Remembering Tony French

From Class Teacher Libby Case and former Class Teacher and Movement Teacher Jacqueline Gabe: Tony French, former OVWS parent and long-time supporter of Orchard Valley, has crossed the Threshold. His legacy will live on in the love, time, and care he gave to this school and Waldorf community.

*A memorial service for Tony French will be held on Saturday, June 1, at 2pm, at the Old Meeting House in East Montpelier. Reception to follow.

In August 2003, the Orchard Valley Grace Farm Campus was purchased at auction by a dedicated group of supporters. Among those founding parents and friends were Tony French and his wife Julie Henderson. At the time of the purchase, the grades school building was a large, old apple barn that had most recently been used as a plant nursery. It had two enormous walk-in refrigerators (the size of a garage), multiple milking stations for the cows, a milk storage room with a huge tank, an earthen floor, and a few flimsy wooden walls. The farmhouse was exactly that -- a farmhouse. In order to serve all of the upcoming classes, an all out-effort was begun to first renovate the farmhouse to have it ready for the nursery and first and second grades by January 2004. And secondly, to renovate the barn for a September 2004 opening date. As a fledgling organization, Orchard Valley did not have the funds to pay for all of the labor needed to transform these two spaces, so it fell upon the parent body and friends of the school to step up to the plate to get the place ready.

While Julie spearheaded legal and organizational work, the buildings needed a crew and leader on the ground to make the transformation. Tony French, along with a core group of renovators, came to rescue.

Tony very generously gave much of his fall, spring, and summer to overseeing the project from beginning to end. I remember distinctly that summer before the grades building opened seeing Tony at the school most days working tirelessly on every conceivable aspect of the property. From implementing the architectural plan, fixing and repairing structures, installing heating systems and hiring specialized help, ensuring the necessary supplies were available for use, directing volunteers and the other workers, Tony was there. And it wasn’t only manual labor that Tony gave to this project. As a new school, we had to become a licensed public water supply. Tony brought his expertise as a hydrologist to successfully see us through this process as well. Tony approached every one of these jobs with a calm, can-do attitude. He was not one to shirk hard work. Whenever asked for help, Tony was there, polite and kind and willing to be of assistance.

This first nine months of hard work on the Grace Farm Campus was only the beginning of Tony’s many, many contributions to Orchard Valley Waldorf School. Over the next 15 years Tony contributed as a parent, then after his children graduated, as a volunteer, as a member of the Accessible-to-All tuition committee, as a consultant, and as a supporter of the greater mission of Waldorf education. Tony French consistently served Orchard Valley with good will and a loving heart. Without the dedication and hard work of both Tony and Julie, OVWS would not be here today.

We remember Tony with deep gratitude and hold his family, Julie, Piper and Eli, deeply in our hearts with love and sympathy for their great loss.

Tributes to Kathy Clark

It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Kathy Clark, a dear friend and longtime supporter of our school and community. While our gratitude to Kathy for all she did for OVWS cannot be adequately expressed through words, we will try. We offer these poignant memories from some of the parents, faculty, and staff of Orchard Valley who have worked, laughed, and cried with Kathy over the years together.

My memories of Kathy are tucked on the other side of the little door to the little room on the 2nd floor of the farmhouse that was our office. That’s where we worked and became friends, Kathy, Deb, Dawn in the early years, Morgan later, and myself. We were a compatible team in so many ways, working moms with children in the school. In such close proximity, I grew to appreciate and love the depth of Kathy’s warmth directed to me and to countless others. She was a natural nurse, and I always marveled at how easily and how well she took care of the children who came to her. She could communicate her warmth with a look and tilt of her head, but she did this most specially with her voice. It was truly the most caring, reassuring, and warm voice I have ever known. Calm, patient, understanding in her tone—this was a gift. If I ever called in feeling sick, I was happiest to get Kathy on the other end of the phone. I can still “play” Kathy’s voice in my head, and I love it.

I also grew to appreciate and love the insight Kathy had for me personally regarding life, children, relationships. I could tell her my concerns and I always felt like I got gold in return, especially when it came to her advice about my boys! She knew what mattered and what didn’t, and she always put me at ease.

When I look in my mind’s eye, I see Kathy about to smile. I see the smile breaking over her face and lighting it up, her eyes smiling as well. I have these memories and know I have no choice but to be content and happy that I have them, and I know I am blessed to have been her friend. But I miss Kathy and I wish I had more time for more of her friendship. — Emily Padberg, former business manager

Many of us were lucky to know Kathy Clark, and all OVWS children were very fortunate to be loved by her. Kathy is also the godmother of our dear Gracie Natvig in the Apple Tree Kindergarten.

I got to spend time with Kathy before she died. I was blessed to be in the presence of her loving family and to share this passage with them. It was profoundly sad, and deeply beautiful and tender. I will dearly miss my friend and colleague.

Kathy was a strong advocate for the young child and very supportive of Waldorf Education, and especially of Orchard Valley Waldorf School. My work with the Kindergarten children is dedicated, with love and gratitude, to Kathy. — Peggy Roche, Apple Tree Kindergarten teacher

I had the privilege of working with Kathy for 11 years, mostly as a teacher, but for one year I was upstairs in the Farmhouse with her as an administrator. Everyone I knew was drawn to Kathy's smile, warmth, and happy spirit. The trait that stood out the most and helped me grow as a person was how Kathy always looked for the best in others. When we would become frustrated with a parent or teacher, Kathy would always help us look for the good, encouraging us to be compassionate, open, and understanding. I count myself very blessed to have had such a beautiful and wise colleague for all these years. — Cathie Ely, enrollment director, former class teacher

From the beginning of OVWS until just this past year, Kathy Clark served the school and the community with selfless dedication. Building a school takes the combined effort of many people and Kathy was one of those people who gave not just the required 100%, but the 200% that was needed. From her early days in the office, bandaging little ones, answering phones, and cleaning bathrooms, to her last two years of managing not only her own job as Operations director but also filling in for our Administrator, Kathy did it all.

In addition to all this work as an employee, Kathy was also an integral part of the parent body. Her daughter Molly was in the very first graduation class. This group of parents forged the way for all those who have since followed and, though I worked daily with Kathy all these years and knew of her many contributions and talents, it is our time as class parents of OVWS students that I will truly cherish the most. Together, we watched our daughters perform together in plays and concerts, worked on class fundraisers that sent them to Washington, DC, celebrated birthdays and family passages, and most importantly shared common values in child rearing and education. All of these shared experiences made my life, and I am sure many other people’s lives, that much richer and more meaningful. The results of her hard work, her good friendship, and her love of children will live on in Orchard Valley and in all of us who were lucky enough to have had her as part of our lives. — Libby Case, class teacher

I remember Kathy working tirelessly behind the scenes during the Fall Into Winter Fair. The old copy machine room would become a makeshift catch-all station for all of the random supplies that were needed for the day. One year during the festival, I walked into that room to find Kathy pouring chili ingredients into crockpots, which were nestled on top of the paper cutting board. She was clearly quite busy, but she still created the space to smile and joke about the absurdity of what she was doing. This is how I remember Kathy: No matter how busy she was, she would always engage and laugh with you. — Lindsey Benton, class teacher

The Yellow Spiral — a poem for Kathy from Kate Camilletti, handwork and woodwork teacher

It’s time to go to school when the sunlight opens up the birches and maples on the east side of the bowl. Really though, only in the spring and fall does the sun climb up that high at leaving time.
All the other times, through deepening wintertime with the patient Sun
The leaving time is marked by the sparkly snow
Sometimes when the Sun’s light hits the white earth just so
The ground lights up.

Kieran and I seemed to dig up a reason to pop into Kathy’s office almost every morning
once Maizie was settled into the Kindergarten with Ms. Libby.
We walked down the long hall of the Grades Building to the Main Office
Which in those days occupied what is today the French Room.
Kathy’s desk was just in on the right
She kept her eye on everything happening through the big South windows and Welcomed every person who crossed her threshold.

On her desk stood
The yellow spiral.
It was broad in its top and bottom
Shaped like a vase for roses
There was a little slot in the rim just the size for a coin

Those mornings when we contrived a reason to go see Kathy
Kieran would watch his coin as it continuously turned itself down and through
A tiny donation for his tiny school.

These are the moments that matter
The Sun brings out the glow in the treetops
Sparkles from the snow
Sometimes we can do that too
For one another
It’s not the Sun that makes the trees glow
The snow so delighted at the Sun’s touch
Cries out its glee as a glistening angle

For me Kathy did as the Sun does for the early spring birches.
Walking through her door
Was like walking into sunshine from the shade.
A penny at a time we started to glow.

Authentic, tender-hearted, industrious, calm, caring, fair, committed, generous, tenacious, and unafraid in the face of challenge, Kathy Clark brought complete integrity, full commitment, and an unwavering focus on the children to every task and every encounter on behalf of Orchard Valley.

As parent volunteers and board members, we always knew we were working with the kindest, fiercest advocate for the school when we worked on any task with Kathy Clark. Her partnership energized us, informed us, warmed us with her attentiveness and good spirit. No matter how big the budget challenge, or how dirty the school floor after an event, when Kathy was there we got the work done!

Whether sorting out systems to better support students, sorting through development mailings, sorting through real estate options for Little Lambs, or sorting through event supplies, Kathy always had a singular focus on what was best for the school, best for a student, or best for a family. And she held those commitments during every task, no matter the scope, at the same time remaining completely modest about her role and generously attentive to all Orchard Valley families. — Erica Zimmerman, OVWS alumni parent and former board member, compiled these words from past OVWS board members


One of my fondest memories of Kathy Clark comes from early in the forming days of OVWS. Many parents, staff, and faculty had worked hard all through the summer to transform the cow barn/apple storage barn into the now grades building. As seemed to happen annually during those first few years of the school, the renovations were behind schedule and the first day of school had been delayed. Finally, the room that was to be my classroom was ready and I could begin setting up the room for the students. Typically, this process takes a few days, but I had one. I worked hard all day arranging the student’s desks, the books and necessary supplies, with parents coming in now and then to assist me. It became late and I began to panic. As the dinner hour approached, most parents left and I foresaw a long night ahead.

But my heroine arrived when Kathy came in to check on my progress. She, too, had been helping that day, in other areas of the building. Kathy’s daughter, Mary-Kathryn, was enrolled to join my class in fifth grade that year and I was looking forward to working with her and her nice-seeming family. My initial read of Kathy and her family was that they were healthy, sunny people with an enthusiasm for life. My hunch certainly proved correct when, that night, Kathy, and if my memory serves me correctly, her husband Keith, came to my aid.

Kathy asked me how I was doing and I explained how far I was from being ready to teach tomorrow. Kathy listened and, in a heartbeat, stood with her feet slightly set apart in that stance she had that conveyed steely strength and uprightness, and said, “Well you’ve got me until it’s done.” I couldn’t believe my ears that she was willing to stay, and I explained the magnitude of the job. Unperturbed, she replied, “I’ll stay until midnight if needed.” Happily, with both her and Keith’s help, the task took far less time. It was that night that I learned just what a generous and capable person Kathy was. She genuinely cared about others and when someone was in need, she was right there.

At some time during the next year or two, I went into the office seeking Kathy’s assistance with a task. When I entered the office, the phone rang. I waited in front of her desk while she took the call (she was the receptionist at the time). It was a brief call and I gathered it was not someone from school and they were requesting her help in some way as Kathy reassured them that she certainly would add them to her prayer list. Following the call, Kathy quietly pulled out a pad of paper and wrote a name down, before turning her attention to me. Curious, I asked her if she had a list of people she prayed for and, with a humble tone, she told me, yes, that she prayed for people in need. I already had a strong opinion of Kathy, but it was in this small interaction and the quiet manner in which she carried it, that I caught a glimpse of her faith and core strength. In this way, Kathy was a true source of inspiration, reminding us to be good and upstanding.

I will forever be grateful that had an opportunity to know such a dynamic, generous, strong and loving individual. — Jacqueline Gabe, former OVWS class teacher and movement teacher

Music “Fills You Up” at Orchard Valley - Every Day

It’s 8:25 am. The grades students have shaken their class teacher's hand, shared a word, and entered the classrooms. Then the class doors are closed. If you are lucky enough to be in the hallway at this time, you will be treated to the beautiful verses, songs, and recorder pieces that drift out from behind the doors like blossoms on a spring morning. It’s that lovely, that moving, the kind of moment that fills you up, as a parent and as faculty and staff.

And that “filling you up” feeling is one of the reasons we sing, says Libby Case, class 3/4 teacher. “You feel it in your body and in your brain and you connect with other people through the music,” she said. “It builds community.”

It’s true, too, for the early childhood classes, in which “singing is a group activity that’s joyful and makes you feel like part of the group,” says Apple Tree Kindergarten teacher Peggy Roche. “It’s a way to breathe together.”

The Waldorf curriculum places a great deal of importance on musical experiences for every child, from early childhood on up. Each class’s musical activities are appropriate to the children’s stage of development, and both support and are supported by the other elements of the curriculum.

In early childhood classes, the singing style might sound “sing-song,” but the energy of it creates a healing sound, a sound of beauty for the children, Peggy says. This sound stands in contrast to the world outside of school, which can be loud and over-stimulating to some children, she says.

In the grades, every class sings nearly every day. In grades one and two, students sing with the class teacher and in grade three they also begin to experience harmony through singing in rounds. The middle school grades (5-8) are also part of the Middle School Chorus with music teacher Katie Trautz, adding choral singing instruction several times a week.

The introduction to instruments, too, follows a rhythm that meets the child’s development. The pentatonic flute, a simple 7-hole flute, is introduced to first graders during the second half of the year. The soprano recorder is introduced in second grade, in which the children learn through mirror imitation of their teacher. The alto recorder is introduced in grades five and six, and the tenor and bass recorders are brought to students who are interested in grades six and seven. In addition, students add strings class twice each week with teacher Katie Trautz in grade three, during which students also begin to learn to read music and understand the language of music in written form. Strings instruction continues through grade eight.

Through all, keen listening skills are honed and fine motor skills are patiently fostered. Musical opportunities not only give the children a sense of joy and well being, but also help to build a solid social fabric within the class, bringing practice in working with others to achieve a beautiful common goal.

Sharing their creative musical endeavors is also an important part of the children's experiences. Please join us on Thursday afternoons at 1:30 in the cloth yurt for the Grades Sharing, which includes songs and poems the students have been working on during Main Lesson that week.

Mayfest, too, offers a wonderful opportunity to see the joy of music in our school played out against the beautiful backdrop of greening fields and budding tress. Join us Saturday, May 11, 10am to 1pm, for maypole dancing, strings performances, and so much singing! Each class will perform at least one piece of music, and the maypole celebration will include jigs, reels, and sweet harmony singing. Students will also informally present the “Crankie” they’ve been working on (a piece of artwork joined by music that tells a story) during Mayfest for all to enjoy. Join us!

A springtime song from an early childhood class:
One day when I went visiting
A little lamb was there
I picked her up and held her tight
She didn't seem to care
Her wool was soft, it felt so warm like sunshine on the sand
And when I gently put her down
She licked me on the hand

Class Play Season at Orchard Valley!

From 3/4 Class Teacher Libby Case: As is the tradition in many Waldorf Schools around the world, each year class teachers at OVWS produce a play with their students that is performed for the student body and for parents and friends. It is a social art which is shared with the whole community.

The many pedagogical impulses behind this activity include:

* Class plays offer the opportunity to build the social strength of the class.

* The subject matter of the play often reinforces the curriculum content of the year.

* Identifying ones self with a character helps build empathy in students.

* Acting develops skill and capacity in students.

* The play helps strengthen the sense of independence in the whole class, as they often have to direct themselves back stage and get themselves on and off stage at appropriate times.

* Creating a play as a class involves artistry on many levels, from scenery creation, costuming, singing, and dance and movement.

* Teachers often develop or utilize the characters in the play to help address specific strengths in individual students.

Class 3/4 and 5/6 both performed for the community this month.

Class 3/4 performed a Norse Myth, “The Death of Balder, the Most Beloved of Norse Gods,” a play created by Waldorf teacher William Ward and directed by Class teacher Libby Case. Students performed in the Cloth Yurt on Campus for the student body in the morning and for more than 50 friends and relatives in the evening. It was a smashing success!

Class 5/6 performed "The Whale Rider," the story of a Maori girl who fights to fulfill her destiny as leader of her tribe. The book was written by Witi Ihimaera and adapted for the 5/6 Class into a play by their teacher Claudia Reinhardt. The students gave a fantastic performance at the Plainfield Opera House. For many of them, this was their first time performing on an actual stage.

Handwork: Working with, and through, the nine-year-change

Kate Camilletti teaches both handwork and woodwork to all of the grades classes at Orchard Valley. In this conversation, we focused on handwork in class 3/4, which naturally led to an exploration of the developmental stage inherent in this age group and how the handwork curriculum aligns with and supports the main lesson curriculum for this combined class.

Waldorf teachers speak of the nine-year change as the shift from the dreaminess of early childhood to a greater sense of the world around them. For some children, this shift in consciousness can bring up worries and anxieties, and behavior changes as a result. The Waldorf curriculum seeks to address this through stories and mythology, as well as the teaching of practical work that helps to instill confidence within the child through learning how to “do”—such as how to grow food, how to build, and how to make a hat.

“When students have regular access to working with their hands, the students are made ready for all that’s coming to them,” says Handwork Teacher Kate Camilletti. “It prepares the ground [for their education] and awakens the will.”

Handwork strengthens every part of the child—thinking, feeling, and willing, Kate says. We have to use our will to do the work, we have to think or we’ll make mistakes, and we feel the frustration as well as the enthusiasm that comes with working through the challenges and struggles inherent in learning something new.

The nine-year change marks the crossing of a developmental threshold, a moving out into the world, and it plays out in the student’s handwork, too.

For instance, the seven- or eight-year-old child is emerged in the rhythm of the movement of knitting. The experience could be akin to the dreamy, non-thinking way we swing on a swing, or jump rope, or bounce a ball, or walk, Kate says. But older children are more aware of what their hands are doing and have the capacity to ask more of themselves and their work.

In class 3/4 this year, the students began with crocheting. Crocheting uses one needle, held in the dominant hand, while the second hand has a specific job, too. After two years of knitting, it asks something new from the hands and the brain, and from the child’s will forces.

In keeping with the curriculum, the class worked with cotton to create items with “domestic practicality”—a potholder and a string bag for a water bottle. The potholder was their first project, something Kate says is a lot like building a house as it’s “built” stitch by stitch, which resemble bricks. Then their work turned back to wool and the creation of practical objects for the body—the hat project mentioned earlier, for example.

Kate shares that handwork offers the opportunity to really meet the child individually. Crocheting isn’t for every child, she said, so sometimes the project becomes something different for different children. There is that “magic moment,” Kate says, “when we find a way, when the child realizes they can succeed in their work. We always find a way.”

Knowing beauty and being able to produce something beautiful, the sense of accomplishment the children gain, and the knowledge that they can “do” are an inherent part of the Waldorf curriculum throughout the grades. The handwork curriculum reinforces and expands on this in a practical, tactile way, incorporating the brain-building value of working with the hands in pursuit of beauty.


Grade 5/6 Class Performs Class Play: "Paikea-A Modern Tale"

From Class Teacher Claudia Reinhardt: On March 14th and 15th, the nineteen students of Class 5/6 performed their class play, "Paikea - A Modern Tale," for families, friends, and fellow students at the Plainfield Opera House. Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Christchurch, New Zealand where I observed a class at the Christchurch Steiner School that was listening to Maori stories told by their teacher. I was fascinated by the stories, purchased a book at a local bookstore that afternoon, and have since incorporated these wonderful stories into the curriculum I bring to students. The Bay School Model, which we have adopted as a school, especially makes this creativity possible.

The class play was inspired both by the story of Paikea as well as Witi Ihimaera's book The Whale Rider, which I read to the students back in the fall. The play told the story of a girl, Pai, whose grandfather does not want a girl to become the chief of his tribe. It also tells, in monologue form, the story of a young whale who loses its mother to whaling. Grief-struck, it journeys to Antarctica and eventually beaches itself in order to seek death. A meeting of the whale and Pai takes place, revealing to all that she is an honored descendant of Paikea, the ancient whale rider himself, and a worthy leader of her tribe.

The play opened with a scientific look at whales. Did you know that whales used to be dog-sized, land-roaming creatures? Did you know that two spacecraft launched in the 1970s contain a copper record with recordings of whalesong? 5th and 6th graders performed an energetic "Ka Mate" Haka as part of the play, and students on violins, cello, and guitar played beautiful interludes of a whalesong piece. It was a meaningful experience for the students and they received many compliments for their outstanding performance.

Click on the photo to advance to the next.

Movement Class at Orchard Valley

From David Maynard, Middle School Movement Teacher:
In the last few decades, there have been many articles relaying research that tie movement with brain development as well as brain function. One of the main reasons cited for this connection is that movement leads to an increase in blood flow to the brain, supplying more oxygen along with hormonal molecules which stimulate brain growth and increase energy for functional processes.

Movement classes at Orchard Valley Waldorf School reflect an Anthroposophical approach, which coincides with the scientific research. I utilize my training in Spacial Dynamics physical education training and I strive to always address the principles of head, heart and hand, also known as thinking, feeling and willing.

In the first part of the class, when the student is fresh and has the energy to focus, we direct our attention to the thinking realm by doing conscious movements by practicing different Bothmer exercises, which were developed by Graff von Bothmer under the influence of Rudolf Steiner. In doing these exercises, the participant must bring to consciousness where their limbs are in relationship to the rest of their body. With practice a true balance is instilled, the skeletal and muscular systems are working efficiently and stress on the joints is reduced.

The second part of each class addresses the will forces, and here the students practice skills such as juggling, jumping rope, mat work, etc. In the case of juggling, for example, it takes patience and determination to learn such a skill. There are moments of frustration and one can almost give up when suddenly a breakthrough happens and juggling is happening! This stick-to-it-ness strengthens the will.

The last part and the longest segment of each class involves playing games that mainly relate to the feeling realm; this is where the social interaction between students comes into play. Emotions can be high at this time, and some of the questions that bring about disputes while playing games include “Are the teams fair?” “How about the refereeing—are the players honest?” Sometimes emotions run so high that everything has to come to a halt while we discuss the situation, which often pressures the different sides to resolve quickly and compromise. Games such as Spaceball, Team Handball, Frisbee, forms of Capture the Flag, Dodgeball, or Prisoner Base all utilize the habitual movements formed in the thinking section of the class, as well as the skills practiced in the willing part of the class.

Although the student is mainly addressing the thinking forces during the Bothmer exercises, the feeling and willing forces are also engaged to a lesser degree in the process of improving the movement of the exercise. The same is true for the skill section, where thinking and feeling plays more of a minor role, and in the games section in which thinking and willing are in the background presenting a holistic approach to movement.

As far as academics are concerned, when a student is active the result is an increase in the ability to focus. Humans have what is known as the midline barrier, an imaginary line that runs down the center of the body in early childhood. This line, for the young child, is hard to cross with their arms and legs. But as they grow older, crossing becomes easier and easier with the practice of different everyday crossing movements. Then this immature movement pattern is gradually integrated, helping to provide a sound foundation for physical and academic work. This crossing is important because when the child begins to read, the eyes have to cross the midline on every line on the page. Many children who have trouble reading have trouble crossing the midline.

Let’s look at how movement class might improve this for the child by taking a look at a skill such as juggling. Each time the ball is tossed it crosses the midline and then has to be caught, which strengthens the midline crossing foundation that has already been laid down. As the ball travels through the air, the eyes track the path and somehow the brain tells the arm and hand where to move to be able to catch the ball. Better known as eye-hand coordination, this activity integrates physics into the body by tossing a projectile into the air and instantly knowing where it will land when practiced over and over.

Along with all we now know about the science of movement and its affects on brain development, let’s not forget the joy! There is a joy in learning new movement skills and being able to apply them in playing games. Fred Rogers described it best: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is the work of children.” This is not only true for the young child, but also for the older students as it provides the needed foundation for academic learning.

7th Grade Physics Block: The physics of reflection

On The Land Teacher Kelly Davis taught the 7th Grade Physics block this month, and had this to share about the four-week class:

The block began with the study of reflection. Students had the chance to observe shadow and light and the way they can be directed and focused. We gazed in awe as shadows appeared to bridge the gap between the mirror world and our own world. Discussions were had on the ethics of color manufacturing and the fact that individuals have garnered the sole right to colors, making them inaccessible to all others.

The pinnacle of our week with reflection came as we transformed the classroom into a giant pinhole camera: The “Camera Obscura.” Students watched in wonder as the completely darkened room was illuminated by a beam of light cast from outside. As the hole grew, suddenly images filled the walls, floor, and ceiling: an upside-down version of the world outside. We laughed as students took turns acting out dramas outside the building, the images cast, upside-down, upon the classroom inside.

Week two brought a look into the complexities of electricity. Students witnessed static electricity being created and stored, feeling the all-too-familiar shock of a successful electrical spark! We then moved on to electrical currents and the role of chemical reactions, and then harnessed the currents to create electromagnets. Anything metal became part of their creations! Scissors, paperclips, and the like, all dangled from their experimental magnets. The week culminated in the building of a simple electric motor. By linking the insights they had gained throughout the week, students were able to construct, tweak, and explain the workings of their very own motors.

Week three was full of simple machines. The lever, pulley, wheel, screw, wedge, and ramp all serve as reminders to work smarter, not harder. Students loved to hear tales of great feats thought impossible that became reality through the use of these seemingly magical tools. They saw the power of the lever first-hand by feeling the ease at which a car can rise with a jack—and learned a bit about changing a tire, too! They collected data and watched patterns and relationships emerge out of their findings.

The practical application of this study was so readily absorbed by these eager seventh graders as they experienced the physical forces at play all around us. Through these personal experiences, seemingly complex phenomena become tangible and memorable, and open the door to all the wonder the sciences have to offer.

Cher frère blanc (Dear White Brother) ~ a poem by Leopold Senghor

From French Teacher Madame Harper: At assembly last week, the 7th graders shared a French poem written by Leopold Senghor, a Sénégalese poet and the 1st African president of the Republic of Sénégal (1960-1980). Earlier this fall, the class studied French-speaking countries in Africa and, along with their projects, we learned this poem titled Cher frère blanc (Dear White Brother).

Leopold Senghor asks a very important question in his poem: who is really the man of color? He muses about why white people call black people "colored," when there is a huge range of observable colors on white people's skin. With a touch of humor, the author successfully delivers his message and still touches the hearts of people many years later. His goal was to undermine prejudice and draw attention to our common humanity.

Dear White Brother (English translation)
When I was born, I was black,
When I grew up, I was black,
When I am in the sun, I am black,
When I am sick, I am black,
When I die, I will be black.

While you, white man,
When you were born, you were pink,
When you grew up, you were white,
When you go in the sun, you are red,
When you are cold, you are blue,
When you are scared, you are green,
When you are sick, you are yellow,
When you die, you will be grey.

So, between you and me,
Who is the colored man?

Cher frère blanc
Quand je suis né, j’étais noir,
Quand j’ai grandi, j’étais noir,
Quand je suis au soleil, je suis noir,
Quand je suis malade, je suis noir,
Quand je mourrai, je serai noir.

Tandis que toi, homme blanc,
Quand tu es né, tu étais rose,
Quand tu as grandi, tu étais blanc,
Quand tu vas au soleil, tu es rouge,
Quand tu as froid, tu es bleu,
Quand tu as peur, tu es vert,
Quand tu es malade, tu es jaune,
Quand tu mourras, tu seras gris.

Alors, de nous deux,
Qui est l’homme de couleur ?

With All Good Wishes...An interview with Departing Grade Two Teacher Svenja Donlon

Interview by Karen Vatz, Administrative Director

Q. What drew you to the U.S. and Orchard Valley?
I had never heard of Vermont before meeting my husband, Seth! When I came to visit Orchard Valley, I had a tour of the campus with Madelief. It was lovely and the campus was beautiful, and Madelief was so nice. We knew we wanted to move to Vermont to be near Seth's family.

Q. Can you share a little about your experience here?
This place has been my life here in Vermont. The faculty have become my family, friends, and community. It's been a big adventure professionally. It was my first time teaching in a Waldorf School--I'd always taught in public schools.

It's beautiful being here and connected to the seasons through all the things that we do, and also learning about Vermont culture--like tapping maple trees. It was something everyone here knows how to do, but I had to go home and Google how to tap a sugar maple!

I've really felt privileged to follow the group of children I have, to form a class and follow them through these years as they grow and learn so much--from before they could write their names to now when they can write a whole lot more! And also to be on the parents' journey as well.

Q. Can you tell us what your plans are after your move back home?
I will be teaching at Te Ra Waldorf School on the Kapiti Coast on the North Island of New Zealand. It's a 10-minute walk to the beach. I'll be reconnecting with friends and family and we are hoping to tap into the organic scene (composting and farming) as well. We'll also be waiting the arrival of a best friend's baby and hopefully be taking long walks on the beach with our dog!

Q. What are you most looking forward to in New Zealand?
Seeing my family, swimming in the ocean, and eating summer fruits.

Q. What will you miss about Vermont, the U.S., and OVWS?
Everything! The children. The people. The seasons. The drama and harshness of the seasons makes people bond together and forge strong communities. Maple syrup...

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?
A big thank you for welcoming me into the community and having me be a part of it all for this time. Look me up if you are ever in New Zealand or need tips on where to travel!

From parent Angie Barger: “We are so thankful for Svenja's deep appreciation of the aspects of each child and her celebration of the integrity of the human spirit. This has revealed itself through the acceptance and connectivity her second graders show one another as members of the same tribe. She role models a high regard of the human spirit, and the knowledge and belief that each child will always rise to their highest self; on this core belief the children have created a thriving learning community. We will miss you, Svenja ~ thank you for always being your highest self!”

From parent Nancy Bruce: “It is such a gift and a blessing to have had the love, calm, care and skills that Svenja brought to all her students. Ava and Esme thrived under her attentive and nurturing nature. We three will miss her deeply and wish her all the best as she follows the direction of her heart."

An Interview with Eurythmy Teacher, Chloe McKenna

“Through Eurythmy, we can reach beyond ourselves to where we've come from to the spiritual world, and we can reach beyond ourselves to the heart of another and the world. There is a possibility to find real healing through Eurythmy.” (Chloe McKenna)

Q. How would you describe Eurythmy to a parent who has perhaps heard of it, but is not exactly sure what it is?

Eurythmy is a movement art brought in Waldorf Schools for children to enter—through movement—into what they're learning in their other classes.

Eurythmy movements themselves come out of the movements of the formative forces of speech, and that is the beginning—the word.

In turn, Eurythmy helps to balance the formative process of the child by bringing the right gestures at the right times, and the right soul experiences at the right stages of development. This supports the specific pedagogy in Waldorf Education that is matched to the archetype of each age of development.

It takes the active teacher and Eurythmist to try to perceive where the children are and how the world is impacting them. Out of this, we strive to bring the right Eurythmy gestures to help support what they're going through in their development and what the world is bringing them.

Q. Why do we bring Eurythmy to children?

Eurythmy brings into movement what children are learning; it is not conscious, it is through a story, fairy tales, poetry, music.

To give a concrete example of what this looks like, if a class is studying Greek history in the 5th grade, one would bring the peace and energy dances, given by Rudolf Steiner, based on the Greek Temple dances.

Students enter these movements of the Greek people and have an experience of what they were striving for at that time. The mystery behind it, in this example in particular, is that this history has a great relationship to our lives at this point in time, namely, the coming together in a circle as a group of people and the social element that one is not on their own.

The energy dance works with the anapest (short-short-long) rhythm, a calling up of energy or fire right in the center of each person, a calling to rise in a way. The peace dance brings in an element of love, also through this anapest rhythm. The Greeks used this in the Temple dances before going out to battle. It was a different battle at that time, but today in educating the child, the task is to provide the child a basis for which to stand in the world.

Q. What drew you to Eurythmy?

I felt as though Eurythmy was the call for me to stand in the world out of truth and out of goodness, out of something higher than what I'd known. To move with other people where the beginning place is always out of one's heart gives me hope that one can rise out of the darkness, that we can really lift our souls through art.

Q. What training does a Eurythmist complete?

Eurythmy Training was first brought as a seven-year study program by Rudolf Steiner. Now most schools are four years. We meet four days a week, 8-10 hours a day. Classes include speech eurythmy, tone eurythmy, speech formation, studies of anthroposophy, painting, singing, music theory, and even some anatomy. A teaching practicum in the 4th year and Eurythmy performances are also part of the training.

Eurythmy training is a constant exploration of the questions, “What is the human being?” and “How can we create a truly human community and live freely out of ourselves?”

Eurythmy in Action: Parents Experience this Expressive Art

From OVWS parent Lydia Russell: On a chilly and gray November day, a group of parents gathered in the yurt at Orchard Valley to experience the expressive art of Eurythmy. Eurythmy is often presented as a performance art, but also has educational and therapeutic applications. Chloe McKenna, a student of Eurythmy who is currently doing her practicum at Orchard Valley, guided us in a series of warming and enlivening movements and gestures that gave us a small taste of this elegant and intricate form. In her long flowing gown, Chloe led us in simple, yet powerful, movements which invited us to inhabit the space around, between, and within us in an intentional and conscious way. As we moved in harmony as a group, a calming and contemplative energy permeated the room and I could sense the healing and connective potential of such a practice.

Chloe explained that Eurythmy offers a gesture for each vowel and consonant in human language, and led us through several examples. She then asked for the names of some of our children and together we made the gestures that correspond with the sounds of their names. This was a particularly powerful moment as we experienced the felt sense of each child through the full-body movements of their names. I was moved almost to tears as I felt the energy of my daughter's presence so fully expressed in a few short movements.

We also had the opportunity to work with copper rods, an exercise which took great concentration and awareness of self and other. I could see how empowering and strengthening this work would be for children!

For me, the whole experience of moving together as a group in such a mindful and embodied way was a joyful and nourishing one. I felt grateful to get a flavor of the beautiful work Chloe is bringing into our children's classrooms. It is a wonderful gift to have her visit our school and share these teachings. Thank you, Chloe!

Class 4/5 Takes Part in a Japanese Tea Ceremony 

From Class 4/5 Teacher Claudia Reinhardt: During the last two weeks of school, 4th and 5th graders learned about pre-modern Japan in order to have a solid background for the summer reader they were assigned, The Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preuss. Students learned about Bushido, the virtues required of a Samurai, the history of pre-modern Japan, and whaling. 

To enliven their studies, students visited Setting Sun Teahut in Plainfield, VT, an authentic Japanese tea hut, for a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Students followed a certain hand-washing and mouth-rinsing ritual before walking the stone path to the entrance of the hut. There they removed their shoes. The entrance is a small, low door that requires one to crouch down on knees and scoot through. There were many feuds in Japan when the tea ceremony came into being. Weapons needed to be left outside the tea hut and everyone, whether peasant or emperor, had to humbly crawl through the same tiny space to enter, creating a sense of equality—at least for the time of the tea ceremony in the hut. As you first look up after crawling in, there is usually a beautiful scroll and a simple flower. 

We enjoyed thick tea from a bowl that was being passed from person to person (with a certain ritual to clean the rim before passing it on), as well as a cup of Matcha. What a Zen way to end a beautiful year with this vibrant group of students!

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Grade 8 Sets Sail On Their Final Class Adventure

From Mary Fettig, Class 2/3 support teacher and chaperone on the 8th grade trip: On Monday, June 4th, 13 intrepid Grade Eight students along with four chaperones traveled to Camden, Maine and boarded the schooner "The Mary Day" for a four-day sailing adventure in the Penobscott Bay.   

After a brief orientation on what to expect and how to assist, there was a tour of the ship, bunks were assigned, dinner was served, and the adventure began!

The Mary Day, named after the wife of the man who designed, built, and owned the schooner, is a windjammer. It was designed to be a passenger ship that would be sailed along the Maine Coast much like the ships that once carried lumber, granite, and fish long before roads and rails were laid down.

The class immediately took to life on a boat. Students were divided into three groups that rotated through and learned about navigation, compass and chart reading, knots and lines, setting and striking the sails, and more. The class took responsibility for steering the vessel, assisting in the galley, keeping the ship tidy, and being full members of the crew.

The Mary Day is owned by Barry King and his wife Jenn, former students of Libby Case and Ben Williams when they were teaching environmental science while touring the US in an old school bus! The crew of six was a wonderful collection of interesting and knowledgeable people who were incredibly open and willing to share their love of sailing and life on a schooner.

The OVWS class is ending their school journey with open eyes and hearts to yet another way of life and what it takes to have the courage, discipline, and spirit of adventure needed to partake of a life at sea. Thanks to all who made this possible; it was a trip to remember!

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Footwear: The Foundation of Our Children's Future

Class 2/3 Support Teacher Mary Fettig says: "Spring is in the air and it is finally time to toss aside those heavy winter boots and put on some sneakers! Please take a moment and read the following article by David Maynard, former OVWS Movement Teacher, on why it is so important that children wear shoes that they can tie."

When buying footwear, the things usually considered are appearance, easy to get on and off, foot protection under the conditions I will use them, and maybe the cost. But the decision-making process for the kind of footwear chosen for a child can be much more complex.

Young children's brains are developing and most of the important foundation work for the brain occurs when we are young. During the myelination process, which takes place between utero and adolescence, a protective sheath is formed around neural pathways in the brain. These pathways are like highways in the brain where messages can travel quickly. If this process is diminished, the speed slows down which reduces the brain's capacities.  

Both the development of the brain and the myelination process is stimulated by movement, and children increase their ability to move through their play. When children play, they develop a sense of movement and a sense of balance and develop their fine and gross motor movement skills, all of which stimulate brain development for later academic work. 

When children are first discovering their new relationship to movement, the choice of footwear is important. For running and jumping, sneakers with a flat bottom are the best. Running sneakers tend to rise up at the toe; this decreases the surface area of the foot on the ground, reducing the base needed to develop new skills such as balance.

The sneakers should also tie. There are at least three good reasons why young children should have tie shoes. 

The first is that in the early years, the child's will forces are developing. In later years when the child is in high school, he or she needs to have the will to finish the math problems or go the extra mile and produce an excellent paper. Our schools have too many students with low will forces which becomes evident while meeting or not meeting the requirements of completing a project. When tying shoes, the child has to do the task over and over, and if they are not tied correctly the laces will come undone and must be tied again. Not only does this reinforce the will, but it also encourages the child to tie (to do the job or work) correctly. 

The second reason is that a high degree of finger dexterity (fine motor skill) is needed to operate technology today, such as computers. Finger dexterity is exercised every time children tie their shoes.  

The third benefit of tying shoes is that it helps  children overcome the midline and horizontal barrier. The cerebrum is separated into two halves (hemispheres) that are connected by a bridge called the corpus callosum. When the child is young, the corpus callosum is not well developed and communication between the two hemispheres is limited. This is seen as creating a sort of void in the center of the brain which is reflected in the body. This void is referred to as the midline barrier. For example, a young child will find it hard to cross her arms over her chest out of imitation, and will usually keep the arms on either side of the midline. As the child goes to kindergarten and first grade (accompanied by the change of teeth), this barrier disappears and crossing becomes easier and easier with practice and time. 

The disappearance of the midline barrier is very important later on when reading because children must cross the midline (with their eyes) when reading each line, and at the end of the line must cross the midline going in the other direction. When working out a division problem, one must carry the remainder and once again cross the midline. 

Children who have difficulty crossing this barrier often get lost in reading and/or math because there is a split second of a void which the child must be able to pick up on the other side. With every knot that is tied, the child practices crossing the midline when the laces cross. As with the vertical midline barrier, there is a horizontal midline barrier that the child overcomes again with practice and repetition. When a child ties her shoes she has to bend over, crossing this barrier twice or more each time the shoes are put on.                 

The child's movements such as crawling, standing, and running, as well as fine motor skills such as tying shoes, are the foundations that future academic work depends on. It is up to teachers and parents to provide the opportunity for healthy movement, while at the same time preventing barriers such as improper footwear or clothing. This intention may be met with resistance because of cultural pressures or because tie shoes are harder to put on. As the child grows older, resistance may increase; however, since the foundation has been laid, compromise is then possible.

Grade 8 Presents Their Projects!

The 8th graders presented their individual student projects to the school the Friday before April break, and the depth and breadth of their work was just stunning to see.

As the parent of a 2nd grade student, I only know some of these "big kids" a little bit. But anyone visiting with them as they unveiled the culmination of months of work gained a glimpse into their individual personalities, their passions, and their talents, and saw the beautiful results of  their determination. Oh, and that sparkle in their eye when asked to share a bit about how their project came about--that was pretty lovely, too! And the younger children, well, they were just so taken by the work of these big kids, their role models. Congratulations to all! Please click through the gallery to see them all.

~ Cathy Donohue, OVWS communications coordinator

Grade 8 Performs Final Class Play: Romeo & Juliet

Grade 8 performed their final class play in April 2018—Romeo & Juliet—at the Plainfield Opera House. 

From Class Teacher Libby Case:  One of the culminating events of eight years as a OVWS student is the 8th grade play. Each year, this class has performed a play that is in some way relevant to the particular curriculum of the year. And each year I am so proud of their production. They are a very cooperative group who have learned over the years to manage themselves both backstage and on stage, and this year was no different.   

In 8th grade language arts, students are introduced to the poetry and plays of William Shakespeare and the students were interested in performing "Romeo and Juliet" for their class play. Finding a version that was true to the original but manageable for middle school fell to the teacher. Understanding Shakespeare’s beautiful, yet challenging, language was accomplished with the help of parent Erica Zimmerman. A grant secured by our great administrator, Karen Vatz, allowed us to enlist the help of experienced actor and director Morgan Irons as an acting coach, and Shannon Hepburn coached the students on sword fighting.

With all that help plus long hours of studying the play, understanding the language, memorizing extensive lines, and perfecting their characters, the students put on a fantastic production that exceeded all expectations! I could not be more proud of their work! 

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Raising Our Voices in Song: The role of music in Waldorf Schools

From Mary Fettig, long-time Waldorf class teacher and mentor to Grade 2/3 Class Teacher Laurie Kozar:

Every day, in every class, voices are raised in song. From our Little Lambs program serving the youngest children through the Grade Eight class, music is an integral part of the OVWS experience. 

Through seasonal songs welcoming in the Spring, songs to bless and give thanks for snacks and meals, and songs to lead the youngest children through transitions, music is shared by the Early Education teachers, bringing the joy of personal expression, harmony and rhythm. In the Early Grades, the children join in with their teachers as they are directly taught the songs, often with movements that accentuate the tempo. First Graders are given wooden pentatonic flutes and now begin to play themselves. Next comes the soprano recorder andthe opportunity to learn to read musical notation. 

Strings are introduced in Grade Four and we are blessed to have Katie Trautz, a local fiddler, bringing her expertise and teaching students on the violin, the cello, and the guitar. Katie is also the Middle Grades Chorus teacher and now the students are literally "finding their voices" and uniting in song. Middle Grades students are also instructed in alto and base recorders and now the classes discover the beauty of playing in parts and reading and playing more complex pieces.

But, why do we teach music? I recently came across an article that spelled out five main reasons for teaching music. First of all, music is a science: an exact and specific discipline calling upon the performers' knowledge and control. Secondly, as many of us know, music is directly related to Mathematics, being rhythmically based on the subdivision of time into fractions. Not only that, it must be delivered instantaneously--you will not have time to work out a problem on paper!

Music is a foreign language that uses highly developed symbols to express ideas. Music is a universal language where anyone from any culture can communicate with others, and our students learn songs from other lands which helps to encourage global awareness.

Furthermore, music is a physical activity requiring immense coordination of fingers, hands, arms, cheeks, lips, and facial muscles. Singing and playing the recorder both ask us to breathe deeply and in control. In playing the violin or cello, the musician has to cross their midline and coordinate the two sides of the body.

Lastly, music is an art, one that allows for individual expression and one that touches on human emotions.

I would add a final reason: music is a social activity. When a class or group is singing or playing together, there is often a beautiful moment where everyone is in sync and on key and the music lifts us all up, highlighting human connection. Participants need to listen to others, to wait their turn, and to sometimes carry others along.

Each Waldorf school, as an independent entity, has their own music curriculum, but they all follow the basic child development principles as outlined by Rudolf Steiner--who recognized that the human being is a musical being. Throughout the primary and elementary grades, songs and musical pieces support the child's growth and development by following indications that are the basis of the Waldorf curriculum.

Not all of us will grow up to be world-class musicians. But through singing and playing instruments in school, we can all learn to find our voices and to find enjoyment through music.

Getting to Know You: An interview with Kelly Davis, On The Land Teacher

We are offering short pieces about faculty and staff in the Apple Core to introduce staff and to bridge our three campuses. This interview was conducted by Mary Fettig.

Kelly Davis took a circuitous route on her way to us here at Orchard Valley, and we are so pleased she made that journey!

Kelly spent her childhood in Pomfret, VT and then attended the University of Vermont, graduating in 2014 with a B.S. degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Conservation and Biodiversity. From Burlington she travelled out to Washington state, then to Saint John in the Virgin Islands, and finally back to VT, moving to East Charleston up in the Northeast Kingdom. All along the way she immersed herself in work that prepared her for designing and writing the curriculum for the On The Land program which she teaches here at Orchard Valley's East Montpelier Main Campus.

Kelly's love of the outdoors and the natural world began as a child. Her parents had a landscaping business that has grown into a farm, and they were always bringing home orphaned or hurt animals to add to their family. Kelly fondly remembers having a "pet"pigeon that lived on their screened porch. As a young woman she worked at the Farm & Wilderness Camps in Plymouth, VT, first in their day camp and then becoming the Program Director of the Salt Ash Mountain Camp, a wilderness skills camp for teens. Through high school friends that had attended Upper Valley Waldorf School, along with Waldorf-schooled campers at Farm & Wilderness, Kelly began to notice the "inexplicable" sturdiness which is a result of Waldorf education. She became attracted to the "mysterious and enchanting" aspects of Waldorf and she allowed that seed to be planted within.

After initially declaring Engineering as her major, Kelly soon switched over to Environmental Science and it was at UVM where she was able to tailor her studies towards what she loved; the fusion between agriculture, wilderness, and children. Her coursework now included Tracking, Permaculture Design and Hands-On Learning. Her farming experiences include working with dwarf goats at a dairy farm and farming at the North Country School of Lake Placid, where she also taught students how to farm.

It was when Kelly and her partner decided to move to Central VT that the long-ago planted seed of Waldorf teaching began to grow and she made a connection with Orchard Valley. Kelly was hired last year as the assistant in the Farm and Forest Kindergarten. During that year, Kelly was a member of a working group which included parents, faculty and community members that set in motion the development of the On The Land program of which she now is the lead teacher.

"On The Land is a wonderful program, and each day is unique. With a season-based curriculum, things are ever evolving--which I love," Kelly says. The Main Lesson teachers have shared their block rotations and Kelly uses those to help plan the themes. In addition, she has developed a school-wide gardening curriculum where each grade will take one component--herbs, flowers, grains, the "Three sisters" (corn, squash and beans), and even a market garden. The children will have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and to delve into real experiential learning.

OVWS is also home to four sheep, two goats, and a dozen or so chickens. Kelly has plans to get more students involved with the daily care and husbandry of the animals as part of the On The Land curriculum as well. She also has plans for a student-built chicken tractor.

We are so pleased to have Kelly and the On The Land program and wish her a fruitful experience here at OVWS!

Getting to Know You: An interview with Little Lambs Director Jada Berg

We hope to offer short conversations between faculty and staff in the Apple Core to introduce new staff and to bridge our three campuses. Here is our first; the interview was conducted by Mary Fettig.

MF: Jada, it's great to have some time to sit down and get to know you. Can you share a bit about yourself and the path that led you to this position?

JB: I hold a degree in Education from Goddard College in Plainfield, VT. I was in a self-directed program and focused on both Progressive Education and Waldorf Philosophy. I have been teaching since 2000, mostly in Early Childhood Education. Before coming to Orchard Valley, I worked at the Green Valley Waldorf School in Putney. I began as the school cook and Kindergarten Assistant, and ended as the Lead Teacher of the infant-toddler class. When that school closed, I moved back to Montpelier and worked for two years as the Lead Teacher in the Apple Blossom class at the Child’s Garden. When Little Lambs was scheduled to open, I transitioned here. I was inspired by the idea of working in a developing program designed for working parents that focused on the very young.

As a child I attended Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz, New York. I went on to study Progressive Education, but I have always been drawn to the Waldorf Philosophy. Currently, I am completing my Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Certification from Sophia’s Hearth in Keene, NH. I chose that program because it is one of the leading programs in this country focusing on the very young child; those from birth to age 3.

MF: Please say a bit about this Pikler Method and how it informs the child care at Little Lambs.

JB: The Pikler philosophy is focused on building the relationship between the child and their caregiver. One of the main foundations of the philosophy is having reverence and respect for the child, and listening and being aware of their needs. The child is seen as an active participant in their own care. Using the Pikler approach, children are involved in all aspects of their care. By this I mean they are engaged in everyday self care skills such as dressing, eating, cleaning, and even toileting tasks. These all help to build resilience and confidence in the young child starting in infancy. Young children are able to do so many things and they have so many capacities--if we can get out of their way and allow them to explore and learn about themselves and the world around them. 

The founder of this philosophy, Emmi Pikler, said: “As a matter of principle, we refrain from teaching skills and activities which, under suitable conditions, will evolve through the child’s own initiative and independent activity.” 

Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian pediatrician and pediatric surgeon whose specialty was pregnant women and newborns. After World War II, she ran an orphanage for many years and implemented the ideas that she had developed about infant care-giving and child development there. This form of child care is very innovative, and the Pikler Approach is being adopted by most Waldorf Schools that serve the very young child. Magda Gerber, who trained under Pikler and brought this philosophy to the U.S.,  said, “When you approach your baby with an attitude of respect, you let him know what you intend to do and give him a chance to respond. You assume he is competent and involve him with his care and let him, as much as possible, solve his own problems. You give him plenty of physical freedom and you don’t push development.” That is what we are doing here at Little Lambs.

MF: Tell us a bit about the Center.

JB: Little Lambs is located on Country Club Road in Montpelier. This is right across from Agway, off Route 2. The center opened in September 2016. I took over as Interim Director in April and assumed the full position in July 2017. The center currently serves 30 children and we are licensed to accept children from 6 weeks to 3 ½ years of age. We are open from 7:30am to 5:30pm and run year-round. We have three classrooms; one is for infants and the other two are mixed-age toddler classes with children from approximately 1 ½ to 3 ½ years old. Each room holds eight children with a Lead teacher and an Assistant teacher. We also have a few "floater" teachers on staff to help during the busy times of day.

We place a lot of focus on outside playtime, and really see the outdoors as another classroom for the children. In addition to our play yard outside the center, we are located near a beautiful natural golf course which is closed from November through April and we have free access to the land, which is quite lovely. There is also a wonderful wooded area nearby where the children often go to play and spend time in nature. We recently received a $5,000 grant from Seventh Generation to improve our play yard and used the grant to purchase several climbing structures, a playhouse/shed, and a special Pikler climber that even infants are drawn to explore. During the warmer months the children are outside most of the day, and even the infants are outdoors crawling and exploring. We have plans to double the size of our playground this spring.

MF: Jada, one toddler can be a handful, how do you get eight of them fed, diapered, and down for a nap?

JB: Having the children in a cohesive group is helpful, as they support and entertain each other. Our day is very calm and rhythmical, with ample opportunity to go outside. The center is very peaceful and decorated in a simple way with beautiful natural materials. Part of the Pikler approach is to slow down and be truly present with the children. This helps the children feel noticed and respected, which creates a lovely harmonious environment for everyone. The children are also given a lot of time for free movement and this helps them develop their lower senses, bringing both inner and outer strengths. 

MF: How do you see Little Lambs integrating into the larger Orchard Valley Community?

JB: Little Lambs can be a bridge where young families can learn about Waldorf Education and the Orchard Valley Waldorf School. The new parents that I meet are hungry for high-quality child care. They are seeking support, community, and parent education opportunities. They are inspired by the care their children receive at Little Lambs, and this gently welcomes them into the larger Waldorf community. In the last year, seven students outgrew our center and moved on to the Montpelier Child’s Garden and East Montpelier Main Campus. 

My goal is to build a strong foundation here at Little Lambs that would support the other programs Orchard Valley offers. I am honored to serve in this way. We plan to begin offering workshops, parent education, and other events for young families. There are several workshops that are currently in the planning stages, so please look for information soon.

MF: Jada, thank you for sharing this information. It is a pleasure to know you and to see what you are bringing to the very young here in Central Vermont.