This year our senior class selected the theme of togetherness to open the new school year for the high school, and we have taken up their inspiration to bring togetherness to all that we plan and create together as an entire school community. We hope you will feel the intention in the many ways we connect with one another.
The rhythms and routines of the school year provide an essential unifying thread at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula. Our rich festival life is well underway. During our first-day-of-school Rose Ceremony, our seniors welcomed our new first graders and the teachers shared the exciting plans that they have for each grade – expressing the essence of each grade’s unique developmental moment. From the emphasis on play for the children in the early childhood program to the differentiation and assimilation of the most senior students, our faculty bring their creative forces to generate age-appropriate learning for all ages. On September 29, the school will bring to life the festival of courage, working with the story of bringing all available resources to fight a fierce beast. Beasts show up for all of us in a number of ways, and this festival helps prepare the children to connect to their own courage and true will to face whatever challenges come their way.
We worked together this summer to prepare both campuses for our students. At Los Altos, the children have a variety of enlivened and re-imagined spaces to explore and transform, such as the upper field, the backyard of the kindergartens and the backyard of the grades classrooms. On the Mountain View campus, we created a new studio space where our students have been playing guitar, rehearsing their plays, and exploring a variety of recipes in our cooking classes.
To help deepen togetherness in our classes, several teachers have taken the very first few weeks of school to venture out into the world together on field trips. In addition to the all-high-school retreat, classes five, seven, and eight have ventured to various locations in California forming bonds through important encounters with the natural world.
One of the most basic places we come together is around food. Not one human being can live without it and so our high school has endeavored to weave the food thread into many different classes this year. Currently the twelfth grade students are working on developing a business plan for a coffee cart that will help generate funds for the Food Justice program – they are exploring values and ideas around profits and sustainability. The eleventh grade students are trying out recipes in their cooking class to determine what sorts of menu options would be feasible and delicious. In Research Methods, the tenth graders have been working on developing letter writing skills to help solicit donations of excess produce from the neighborhood (see how you can help their efforts below).
It is in our coming together – parents, students, and staff – that we build the school year upon year. We are excited by the possibilities and prepared for the challenges and trust that together we will create a memorable year where our students feel met and seen and heard through our healing education. Welcome to 2021-2022!
Fifth grade students recently spent the week at Live Power Farm in Covelo. This trip is normally taken in third grade, but COVID pushed it out by a year and they ended up taking this much awaited trip in fifth grade. The children saw and experienced the farm as a living organism, saw the thriving ecosystem with plants, animals, and humans interacting harmoniously. Apart from doing daily chores on the farm, the class listened with rapt attention to farmer Stephan as he talked about cultivating native plants to farm grown vegetables. The children got a taste of the native varieties of spinach and turnips and a great introduction to fifth grade botany!
Grade four is exploring the Norse myths for their first block. In support of this learning and to prepare for Michaelmas, the class has been going on field trips with me every Friday this month to the Mountain View campus, where they are forging handles for their shields with Farmer Phil in the smithy.
Each student worked with Mr. Dwyer to hammer the red-hot iron to form their handle. While everyone was waiting for their turn at the forge, the students sanded and smoothed their wooden shields. Then they painted their shields with primer paint. This week they are decorating their shields with their own designs. This last Friday before Michaelmas, the students will attach their iron handles with copper rivets and will craft leather arm straps as well.
The students are experiencing, in quite a lively manner, a line from their part in the Michaelmas play: “Shape me a shield forceful and fierce, stalwart and shapely to fend against fears.”
This year the 12th grade is opening in toto Coffee Collective. Yep that’s right. We are starting a business. The Economics Main Lesson serves as an entry point for students to start to consider their relationship to materials and the processes in which materials are dealt with. The first half of the block is spent encountering varying concepts, principles, laws, and ideas within the economic realm. The second half of the class we will be thinking about the future and how the way we frame the purpose of economics has a different outcome in the decisions we make when we write a business plan.
Our Coffee Collective is made possible by the Entrepreneurial Grant we received. While the work the Class of 2022 is doing is a trial (don’t expect that coffee cart to be running every morning just yet), the framework they are developing can be used as a building block for future entrepreneurial endeavors.
P.S. Check out some beautiful Data Visualizations students made using our studio with some of their preliminary research for the coffee cart.
When the need arose this summer to create a larger outdoor play space for our kindergarten classes, WSP Substitute Gardening Teacher, and WSP alumnus (class of 2012), Sebastian Langen rose to the occasion. He designed and created the wonderful new space where our kindergarten children start their days.
The vision was to create a new larger outdoor play space that would afford the children the opportunity for big play and climbing, underneath our beautiful oak tree on the upper field of the Los Altos campus, which is often a little wet and soggy in the winter months. After carefully clearing and leveling the area, and some help from others this summer, Sebastian created a large space covered with wood chips as a base, and then singlehandedly designed and executed the rest of the transformation this summer.
One of the key elements of the new play space are several large redwood logs that were salvaged from trees that had fallen in the CZU Lightning Complex fire on his family’s property. Cutting them just to the length of his truck bed, he hauled them down from the mountain and removed the ashy outer layers revealing the healthy wood within. Each of them is buried deep within the ground with gravel and shale to provide sturdy perches for play.
The shorter stumps were donated by the alumni family of Liam Hanlon who salvaged them from a neighborhood tree-cutting in the certainty that a school would benefit and he was right! One of the climbing triangles created by the students in the third grade of 2014 was relocated here. There are a variety of logs and planks the children enjoy moving around to create new play opportunities. The space is still under transformation with more elements to come. Later this year, there will be notches for climbing, balance beams, and a few more surprises.
Sebastian joined Waldorf School of the Peninsula way back in fourth grade when his family moved here because his father had accepted the position of Practical Arts teacher. Having been absent for part of middle and high school, Sebastian returned in the eleventh grade and graduated with our second high school class. After high school, he took on a Biodynamic Gardening apprenticeship at Rudolf Steiner College. Sebastian was excited to learn of the opportunity to return to WSP. “Teacher Sebastian,” as he is known by the students, joined us last year as a long-term substitute while our Los Altos campus Gardening teacher Ms. Roberts was away on maternity leave. As luck would have it, soon after she returned, our Mountain View campus Gardening teacher Ms. Uludag also left on maternity leave so Teacher Sebastian is now often found with middle school students on that campus.
We are fortunate that Sebastian returned to bring his gifts back to WSP, and create our beautiful new kindergarten play space.