by Jennifer Britton | Business Office Assistant & Alumni Parent
As a twenty-something-year alumni parent, volunteer, and current staff member, there are still moments when being in this community fascinates me or brings me unexpected joy. Two most recent ones come to mind. The first was on a recent Saturday when 1st, 4th, and 6th grade parent Leyla initiated a parent work day to do, what for me has been a long-term dream, a rehabilitation of our well-loved Winter Faire games infrastructure. There were coffee, baked goods, paints, buckets, rags, bins, prizes, drills, sand paper, batting, moss, tiny trees, strings, and more! The parking lot was transformed into an elves workshop (which used to be the name for our crafting workshop back in the earlier Faire days!!). Moms, dads, dogs, and kids all chipping in to make each game look brighter and more appealing to future games players. You’ll have to wait until Faire day to see the results but anyone who has been to the faire in the last four years or more will notice the upgrades. This makes me want to sing the folk song “Simple Gifts.”
The second experience involved goose bumps, the arrival of which one cannot control. I was in a junior/sophomore math class and the seniors were gone so the class was gifted with a special lesson on a fun applied math activity with Ms. O. She had mentioned that this had been shared with the faculty once and that added to my intrigue, plus she alerted me that it was about gerrymandering. It was fantastic, not only the actual manner in which she explained the history and set up a very relevant, hands-on application for it (we got to play with “stacking” the districts for a fictitious state legislative race) but also how the students engaged in it. I’m a huge verb fan and one of my favorites that I wish for us all is engagement. The students picked up on the assignment right away (asking fewer questions than I, by the way) and began feverishly to draw their district salamanders. The level of chatting was delicious as they went through three rounds of drawing their sacred lines of demarcation. But the debrief, the “why” and “what could happen if…” and “what else could be done instead?” series of questions and answers was gobsmacking to listen to. Students really grasped the shortcomings of this system and one student who was familiar with elections, current elections, in Israel chimed in with insights about an alternative used there that has parties so disparate that it has its own level of mayhem, confusion and ineffectiveness. Just another day in a Waldorf math class. Commence goosebumps (another fun verb, commence).
by Marina Budrys | HS Faculty and GrandFriends’ Day Event Coordinator
On the night before the Los Altos campus GrandFriends Day, I woke up many times. I’m no diagnosed insomniac but I definitely struggle to sleep when big events or new responsibilities are on the horizon. To my sleep-deprived 3AM self, welcoming 80 guests to our campus after a two year hiatus suddenly seemed totally crazy. I checked the weather and saw, to my dismay, that rain was predicted. How had I not thought of a contingency plan for this?
Fast forward a few hours, several raindrops fell. And that was it. Guests snacked on scones and croissants from Midwife and the Baker. Introductions were made. Conversations started. What followed was a lovely coming together of young and old. Generations met one another on the playground, in a circle, partnering for mathematical equations, and creating props for a play. I peaked over the nursery fence and saw GrandFriends holding hands with little ones, singing. My heart filled. What a special and unique experience this was. What an expression of what our community is. The following morning in Mountain View was just as special. GrandFriends reflected on their experiences being in the classroom. Some of their observations included the words joy, empowered, community, respect, super, and wisdom.
We are more than individual faculty, student, and parent. We are an extension of every community of which we are a part. Inviting and hosting the important roots and branches of our community allowed me to realize that this school is an ever shifting and living organism. Instead of a rigid structure, it reflects and is what the community is. My favorite quote from Rudolf Steiner is an oft used one but also appropriate for reflecting on this moment: “A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.”
by Christine McQuade Hsu | Advancement Director
WSP hosted a FIRST® Tech Robotics Qualifying Tournament on the Mountain View campus earlier this month. The STEM group that convenes the event is named First—but the event was a first in other ways, too: until now, WSP had never hosted a public tournament before. (Shout out to WSP senior and Walbots captain Lysander Schmidt and faculty team-sponsor Dr. Lea Fredrickson for spearheading!)
By 8:15 AM on a chilly Saturday morning, competitors from 16 local middle schools had arrived. As the hosting robotics team, WSP’s own Walbots joined nearly 80 other WSP volunteers to serve as judges, referees, scorekeepers, videographers, commentators, and runners, to name just a few of the many volunteer roles. High school senior Zoe Wheatonfox helped kick off the competition with a gorgeous rendition of the national anthem.
Here are three things I, and many other participants, didn’t expect to see at a robotics tournament:
1. Chickens on the loose
We’re guessing it was the first time many of the 320 participants had seen a chicken at a robotics tournament. “Pepper” and “Turbo” were roaming the garden as students wearing safety goggles would stop on their way to and from the competition hall (aka the Eurythmy room) to exclaim, “Is that a chicken?!”
Yes. At WSP, chickens roam alongside Silicon Valley’s next generation of engineers. No big deal.
Students took breaks not only to sit in the garden and hold the chickens but also jump on tree stumps, play tetherball or ping pong, and enjoy the rope swings hanging from a nearby tree.
“It was wonderful to see the students from the other teams getting so much genuine joy from our campus,” said WSP parent (and lead scorekeeper) Brent Ingler. “Witnessing their excitement over things that we, as a school, may otherwise take for granted was heartwarming.”
2. “A well-oiled robot”
That’s how a visiting robotics team mentor who’s attended these tournaments for years described this event. Or as a student participant said, “The whole event had a fun, chill, vibe and was so much fun.”
Thank the incredible flow within the WSP team for that.
“Every problem that came up, we actually resolved very efficiently, and that’s what made it overall a successful event,” said Lysander. “In our community, there are a lot of people with ingenuity and initiative. We had so many volunteers who could do whatever was needed.”
To allow spectators to cheer on their teams, despite COVID restrictions on numbers of attendees, all 9 hours of the event were live-streamed by a crew of WSP students led by Pierre Laurent, WSP’s School Administrator. (Catch a few highlights of their footage here.)
3. Real-time innovation
Competitors spent the day troubleshooting, tweaking, and adjusting their robots. The team “pits” looked like chaotic workshops, with students darting in and out.
WSP parent and event judge Neil Overmon, who designs systems for Level 4 self-driving trucks, was inspired. “I was genuinely impressed with the student competitors,” he said. “They were working with concepts that I don’t always see even at the professional level. I was inspired to brush up on a few topics when I went home that night!”
Watching the teams work was also a master class in problem solving and collaboration.
“What you think is going to happen and what actually happens a lot of times is not the same,” said WSP 11th grader and Walbots team member Stephen Lee. “That’s applicable not just in a robotics club but also in real life.”
He also saw the value of standing by your vision. “If you want to present ideas to people who don’t think it’s going to work, you just do it.”
Find out more about the day WSP hosted its first Robotics tournament.
Read more about what happened that day.
Watch a breakdown of how a robotics tournament works by WSP’s Walbots team members and Faculty sponsor Dr. Lea Fredrickson.
Interested in joining or supporting the Walbots Robotics Club at WSP?
“The club is open to anyone who is interested,” says Lysander. “At its core, it’s just a group of people doing some things. If you want to animate something, that’s robotics. If you want to work on finances, you can do that in robotics. If you want to make a website, draw some art, or even design clothing, it’s all part of what we do.
It’s also truly student-driven. As WSP parent and longtime Walbots supporter Christopher Schmidt explains, “we’re quite different from a lot of FIRST Tech Challenge schools. We draw the line. Neither Dr. Fredrickson nor I ever tell the students what the decisions are going to be in building the robot. Also, at our school, we have the right balance of time commitment. At our school, the people in the robotics club are also the people who are doing theater and track. It doesn’t need to take over your whole life. And that makes it even more fun.”
The club is always looking for sponsorship and support. Reach out to high school faculty sponsor Dr. Fredrickson or Team Captain Lysander Schmidt for more information.
by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator
16 local schools competed in a FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament at our beautiful campus in Mountain View earlier this month. For many teams, this was one of the first in-person competitions since the start of COVID.
FIRST Tech Challenge teams are composed of students from grades 7 – 12. They are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Each team is guided by adult coaches and mentors from their school or community as they develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.
The winning alliance from Saturday’s event was captained by team 12635, “Kuriosity Robotics” a community affiliate team, with their alliance partner from team 13216 “Deja Vu” from Santa Clara High School & 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI). A full list of the award recipients can be found online.
As a host team, our robotics team, the Walbots, did not compete. They joined forces with 78 other volunteers who gave up their Saturday to make the event possible. Parents, students, alumni, faculty, staff, of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, along with other community members served as judges, inspectors, scorekeepers, referees and more!
FIRST’s ethos of “Gracious Professionalism and Collaboration” was evident throughout the event. Participants from the 16 teams enjoyed the school’s campus, especially the massive garden. They took breaks from working on their robots to hold chickens, jump on tree stumps, play football, tetherball, or ping pong, and enjoy the rope swings hanging from a nearby tree. One participant said, “The whole event had a fun, chill, vibe and was so much fun.”
Due to covid, there have been a reduced number of in-person tournaments, and a limited number of teams permitted at the events. While teams are able to compete up to three times to attempt to earn a spot at the NorCal Regional Championships, this year many teams have been limited to just one in-person event, if at all. This inspired Walbots Team Captain Lysander Schmidt and Team Sponsor Dr. Lea Fredrickson to approach WSP with the idea of the school hosting, not just the school’s first robotics tournament but, their first tournament of any kind on their Mountain View campus. At the end of the day, the joy of this major accomplishment was emanating from all of the parent, teacher, student, and administrative volunteers; and of course the Walbots!
An interview with WSP Parent and Early Childhood Assistant, Yixin Zhang
by Christine McQuade-Hsu | Advancement Director
How did you celebrate the Lunar New Year when you were growing up?
I was born in China and grew up in China. Although we have many festivals, Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has been my favorite festival since I was a young kid.
In my memory, when I was little, my parents didn’t have any days off except during Spring Festival. They stayed at home and the whole family was very busy shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. My sisters and I were allowed to watch TV shows at any time without time restrictions.
The most important time during the long Spring Festival was New Year’s Eve. My parents usually spent the whole day preparing for the New Year’s Eve dinner. You could find almost all of the best food on the New Year’s Eve dining table, which were hard to obtain for daily meals, or foods with good meanings, ie. fish was a must-have, as it means “surplus”, having surplus year after year, surplus in money, food, and clothes.
New Year’s Eve dinner belonged to the whole family. The fireworks were the favorite activity for young children. My sisters and I were allowed to stay awake to see the fireworks at midnight. Every family fired the fireworks starting around 11 pm and continued for about one and half hours. The loud sounds of fireworks drowned out all of the other sounds: people’s talk, TV shows, etc. People enjoyed the noises and wished the best for the new year in the splendid flames of the fireworks.
My sisters and I were not allowed to get up late on the first day of the Spring Festival although we went to bed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Another round of fireworks sounded violently again in the early morning.
Afterward, every family member changed to new clothes dedicated to the new year. My sisters and I bowed down to my parents to wish them a happy new year with good health. My parents sent the red envelopes to each of us, which was my whole year’s allowance. I usually spent the money on books and magazines.
Then, my favorite festival tradition followed: dumplings for breakfast, which was a tradition for the first day of the Lunar New Year, and particularly special compared to our everyday breakfast of porridge. When I was young, dumplings of all kinds were my favorite food.
We spent the entire first day visiting neighbors, friends, and relatives, with every pocket filled with candies. People in the streets had smiling faces and greeted each other: “Guo Nian Hao!”, which means “Happy New Year!“
Children were gathering together to show off their new clothes, and to compete for who got the maximum amount of candies and the best candies. Boys played with the small firecrackers which didn’t need a lighter but when slammed into the ground would cause a crisp sound to pop up.
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate it now?
Now, I live overseas with my family. Usually, we have a simplified version of the Chinese New Year celebration. We keep the main elements of the traditions: dumplings, red envelopes, cleaning, visiting, and greeting friends, inviting relatives for the New Year’s Eve dinner.
Instead of spending time watching TV shows, we go outside to attend the celebrations in some museums. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is one of the places I recommend to everyone who wants to know more about the Chinese New Year.
The Lion Dance is also a good one. I had never seen it when I was in China because it was popular in the very South of China, and I was born in North China. My daughter Yumeng, who is a 6th grader now, was fascinated with the Lion Dances when she was little.
Could you suggest any activities, recipes, crafts for others to try?
If writing Spring Festival couplets in Calligraphy are too difficult for you, Paper Cutting is a craft that you definitely want to try with your children. You could follow this video to make a beautiful pattern for your windows.
Some people refer to the Lunar New Year as a Spring Festival. Could you explain?
The Spring Festival has a long history. It originated from the activities of worshiping gods and ancestors at the beginning and end of the year in the Yin and Shang Dynasties which was more than three thousand years ago.
In ancient China, the Lunar Calendar was used officially and popularly, like today’s solar calendar. The New Year’s celebration started on the 8th day of lunar December and ended at the night of 15th day in lunar January as the Lantern Festival. The peak time of the whole celebration was the first day of the lunar year to celebrate the coming of the spring and people would begin the farming tasks after the long winter break. People worshiped the gods for a smooth, happy, and good harvest year.
Spring Festival was another name for the Lunar New Year.
Do you have any new year’s wishes you’d like to share?
The British poet P.B.Shelley said, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
As 2022’s Spring Festival is coming on February 1st, the year of the tiger, according to the legend of Chinese New Year, the monster of “Nian” who ate people once a year during the beginning of the New Year, was scared by the loud noise of fireworks, the red staff i.e. red decorations including red couplets, red paper cuttings sticking on the window glass, red clothes etc. The “Nian” never comes again.
I wish the world will conquer the “monster” of the COVID-19, which will be going away soon and never come back, as what the wise ancient Chinese did to “Nian”. And that we will have a really nice spring without masks. Our beautiful smiles will be fully presented and we will be breathing freely the fresh air anywhere.
Happy Spring Festival!
Happy Lunar New Year!
Happy Chinese New Year!