Social skills are an important part of our curriculum, and community service is a component of building those skills. This year’s eighth grade students did community service for their eighth grade project. Each student wrote a proposal in October for their service. On May 14th, students presented their projects to the community. Their presentation boards are on display in the upper hallway, and two pictures are included here. Please visit the upstairs hall if you can!
Projects included working at:
Animal Talk, a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter
Serenity Equine Rescue, an equine rescue and rehabilitation program
Family Works–student taught knitting after school to clients of Family Works. This was a student-created project.
Youth Suicide Prevention Program; student worked with other teens to increase the program’s visibility to young people.
Boys and Girls Club, coaching basketball for second grade girls
Treehouse for Kids, an organization for foster children
Earthcorps, an environmental restoration program
World Impact Network, a food bank in Bellevue
One student played music at retirement homes through the Seattle Conservatory of Music.
One student created and executed a fundraising event to benefit Water First International, an organization that works to provide communities around the world with a safe water supply.
Each of the students spoke of the benefits and surprises in the work they did. Nels S, who organized a fundraiser for Water First International, had to find an effective way to communicate his event, and navigated a lot of administrative details (insurance, background checks). Arielle D, who taught clients of Family Works how to knit, spoke of a Roosevelt High School freshman she met who was moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia a few years ago. In getting to know this new friend, she learned that her peer often played the role of translator for her mother and accompanied her to doctor’s appointments and so forth. She also learned some knitting terms in other languages. Stella S, who coached second grade girls’ basketball at the Boys and Girls Club, talked about the impact of competitive sports on young children. She had wanted to play competitive sports as a youngster, but her parents ‘wouldn’t let me!’. Stella shared that having coached young children, she now sees that competitive sports at that age are not appropriate, and that skill-building and fun is where she would like the focus be.
When asked whether they would continue their volunteer work, each student said they would. It was an inspiring evening!
The faculty diversity discussion this month centered around the article ‘Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege’, which we read and discussed in small groups. I’ve provided a link to the article so that you can follow along with our work.
This week I was reminded of how active our students’ lives have become in these waning days of the school year. On Monday our Fourth Grade accompanied the Puget Sound Eurythmy Troupe in Clever Ashok. Just two days prior, on Saturday, many of those same students participated in what has become the largest youth Ultimate Tournament in the world. The Spring Reign Tournament gathers together Ultimate Frisbee teams from up and down the West Coast and as far away as Montana and British Columbia. This year, our 4th and 5th Grade Team participated in their first tournament and it was incredible success. Players are already making plans for the next season and committing themselves to improving their play and becoming a stronger team. Our last regular season game will take place this Saturday, May 5th at 3:15 on the Lower Woodland Park Fields near Greenlake – just enough time to clean up after May Faire and head on down to support our team!
Between school performances, including preparations for May Faire, Animal and State Reports, Chemistry Tests and Creative Writing projects, our students continue to remain active and striving. On April 25th our Seventh and Eight Grade classes participated in the Annual Northwest Waldorf Schools Track Meet. After many weeks of training, students tested their wills in various events from the 100 meter sprint to the long and calculated 1 mile. They also participated in field events such as the Javelin and Discus Throws, the High Jump and the Shot-put. Along with the hope of bringing home a ribbon or two, the students also enjoyed the opportunity to visit with students from the other Waldorf Schools. Congratulations to all of the students who participated this year and thank you for representing Bright Water School with pride!
I look forward to Grandparents and Special Friends Morning on Friday, May 4th. I hope you’ll consider making it a very special weekend by inviting your grandparents and special friends to our Friday morning celebration and our May Faire festival on May 5th. This is a joyful celebration of our school and of spring. The schedule is below to assist you in planning.
May 4, Grandparents and Special Friends Morning:
8.30-8.45: coffee and snacks reception in Skinner Theater
8.45-9.45: Grade School assembly, Skinner Theater
9.45-10.15: visits to classrooms for grade school and Minnows preschool guests, kindergarten guests tour classrooms and watch kindergarten May pole practice
May 5, May Faire
10.15-10.55: Crown making (optional)
11-12.15: Student dances and facuty song
12.15-2 pm: games, activities, and lunch–salmon, hot dogs, and vegetarian fare offered for sale
2-2.45: clean up
If you’ve wandered the halls at BWS at any time of day, you’ve likely heard some of the following:
group recitation involving arithmetic, verses, or poems
stomping and clapping
The first five items on the list are what most people would consider ‘learning noises’ that are a sanctioned part of the school day. Conversation is also an important learning component in our school and is part of our cooperative learning process. By pairing students together or having them work in small groups, the teacher can differentiate the classroom by combining students with a range of ability. Small group work allows students to ask a question more easily because they may experience less fear than they might in a large group or whole-class situation. Dialogue allows students to clarify their thoughts, strenthen language patterns, develop vocabulary, and deepen concepts. It enables teachers to see misconceptions emerge and to assess student skills or level of understanding.
Cooperative learning in small and larger groups improves retention of material and develops social skills. Beginning this type of learning by having students work in pairs rather than a group of three or more gives the students a larger part in the work to be done and reduces conflict. Once students have had some success with pair work, slightly larger groups can be made. Discussion, practice, and peer-teaching are the best scenarios for differentiation in the classroom. Teachers can further learning and foster an atmosphere of enquiry by asking more open-ended questions that allow for different answers and exploration of the topic. A wider description of concepts and an invitation to students for their input also increases student comfort with asking questions. This is just a brief glimpse of some of the benefits of conversation in our classrooms.
In the last couple of weeks, the 4th grade has had the opportunity to learn about the tradition of cedar basket weaving in a very hands-on way. Michelle Berg, mother of three BWS alumni, has generously offered her time and expertise to bring us this rich experience.
In addition to teaching the techniques of basket weaving, Ms. Berg brings insight into the cultural aspects of her art. She conveys a sense of honor and respect for this cultural tradition that I find deeply moving. We begin each day with a song, a gift from a tribal elder, which instills a sense purpose in the class—that we are carrying on a legacy with our work.
I love to see my students so engaged in learning a new skill. This kind of curriculum enrichment is so valuable. Students learn by doing, and have joyful memories of the experience to carry with them. Boys and girls alike are excited and proud of the baskets they have made.
We have finished our small practice baskets (look for some examples in the lobby display case soon), and are now ready to move on to our larger project. Every 4th grade class is tasked with making a Potlatch gift, which we will exchange with another area Waldorf school in May. The annual 4th Grade Potlatch is a tradition among area Waldorf schools, a three-day event that brings us together to learn about and celebrate the Native peoples of this land. It is yet another way in which we bring the curriculum alive.
Many thanks to Ms. Berg for bringing her gifts to our class.
On Monday, March 12, the BWS faculty engaged in a day-long workshop with Rosetta Lee, a local diversity workshop leader. Ms. Lee’s work was tailored to our school and was based on the workshop she presented as a part of the Pacific Northwest Association for Independent Schools’ similarly-themed professional development workshop in October, which was attended by four-fifths of our Social Inclusion Committee. Ms. Lee has posted materials from the workshop here. Her presentation included some small-group work with case-studies with student/teacher scenarios. The practice in working on these case studies and the discussions that arose out of them were energizing.
Our faculty continues to work monthly on diversity, and the Social Inclusion Committee will form a proposal for diversity work in the BWS parent community next year. We know that Ms. Lee will be a part of our proposal, and we will ask her to conduct one workshop with our community next year.
$20,000 was our Fund-A-Dream goal at last Saturday’s Gala Auction and Dinner. We met that goal easily, with much enthusiasm on the part of our guests, who raised their bid cards to enhance our science program. It’s exciting to see so much support for our school’s continued growth. Over the last two years, our auction guests have contributed to renovating our grade school and kindergarten playgrounds, and we’ve created playgrounds that keep all of our students involved in healthy play and movement during recess or outdoor time.
This year, the focus of our auction was science. We have extensive plans to renovate a large classroom space and build a custom-designed science room. Architectural plans are being drawn up as of this writing, and boxes of science equipment have been ordered. But our science enhancement isn’t just about a room and some equipment. It’s a commitment to continual professional development, and to widening our students’ experiences. As a result of this funding, several of our grade school faculty will take part in science training this summer at Sound Circle Teacher Training. Our faculty are committed not only to the training this summer, but to engaging in science trainings, both locally and nationally, as a regular and continual part of professional development. In other words, our commitment to building our science program is ongoing, and not just a theme that is featured for this year. One of our goals is to host a regional science fair for area schools, not exclusively Waldorf schools.
If you contributed to our auction this year in any way, thank you! If you’d like to contribute to our school or specifically to our science endeavor, it’s easy to do so by clicking on the ‘support our school’ button to the right.
On Tuesday, March 6, Deb Abrahams-Dematte, Associate Director of Admissions at High Mowing School, took a tour of BWS. Ms. Abrahams-Dematte was visiting Waldorf schools in Washington State and in British Columbia to become acquainted with our schools and to talk about High Mowing School’s program. High Mowing School is the oldest Waldorf high school in the country, in operation for over 70 years. It is both a day and boarding school, with students from all over the country and some international students. BWS graduate Sydney O is currently a junior there. We get regular updates from Syd and her family about her progress at the school and we know she loves it there.
I was impressed with the school’s naturalist program, which is offered both as an indroduction to natural history and field ecology and as an intensive program. Four levels of study–beginning, intermediate, advanced, and full immersion–are available. The high school operates on a block schedule and also offers projects blocks in subjects as varied as ornithology, Japanese culture and traditions, filmmaking, and metalsmithing.
Roughly half of the 120 students are day students, with the other half boarding. Dorm counselors are also teachers; this helps to create the warm community that Ms. Abrahams-Dematte says is a hallmark of High Mowing School. About ten percent of students are international, with almost half of all students coming from a non-Waldorf background. Please contact High Mowing about their program. If you’d like more information about Sydney’s experience at the school, contact me at 206.624.6176.