The Class 8 Gardening & Landscape Project
From time to time Waldorf Schools will break from their usual weekly rhythm to include unique experiences that further support the pupils holistic development. The high school experience fortnight is one such time.
For the next two weeks the class 8 pupils will work in the garden creating beautifully landscaped and functional areas. They will also engage in a period of forestry work. They will cut, log and dry wood that will be used by them in their class 12 year to fashion into a functional item of furniture.
These two projects meet the teenager who at the start of adolescence may typically feel disorientated and uncertain about their place in the world. Inwardly they are experiencing significant hormonal and neurological shifts. Their bodies feel unfamiliar and they are faced with existential questions that earlier childhood years protected them from. Working with the earth gets the increasingly lethargic teenager moving and boost endorphins and mood. Shifting the earth to creating landmarks that are functional and help orient the children in their geography of the school also fosters a deeper sense of community and belonging. The full cycle of planting trees, felling, logging and drying the planks assures the adolescent that with planning and hard work they are able to work with the earth in a productive and sustainable way and have a calculated and positive impact on their future.
Once this experience period has concluded the class will give a simple reflection of their work to their parents in the form of a choral verse.
Class 8 Guardian
At Roseway Waldorf, like our fellow Waldorf schools around the world, The Rose Ceremony takes place on the first day of School. In all Waldorf schools, effort is made to observe significant moments in childhood and to celebrate these with rituals that have meaning for the children. The Rose Ceremony in Waldorf schools has a long tradition reaching back to the very first Waldorf school. This special assembly opens the school year by drawing a parallel between the Class One beginning their educational journey and the Class Seven who are drawing their Primary School journey to a close.
Entering into Class One as a child is a big step. Most children have spent some time in Kindergarten and after this wonderful period are striving to move on, to learn. This transition is an important threshold for every child and their family. It is one step further away from home, one step into the world and towards independence. It is the beginning of a 13-year path after which we endeavour to release these young people into the world as free individualities.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education so aptly gave us the ideal :
“Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom.”
As the assembly begins, after all the other grades have taken their seats and the Hall falls quiet, the new Class One children are escorted into the School Hall hand in hand, pared with a Class Seven child as we welcome them into Roseway. The Class Sevens lead the young ones to their seats and as their name is called out by their guardian teacher each Class One child is presented with a single rose by their Class Seven companion. The Class One guardian teacher then tells a story to the whole student body but is specifically intended to resonate for the first grade. The story has significance of the child and the joinery into and are welcomed into School.
The Rose Ceremony is a milestone for both grades. The rose serves as a promise of the growth and development that the student will experience in the coming years and symbolises the budding awareness and capabilities of each child as they grow and move from Kindergarten to Class One and throughout Primary School. The young children are entering a new phase in life — where schooling and community will support their budding sense of self, learning and individuality. The older children are entering into young adulthood and are ready to be leaders and guides in their own life and in their community. This reverent event is a reflection of the beauty, kindness and care given to all students, each year, at Roseway Waldorf.
The inclusion of the subject Eurythmy through all grades is an essential feature of Waldorf schools. Eurythmy is a highly refined movement art which nourishes the children’s sense of well-being and aids other learning areas by strengthening expressive capacities, improving balance, coordination, concentration, rhythm, and awareness of patterns. The group forms help foster healthy class dynamics while the speech and tone work heighten the children’s appreciation for the finer quality in literature and music.
Eurythmy is not dance. It is music or speech translated into movement and calls for a deep artistic feeling and understanding. The gestures in the eurythmist’s movement repertoire relate to the sounds and rhythms of speech, to the tones and rhythms of music and to “soul experiences”, such as joy and sorrow.
The gestures for the vowel and consonant sounds are not arbitrary but rather artistically reflect the way the larynx moves in shaping the current of breath so that one or another sound is produced. Movements of the arms and hands show the pitch, the intervals between the notes, and major and minor modes, and even individual chords and notes. The meandering of the melody and its stresses are usually expressed in the form being moved. The feet can emphasize staccato notes or other aspects of rhythm. Individual eurythmists will present the same piece in different ways, but each will aim to manifest the intrinsic elements of the music rather than his or her own feelings about or reaction to it.
In the early years the lessons follow an extensive set of exercises based on successively more complicated geometric figures and choreographed forms. Each exercise is chosen specifically to correlate with the developmental stage of learning the pupils are in and works in harmony with our wider curriculum. Rods or balls are sometimes used in exercises to develop precision in movement, and extend the pupils awareness. The rods are usually approximately the length of an arm; the balls are of a size to fit comfortably in one hand. Both are generally made of copper, a material receptive to warmth.
In later years, once the basic forms and gestures are well known, they can be composed into free artistic expressions and the subject develops into a performance Art.
During performances the element of colour is also emphasized both through the costuming, usually given characteristic colours for a piece or part and formed of long, loose fabrics that accentuate the movements rather than the bodily form, and through the lighting, which saturates the space and changes with the moods of the piece.
Speech and drama achieves one of the essential goals of Waldorf Education; to integrate thinking, feeling and willing. With this in mind it is not surprising that this art form is present in every stage of our curriculum . One encounters it in Kindergarten where creative free play makes use of drama, children become kings, queens, animals and more to complete their imaginative play. In Primary School the class teachers work with a deep understanding of the work of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner on speech formation and drama as part of their classroom activities.
Class teachers may also introduce opportunities for the class to deepen their main lesson learning with a thematically linked play. In such cases, every child in the class participates, uniting the class artistically and socially. Teachers have shared the tremendous transformations they have witnessed in students through class plays. Students gain self-confidence, admiration, appreciation and acceptance among their peers. Completion of the performance leads to a shared experience of pride in the accomplishment, an experience that strengthens the bond among the students of the class. Exceptional care and insight is used to determine which part might benefit a child and how the casting of a play might serve the healthy development of the class dynamic. Drama in a Waldorf School is never about exhibitionism and while talent is fostered it is not the focus of our activities.
Regardless of their temperament or natural inclination, every child moves and speaks and care is taken to ensure that the stage is a safe and welcoming space. While the presentation of the work is often shared with parents the emphasis is always on the pedagogical process that the children have experienced and not solely on a polished production.
By High School pupils begin to address the world with the growing capacity for reflective thinking and learning. This quest is met with a more formalised Drama curriculum. Speech work continues and pupils have several opportunities for both public speaking and debating. Aspects of theatre history, stage craft and play production are explored and a yearly play performed. The plays chosen investigate individual characters within the context of a complex theme. Students are faced with performing roles and deepen their understanding of character development. Such characters give them the chance to wrestle with their opposite, highlight themselves, or in a perfect situation, offer them the chance to gaze into their own souls. Observing their cathartic effect drama has on students, and listening to their candid responses, more than justifies the enormous effort that goes into the production of a successful play.
In Class 9 the play is drawn from the works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare offers a beautiful command of the English language and engages pupils in the ideal beauty of theatre. Class 10 pupils tackle Ancient Greek tragedies and medieval mystery or morality plays thereby enjoying a hands-on experience of the origins of Western theatre. These plays explore ancient yet relevant themes of destiny, freedom and moral truth.
In some measure, each performance works to bring the young person towards full awareness of who he or she is and to give awareness and control that will eventually allow the child to take charge of his or her own destiny in life, a destiny that is a particular and unpredictable, yet as universal as the destiny of the heroes and heroins, the gods and the goddess of the ongoing human drama.
In Class 11 pupils workshop their own play. This gives them an opportunity to express their hearts deepest questions, fears and hopes about the world they will soon inherit and the futures they must author. This main lesson particularly can serve as powerful medium for public outreach and if the needed depth is attained / can mirror all aspect of human life, effecting the students to their core.
In Class 12 the pupils take a much greater level of responsibility for the entire production. The teacher takes on the role of supporting guide as the class choose and produce a 20th or 21st century play, in essence a play written from a modern consciousness. Their choice to play must confront the audience with modern questions. Roseway has over the years enjoyed plays such as Rosecrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Death of a Salesman, The Cocktail Party, The Crucible, Our Town, Waiting for Godit and The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
The pupils who chose these plays would have been expected to cast themselves, design the set and consumes as well as manage the promoting of the performances. With this world of theatrical experience behind them, the students are able to develop a well-rounded theatrical life so that students can take in the human and technical parts of the world they live in and begin to see how they fit together.
Some of our students have gone of to use the skills gained as the starting block for successful theatre practitioner careers others may never occupy a stage space again but will undoubtably have gained a deeper understanding of themselves and human development along with a healthy dose of self-confidence.