I would like to start by welcoming everyone to the 2019/20 school year! It feels like we are all starting to get used to new/old routines, getting up in the dim light of morning, finding an acceptable parking spot in Tin Town and all the gifts that the start of a school year brings. It has been such a delight to greet new and familiar faces in the mornings, thank you all for finding your way to CVWS.
Did you know that at CVWS our students get to receive the well-researched benefit of play-based learning for longer than most schools are able to offer? Our preschool accepts children aged 3 years (by start of school year) and gives space for them until they are up to 5 years old.
Our Kindergarten program accepts children age 4 (turning 5 by December 31) to age 6 (Grade one for students age 6 by June 30). This allows for up to two years of Kindergarten where play based, hands on learning is a focus. Research on the importance of play during childhood is a hot topic in education due to provincial changes in mandatory instructional hours for Kindergarten. Time for play is under threat when it comes to provincial policy.
Being an Independent School allows us flexibility to show how we meet learning standards set out by the
province through play and over time. Read more about the research on play here (https://www.waldorfresearchinstitute.org/category/research-on-play-in-childhood/).
Did you know that at CVWS we graduate our students after their Upper Grades (Grade 6/7) year? Students will be ages 11 to 13 in their final year. For a child beginning their educational journey at CVWS at age 3 and graduating at 13, that’s a long time to make connections and become an important part of a community.
At CVWS we include our Alumni in as many events and opportunities as we can. This inclusion has many benefits. CVWS benefits from the Alumni’s knowledge of and love for the Waldorf community, and the Alumni benefit by staying connected to their childhood community where their value is recognized and celebrated.
My own daughter who is now a student of a local public high school, began her Waldorf education at age 3 and graduated from CVWS at age 12. She was with me last week as I greeted families in the morning and said, wistfully, as we were leaving, “It’s so nice here, the tinkling school bell, nobody on their phone, everyone greeting each other outside…”. I am reminded to express my gratitude for this very special place.
~ Rebecca Watkin
Faculty Director’s Report (Jen Irwin)
The beginning of a new school year always involves the strengthening of will forces as we adjust to new rhythms and routines. As we shift away from the glorious beauty and freedom of summer, we are now called to bring those feelings and memories inwards, storing them for the winter ahead.
The fall season is preparatory, ensuring that we build up our own inner light to guide our way through the dark season ahead. The summer has turned to autumn, the leaves are beginning to fall, the mornings are darker. It is now the season when our inner life awakens more brightly than in summer when the glory of
nature shone more fully. Then, we were lost in the outward senses.
Now, at this time of year, let us each recognize the power we have to awaken our own self. As nature slowly passes away in front of our eyes, we realize that we are not only part of nature, but that we have individual selfhood, and that now our will forces must be fully exercised.
Rudolf Steiner always pointed to the cosmic battle of light and dark being strongest at this time of year. Just as our ancient ancestors watched the light dwindle each year, and watched the crops die away, battling faith and doubt, hope and fear. Would the light ever return?
We too, often in our unconscious feeling and will, come up against these same struggles and fear each year. Can we make it through another dark time? Of course, in our thinking we know that we will. We have modern technology to support us with heating, cars, refrigerators, stocked grocery stores, and Wi-Fi.
However, this fall time still brings a level of anxiety, fear and doubt, whether we are conscious of it or not. Possibly, we can detect these scratchy feelings to be heightened under the surface: irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety.
Steiner was clear that this time of year brings the forces of darkness closer to the earth, and that humans will find this cosmic battle of light and dark also playing out in our innermost being. We are a reflection of the cosmos. We must awaken and harness the power of our self-consciousness now, while all of nature around us is dying from lack of light.
In our culture, in our hemisphere, seasonal depression is very common. What is seasonal depression other than a feeling of loss and hopelessness due to lack of light. I ask you to deeply ponder this incredible transition from summer to fall, as we head into dark times. I ask you to contemplate Rudolf Steiner's wisdom, that it just might be possible that the most important thing we can do during this time of year is fill our inner self with positive thoughts of faith, hope, love, and enthusiasm for inner creativity, thus kindling the inner light we need to see through the dark.
At CVWS, as all Waldorf Schools, we spend the fall honouring this battle between light and dark through the celebration of festivals. First, we have St Michael (light) conquer the dragon (darkness) in our Festival of Courage, calling everyone to bring the light now into our hearts. While this light is kindled in September and October, we feel the flames grow warmer, as we approach the November Festival of Compassion.
In late November, we hold a Lantern Festival to honour St. Martin, who shone his inner light through deep compassion for others. At this time, we are reminded that our individual inner light is only a start, it is not the goal. The goal is to shine our light to help others, and to shine our lights so that each spark comes together to create the bright inner light of community.
In December we celebrate Advent, the four weeks leading to Christmas. It is at this time that we celebrate the Festival of Wisdom. We are immersed in the darkest times, but also getting closer to the Birth of the Sun. We have gained new insight, inner wisdom and strength.
Each year, these three festivals encourage and support us to stay clear, strong and bright as we move towards December 25th. And when we arrive at this day, three days after the Winter Solstice, it marks the first time we, humans, can detect the light returning.
Blessings on a deeply rich and wisdom-filled fall.
~ Jennifer Irwin
Board Chair’s Report (Christine Farrell)
A sincere welcome to all the new families this year and a hearty welcome back to the families who are
continuing with us for another year. It was a joy to see such a great turn out to our first parent group meeting of the year and to meet others who have expressed interest in joining our board or committees.
Our school functions on a three-fold social order—the faculty focus is on pedagogy, the board focus is on sustainability and responsibility of the school’s finances and administration, while the parent group works on building school community.
This means there is a place and need for everyone involved in our school. We all have individual gifts and experiences to offer. So, I extend to each of you, an invitation to reflect on your own gifts and talents you wish to share with our school. We welcome you to communicate this with your class teacher, principal (Mrs. Watkin), office administrators (Sarah or Marussia) or myself.
Thank you for choosing to be a part of our great school and I wish each and everyone one of you a successful year!
~ Christine Farrell
It is with great excitement that we write to you today to let you know some exciting news! After 7 years of operating in the Valley, Saltwater Waldorf School is getting a new name.
When our school first opened, we couldn’t use the word Waldorf in our name as we were not yet a certified Waldorf School. This title came a couple of years later, changing our name from Saltwater School to Saltwater Waldorf School.
Now 7 years later, as a more established school in the Comox Valley, we are changing our name to reflect this. In order to mitigate confusion with us being a sailing or water sports school and to literally land us on the map, beginning next school year our school will be the Comox Valley Waldorf School. Our families come from across the Valley, and we are thrilled to have a name that reflects that.
What does this mean for our school? It means new signs, a new logo and new branding, but everything else will pretty much remain the same. It will also mean that more people will be able to find us and discover how great our big little school really is.
Thank you for all your support and your commitment to Waldorf education.
The Saltwater Education Society Board of Directors
Seven years ago, the Saltwater Waldorf School was a budding dream for 4 parents who lived in the Comox Valley. The school started out as two small classes in the homes of two founding parents and teachers. Since those early days, Saltwater has become a member of the worldwide Waldorf school movement, and has met the BC Ministry of Education’s learning outcomes for each grade. After extensive renovations, including seismic upgrades, the school opened its doors in 2011. A second building (1 block away) was then added in 2014. Today, the Comox Valley’s only Waldorf school is proud to be expanding again.
Renovations will be done over the summer months, as part of a long-term plan to create more classrooms. Currently the school has 65 students from preschool aged up to grade seven. With the expansion, the school will be adding a multi-purpose room, a parent room and space for all grades classes under one roof. The 'Hemlock Building' at 2398 Rosewall Crescent will provide education for Grades 1-7 students.
The 'Cedar Building' at 2311 Rosewall Crescent will house the popular preschool program for children who are 3-4 years, a Kindergarten class (ages 5-6) and an aftercare program for students from 1 to 5 pm. The school will also again offer a Parent and Tot program which introduces Waldorf style learning to families with young children ages 1-3.
Waldorf is the fastest growing educational movement worldwide. Despite being a century old, the value of Waldorf philosophies and methods are increasingly recognized today. Even the BC Ministry of Education has recognized the value of these approaches, and has incorporated some of them into BC’s recent curriculum updates.
Like other Waldorf schools, Saltwater is dedicated to nurturing the whole child, and the school’s carefully-paced curriculum is rich in the arts, music, movement and contact with nature. The school offers small classes and plenty of outdoor time in nearby parks. More information on Saltwater School and Waldorf in general can be found on the school’s website: www.saltwaterschool.com.
The following article by Jeff Tunkey "sets the record straight" and dispels the many myths and misconceptions about Waldorf Education. To read the .pdf version CLICK HERE.
Waldorf Education started in the early twentieth century, under the guidance of Rudolf Steiner. Since then, it has become one of the largest independent school movements, with over a thousand schools, two thousand kindergartens and sixty special education schools in over sixty countries.
One of the reasons why this educational approach has been taken on by so many various cultures is that Waldorf education aims to educate and accompany the life journey of the whole child, as a person discovering the ways of the world in a certain place and time.
As opposed to a “from the outside in” approach to schooling, Waldorf education nurtures the skills and capacities that are always emerging within the child. Instead of relying on an externally fixed curriculum (often not developed by educators) or expectations of children’s performance in a “one size fits all” model, Waldorf education bases its approach on the very foundations of human experience.
In order to provide age appropriate curriculum while challenging and respecting every child’s individual journey, Waldorf teachers have extensive studies in child development. Both mainstream science and pedagogy, alongside with Anthroposophy, inform the practices of the teachers.
Rudolf Steiner proposed that human development happens in stages (not unlike renowned child development psychologist Jean Piaget), each lasting about seven years:
Birth to Seven: As new beings in this world, very young children are striving to unite with their surroundings, as well as learning that this is a good, safe place to come into. Most of brain development and neural connections linking sensory experiences happen in early childhood, as well as the so called “windows of opportunity: crucial times in development where there is a major opportunity for an experience to have the greatest effect. Some of these experiences are attachment (the life-giving bond between child and caregiver, arguably the most important factor in healthy development), physical growth, motor and speech development.
In the preschool years, it is also the first time a child might be cognizant of experiencing the changing in seasons for the first time, and their social horizons are being expanded beyond the family nucleus.
The preschool then, becomes a home away from home, where children can experience the world around them in a safe and open way, within a physically nurturing, warm and child minded environment.
In Kindergarten, children are aware of their ever growing skills and are ready to use them to serve their evolving ideas. The teachers provide a variety of challenging opportunities for each student to expand their knowledge and mastery of crafts.
In the early years, teachers understand that young children want to be part of what is happening in the world around them, so they teach out of imitation. By being present and compassionate, the teacher sets the tones for the “rules of the land”, and the children understand that this is the expectation in the “kingdom”.
Because the expectations are developmentally appropriate and expressed lovingly and firmly, the children feel a safe framework around them within which they can act freely. If a child is having trouble remembering or following the rules of the land, the teacher will kindly bring the child closer and help her remember, reinforcing rapport and a support, providing the tools the child needs to do better next time. A consistent routine and rhythm also aid in creating a healthy breathing sense of time, as well as allowing the child to chose a different way of acting the following time. This fosters self discipline and awareness for others and their needs. It also offers the possibility of coming to these experiences out of one’s own volition (not because of externally imposed constricts). These skills can be the key to a successful and productive life in the future.
The teacher provides plenty of opportunities for chopping vegetables, baking and using kitchen tools, sewing, painting, woodworking and many other practical and artistic activities. There is no need for constant verbal instruction as the children are drawn to the teacher’s meaningful activity, and observation skills are developed and translated into action. In this time of their lives, children are experiencing the world through their will: their drive for connection and exploration is the main force behind their growth and development.
In order to nurture this growing body, Waldorf teachers provide wholesome snacks and an aesthetically pleasing environment. Understanding that young children are literally using large amount of energy in building their bodies, teachers nurture the sense of warmth and touch.
Natural materials provide non synthetic sensory experiences, and care for seasonal appropriate clothing protects the growing forces of the body, so the building blocks can develop in a healthy, thorough manner. Through movement, children also explore all planes in space and develop a sense of balance and an awareness of their place in the physical world around them. By observing the child and out of their knowledge of child development, teachers plan to provide movement opportunities that will allow for the neural and motor development that is so crucial at a young age. Since the outdoors provide rich, ever changing sensory experience and countless physical obstacles, Nature Walks and time outside are usually a staple in Waldorf programs. Children also feel the dependability and fluidity in Nature’s reliable yet ever changing essence.
Open ended toys such as wooden blocks, silk scarves and a basket full of stones elicit a child’s inner picture and promotes social interaction, as children explain and negotiate ideas with their peers. The building steps of physics are explored when blocks are stacked and buildings are erected, math is put to use in the kitchen while measuring, and problem solving is an everyday thing when one needs to “feed” a whole class with only a basket full of shells.
Simple, open ended toys also allow the possibility of re creating the environment at the whim of imagination.
In the most natural way possible, and out of their own inner experiences, children develop resilience, flexibility and ingenuity: skills that will prove helpful in any walk of life.
Bearing in mind the relationship between physical movement and speech development (pattern, metric and the mood of sounds and words), early childhood Waldorf teachers provide daily chances to develop a relationship with the spoken word through the class’ musical framework, traditional songs and games. This is seen specifically in Circle time and Story Time. In order to meet the child’s quest for authentic knowledge, Circle Time and Story Time are carefully planned to meet the children where they are at: sometimes therapeutic stories are picked, sometimes folk tales and songs, and many times fairy tales, which feed the child’s imagination with an archetypal image they can recognize as true.
The inner wisdom of these tales, plus the rich language they provide, are nourishing for the young child. Oral stories are often told, so children are allowed to create mental pictures (a skill which will come in handy when formally learning how to read). The teacher might also present a puppet show, deepening the experience, and with favourite stories, sometimes plays will arise after the children have internalized the sequence, plot and lines of the story.
As the class follows the cycle of the year in the form of the seasons, many opportunities arise to develop powers of observation and connection. Believing in meaningful learning, teachers plan according to seasonal moods and colors, edible produce and crafts for festivals. Watercolor painting, cooking and handwork showcase the colors of the rainbow and the flavour of the seasons, spanning from yellow paint and corn, to apples and red leaves, to orange pumpkins and pies in the fall. With winter, the cooler colors and warmer foods and products such as soup and wool might become a staple in the class life. With the growth of Spring, rainbows of color and garden produce announce the return on the Sun to our land.
During the school year, children develop at their own pace, while being supported and encouraged to grow and experience in a conscious, patient manner. Through many movement and speech experiences, children grow confident in their physical abilities, and their capacity for expression and social interaction evolves in many ways. The feeling of family encourages children to work cooperatively while asserting oneself and caring for others, as well as nourishing the sense of self within a community. By being trusted and encouraged to participate in meaningful activities, children’s confidence in their skills and their understanding of the environment grow, creating a healthy framework of how the world works upon which the child will build later experiences. As a consequence, self awareness and discipline, the ability to tackle challenges creatively and confidently, and the foundations for human experience within and with others are gifts children are receiving during their first years at a Waldorf school
-Article written by Lucia Perez, our Preschool Teacher
-Free to Learn: Introducing Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education, Lynne Oldfield, Hawthorn Press, 2001.
-Our Twelve Senses: Wellsprings of the Soul, Albert Soesman, Hawthorn Press, 1990.
-Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven, Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley, Michaelmas Press, 2001.
-Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out. Jack Petrash, Gryphon House.inc, 2002
-Developmental Signatures: Core Values and Practices in Waldorf Education for Children Ages 3-9, Rainer Patzlaff, Wolfgang Sassmannshausen, et al. AWSNA Publications, 2007.
-The Foundations of Human Experience, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, 1996.
-Children: A Chronological Approach, Robert V. Kail, Theresa Zolner, Pearson Canada, 2012.
- Foundations of Early Childhood Education, Dietze, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.