Exploring Cultures and Building Connections: Waldorf School of the Peninsula’s High School Exchange Program

Exploring Cultures and Building Connections: Waldorf School of the Peninsula’s High School Exchange Program

by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator

At Waldorf School of the Peninsula, education reaches far beyond the confines of the classroom and campus. Our High School Exchange program facilitates cultural immersion, offering students transformative experiences that extend across borders. I recently sat down with program participants—both students and parents—to ask them to share how these experiences have impacted their lives.

Sandy Welch, a parent of a current 11th grade student who went on an exchange to Argentina, shared that the experience provided her daughter with a cultural immersion that positively influenced her Spanish language proficiency. She also underscored the value of hosting a student as well, noting it offered her family a fresh perspective on their own culture, too. The exchange of customs and traditions facilitated mutual understanding with their host student. Sandy highlighted the joy of introducing their Argentinian student to the Bay Area and experiencing the excitement of our own cultures and customs through her eyes. Additionally, the exchange reignited the family’s commitment to regular family dinners, fostering meaningful conversation and connection. Sandy also offered some practical advice, suggesting that students concerned about missing school time can consider attending a South American school during WSP’s summer break.

“Hosting Morena brought joy, perspective, and humor to the family. It was wonderful to see our culture through her eyes.” — Sandy

Student in a historic village in FranceEmmery, a junior student whose exchange took her to a Waldorf School just outside of Paris, France at the end of her sophomore year, was inspired by her mother’s past exchange experience, and motivated to enhance her French proficiency. Reflecting on her time abroad, Emmery recalls exploring Paris with newfound friends, savoring local cuisine, and immersing herself in novel experiences such as learning rugby in physical education class to be highlights. Despite encountering differences in teaching styles and classroom dynamics, as the host school offered a little more hands-off learning style than WSP, Emmery found joy in expanding her horizons and forging meaningful connections with peers from diverse backgrounds. In terms of hosting another student here at home, she felt that learning to be responsible for another person had a positive impact on her, found it fun and would absolutely do it all over again.

“Best thing ever, highly recommend it!” — Ellen

Ellen Siminoff, parent of two WSP students who have studied abroad, offers firsthand experience with both hosting students and having her teens participate in exchanges to the Spanish-speaking countries Spain and Argentina. To put it bluntly, Ellen absolutely loved hosting students. She said, “Adding another teenager to your family brings a delightful experience. They are a teen who is new and exciting to everyone, and they are thrilled to be here and be in your family. They can elevate your household with a new dynamic.” For her students, she adds that their exchanges had a significantly positive impact on their Spanish language skills. She advises that no matter what level a student is starting with, they will get so much out of their exchange experience and improve their language skills.

Three students enjoying the beach in Santa CruzAshley Brickeen, mother of a current 10th-grade student who is hosting a student from a Waldorf School in Paris, France, shared her family’s hosting experience and their anticipation as their daughter prepares for her own exchange trip. Excited for her student to experience life in another country within the framework of a family, Ashley has found joy in witnessing their host student’s seamless integration into their household. This being their first hosting experience, Ashley is delighted to see the strong bond formed between their host student and all of the teens in the household. They’ve enjoyed shared experiences, such as a family trip to a cabin in Utah over the February break, where they introduced their host student to skiing and snow tubing for the first time. Shown here, they took their students and classmates to a nearby beach boardwalk for fun. Ashley has enjoyed witnessing her guest’s curiosity about typical life experiences, and the opportunity it provided for their family to explore their typical surroundings in new unique ways.

Current twelfth grade student Annika’s experience attending the Seoul Free Waldorf School in South Korea during her junior year speaks to the transformative power of international exchange. Despite initial challenges in establishing connections with a school that was brand-new to hosting international students, Annika’s perseverance led to a life-changing experience immersed in Korean language and culture. She emphasized the rewards of embracing new opportunities, regardless of initial uncertainties and challenges.

Two students in front of a European Castle.Elowyn, also a senior, felt her journey as both a host and visiting student helped reinforce the importance of adaptability and self-discovery. Having spent most of her junior year hosting two students, it was a completely new experience for her to not be the youngest in the family. She found it enjoyable to have others in the household who were her age to interact with. Upon arriving at her host family’s home, she found it interesting to navigate big cultural differences in family dynamics, which led her to a new-found independence in traveling and exploring a new city. This has given her the desire to explore solo travel in the future, and to both return to her host country of France, and other places around the world.

Each of the parents and students interviewed had so much valuable advice for prospective participants, far too much to list here, but some recurring points are:

  • be open-minded and adaptable to new experiences and cultures.
  • embrace the opportunity to learn a new language and immerse yourself in a different way of life.
  • take initiative in forming connections with your host family and local community.
  • engage in cultural activities and explore your surroundings to gain a deeper understanding of the host country.
  • communicate openly with your host family about expectations and preferences to foster a positive living experience.
  • actively participate in school and community events to integrate into the local community and build lasting friendships.
  • seek support from program coordinators and fellow exchange students to navigate challenges and maximize your exchange experience.

If all of this sounds intriguing, the first step for a WSP high school student with an interest in going on an exchange is to talk to their Spanish teacher about it. For families within the WSP community who have younger students or students who might not yet be considering participating in an exchange program but are intrigued by the idea of becoming a host family, please reach out to Audrey Lee, the HS Admissions Director. WSP frequently seeks host families for our International Student Program as well.

Our High School Exchange Program is designed to promote global citizenship and intercultural understanding. By welcoming diverse perspectives and facilitating connections across borders, both students and families embark on journeys of personal growth and mutual enrichment. Through this program, participants develop empathy, expand their horizons, and forge lifelong connections within our ever-changing global community.


Windows on Waldorf: A dynamic open house experience

Windows on Waldorf: A dynamic open house experience

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Waldorf student or why we say experience drives learning, come and feel it for yourself. At WSP we are intentionally differentso why would our open house be the same as all the others? Join us for a one of a kind event with demo lessons, interactive experiences and a High School student panel. 

Demonstration Lessons include:

  • High School Science & Humanities demo lessons
  • Eurythmy through Grades 1-8 (for parents/guardians only)
  • Developing mathematical thinking through Grades 1-8 (for parents/guardians only)
  • Scientific thinking through a botanical lens (for parents/guardians only)

WSP Curriculum Explorations include:

  • Blacksmithing
  • Stone carving
  • Bal-A-Vis-X movement
  • Musical performances
  • Fiber arts display

Join us for a one-of-a-kind event with demo lessons, interactive experiences, and a high school student panel.

This event is intended for all parents or guardians. Students entering 7th grade and above in fall 2024 are also invited and are encouraged to attend our high school demonstrations.
While infants in arms are always welcome, this event is not intended for younger students.

Advanced registration required.

Athletics Update – October

Athletics Update – October

by Leona Rexhepi | Athletic Director

Congratulations to our Co-Ed Middle School Cross Country team who ended their season earlier this week. They had a tremendous season and the girls earned a third place trophy in the league finals this week.

Our Middle School Girls’ Volleyball team also finished up their season with a great win vs Synapse and their last game against Hausner. I’m so proud of everyone and happy to witness their growth. I hope this season helped our players develop a strong passion for volleyball.

The Middle School Golf Team has a league tournament next week and its great to see them continue to improve weekly!

Our HS Girls’ Volleyball team had a fantastic 3 – 0 win over Liberty Baptist earlier this week, and closed out their season last night against Kahn Labs last night with another 3 – 0 win! Congratulations to our team and our two senior players, Maya & Frejya! Great season everyone!

We have several other sports starting their seasons soon. Email me if you’d like more information and to register.
Middle School:

  • MS boys’ basketball
  • MS girls’ basketball
  • MS co-ed soccer

High School:

  • HS boys’ basketball
  • HS track and field
Introducing the DEIJ Corner

Introducing the DEIJ Corner

by Ashley Brickeen | N – Grade 8 Admissions Director & Member of the DEIJ Committee

Flat map of the world with pins in it.

What is DEIJ?
DEIJ stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. Put simply, it means working to create a space where everyone sees themselves reflected in our community and where our community enjoys the benefits of each person’s ability to participate fully, creating a sense of true belonging.

WSP’s vibrant and diverse community of people come from all over the world. We have families representing every major religion, with ties to every continent. Our community has families in all shapes and sizes with family members with different gender identities and orientations.

What is the DEIJ Corner?
WSP’s DEIJ committee meets weekly to plan professional development workshops, study related topics and work on projects related to DEIJ. In the DEIJ Corner, we will report to the community on our work, share resources, and provide information.

This month we are spotlighting the local group, Girls Leadership. They were founded in Oakland in 2008; and offer workshops, professional development and classes for students from K-12th grade as well as adults. Many of their materials are offered for free, such as SEL (social-emotional learning) check-in materials or their workshop on Belonging in Basketball, offered through a partnership with the WNBA.

I’ve found their Bias Intervention and Developing Culturally Responsive Mindsets workshops particularly useful for my work at WSP. As a parent, I’m currently taking a Girl & GrownUp class with my daughter about friendship, managing conflict, learning to set boundaries, and find her own voice. I’ve found this one to be helpful, not only by providing skill sets, but also by creating a space for us to talk about some of the social challenges she is facing.

Keep an eye out for future updates from WSP’s DEIJ committee in our DEIJ corner. If you have any suggestions for resources or comments, please contact us via email.

El Día de los Muertos at WSP

El Día de los Muertos at WSP

by Señora Geraldine Strub | Spanish Teacher for grades 1-8

Celebrating El Día de los Muertos at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula is a cherished tradition. I have a deep connection to this holiday, and will lead the celebration this year. The school joins in the joyful celebration of the Day of the Dead, which takes place over three days; the multi-day holiday beginning on October 31 (All Hallow’s Eve), continuing on November 1 (Día de los Inocentes, or All Saints Day), and ending November 2 (Día de los Difuntos, or All Souls Day). It is celebrated in Mexico and beyond as a vibrant tribute to those who have passed away and a time to pay respects to our dearly departed.

My roots are in Mexico, and I share my childhood memories of the Day of the Dead, especially those moments with my grandmother, filled with the sights and aromas of the occasion, not to mention the delicious food.

El Día de los Muertos is a tapestry of Indigenous, Pre-Hispanic, and Spanish/Catholic traditions passed down through generations. It is a time when the boundary between the living and the deceased blurs, allowing loved ones who have passed on to visit once more. Traditional decorations include papel picado, symbolizing the wind, one of the elements of life, and sugar skulls, representing the departed souls. Marigolds, known as Cempasúchil in Aztec culture, have a strong connection to this holiday, dating back to Aztec funeral rituals.

Leading up to El Día de los Muertos at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, students immerse themselves in the festival’s history and significance while crafting their own ofrendas (offerings for loved ones) and bringing some from home. These ofrendas are lovingly placed on the school altar, which serves as a symbol of celebration and remembrance, not a religious artifact. Students visit the altar, savor pan de muerto (bread adorned with sugar), and tenderly present their offerings to honor their loved ones.

Forms of celebration vary, but typically an altar is set up in a home and laden with offerings to help the dead on their journey. The altar usually contains three levels representing heaven, earth, and the underworld, and can include items representing the four elements—water to quench thirst, fire in the form of candles to light the way, wind represented by incense from copal tree resin, and earth with food for sustenance on the journey.
The fascinating coincidence of the monarch butterfly’s 3,000-mile migration to Mexico aligns with El Día de los Muertos, and some believe these butterflies represent the souls of departed loved ones returning.

Whether celebrated at the school or elsewhere, El Día de los Muertos is a day to revere and remember the deceased, ensuring that they remain in our hearts and are never forgotten. During times of collective loss and separation, this celebration holds special significance for the school’s students, families, and community, as it reminds us to cherish and honor those who have left us.