Handwork: Learning How to Do

Why do Waldorf schools include Handwork in the curriculum? According to Handwork Teacher Kate Camilletti, "It's not just so the students know how to knit, it's so they know how to DO." Handwork is about learning how to meet a challenge (moving needles, gaining rhythm, following and creating patterns) and to move through it. Beyond gaining specific skills, students learn to use their hands to create something beautiful and practical from start to finish, helping them acquire the ability to persevere.

The progression of handwork lessons begins with knitting and crocheting and progresses to hand sewing, felting, embroidery, and carving soapstone molds for pewter casting. The handwork class circles back to knitting and crocheting with variations and increasing skill development (for instance, kittens in first grade, socks on four needles in fifth grade), and specific projects vary by class. Handwork begins with knitting because it awakens, enlivens, and strengthens so many different parts of the human being, including building neural pathways from the brain to the tips of the fingers. Childhood is the time to build these pathways, which will serve them throughout their lives.

A Warm Welcome to Little Lambs Early Care Center Families and Staff

Orchard Valley Waldorf School opened the doors to its new childcare center in Montpelier inSeptember 2016, and the wonderful staff have made this a warm and charming place for the littlest members of our school family.

Located at 203 Country Club Road in a private spot off Rt. 2, Little Lambs was designed to help meet the growing childcare needs in central Vermont. The location was custom-designed to our specifications and is filled with sweet toddler-sized furniture and Waldorf-inspired quality wooden and cloth toys.

This is a new adventure for Orchard Valley, bridging a Waldorf gap between our parent-child program and our Apple Blossom program at the Child's Garden for 2 1/2-year-olds, as it meets the childcare needs of working parents. Currently, 24 children ages three months to three years spend between two and five days a week with us, for the morning or a full day.

Class 2/3 Shared Santa Lucia Bread (recipe here!) and Song with Entire School

Santa Lucia Day (December 13) celebrates the life of Saint Lucy and light for the longest night of the year (under the old Gregorian calendar this was the Winter Solstice). Lucia thus shines as a symbol of hope and light during the dark time of the year as we turn our focus inward.

The traditional celebration of this day usually begins before dawn, with the oldest girl in the family preparing delicious saffron buns for the family. She often wears a white dress with a red sash and wears a wreath of candles on her head. Boys often accompany the procession as "star boys." While this festival is nowadays predominantly celebrated in Sweden, the origin is Sicilian. Saint Lucy is said to have brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs. Wearing a candle-lit wreath to light the way left her hands free to carry a tray filled with food.

The class worked together and baked Lucia wreaths that were delivered (with singing accompaniment) to the kindergarten and grades classes on December 14.

Santa Lucia Bread

2 packages (or 4-1/2 tsp.) dry yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. warm water
6 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten (Eggs may be accidentally omitted & all will be well still!)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamon
1-1/4 cup of milk, scalded
5 c. flour
1/4 c. dried cranberries
Grated rind of 1 lemon

In a small pot dissolve yeast in water and add sugar. In another pot add butter and salt to scalded milk, allowing the butter to melt. Sift flour and cardamon into a large bowl. Make an indent and add eggs. Add yeast-sugar mixture, then milk butter mixture. Form dough. Let dough rise, covered, in a warm spot for 1-1/2 hours. Divide dough, creating two long strands of dough. Twist strands, creating a round wreath. Place wreath on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Bake at 350-375 F for 25-30 minutes. When cooled, you may want to top with a powdered sugar glaze, dried cranberries and lemon rind—especially so if you accidentally omitted the eggs!

Orchard Valley Students Learning Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness practice involves meditative exercises that teach us that our breath is our best friend, and by simply bringing our attention back to our breath in multiple situations we can find inner calm.

The benefits of mindfulness practice are long, including helping one lower stress, think more clearly and/or with focus, and develop patience and compassion. Schools that bring mindfulness to their student body have seen lower drop-out rates, less incidence of bullying, and a rise in the students' grades. In our day and age, the young are needing instruction on how to navigate within and be present for learning. Mindfulness is a skill one can carry and utilize throughout one's life in most any situation.

Both the fifth and sixth/seventh grades have had a series of lessons in mindfulness so far. The students have been receptive to the work, reporting finding it calming and interesting. The young are naturally mindful as they live in the present moment. A simple one- to two-minute centering exercise can readily work wonders. As part of its work to further instill kindness and cooperation among the student body, the school Care Committee is planning an upcoming workshop for the Grades faculty.

Last week, when reflecting on the use of the breath, one student shared that "the breath is like the beat of the drum in music, then the instruments come in, in time with the beat and in harmony with one another. The mind, he continued, when practicing mindfulness, is like those instruments in harmony."  

New Dedicated Woodworking Classroom at Orchard Valley!

Renovations at our East Montpelier campus this past summer yielded wonderful results! Besides the fantastic new flow and calmer experience between classes and the repurposing of the yurt into our music and theater space, Orchard Valley gained a dedicated Woodworking classroom. After five years of moving tables and equipment and reconfiguring grades classrooms into makeshift woodworking spaces, our Woodworking Teacher Heinz Rathmann has his own classroom in which to welcome the students!

"The students enter the woodworking space and are reverent to it. They really step into this different work now," said Heinz. "This is "200% better than before!" The shift allows him more time for tuning into what the students need, instead of the logistics of how to make the different grades classrooms work for woodworking, he shared.

For the younger classes, Heinz still works with the children right in their classrooms--or the Farm and Forest Tepee for the outdoor Kindergarten. The three kindergartens are working with Heinz once a week for four weeks, and "it's been really sweet," he says. "They really learn something as they pound nails into their small birch stumps." 

The Grade 1 students are making round dice that roll, and the finished pieces will stay in the class for Ms. Ginsburg to use in math or language arts activities. Grade 4 is working on Mancala boards, while Grade 5 is whittling with a knife, making small critters. The Grade 6/7 class is working on 3-legged stools, and Grade 8 is whittling figurines which become a representation of themselves. Heinz said, "It's really interesting how that happens."