” elective class. Participants are growing sprouts, micro greens and lettuce as they explore some of the creative ways of growing food in unexpected places.
I’ll sign off today with the words of Dakota, one of our 4th graders:
“I love playing in the woods, and I like to draw and I like TO EAT!!!”
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:
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
Please stay tuned, as every week brings new adventures in Eco-literacy.
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.
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!
Sustainability Coordinator at Waldorf School of Baltimore
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
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!
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!
Remember: When it snows, no need to plan an activity. Just get out there and enjoy it.