Farm and Forest Kindergarten Spotlight: "Basking in the glory that is Spring!"

From Farm and Forest Kindergarten Teacher, Lindsay Miles: 

The Farm and Forest children have come through the winter where we warmed ourselves by fire, drank tea we made from the trees we visited in the forest, and found shelter from the very cold in the yurt. Now, they bask in the glory that is spring.

The cold winds and snowy land brought good work and big movements where the children shoveled, went sledding, and moved through campus covered in snow gear, wool socks, and the occasional toe and hand warmer.

Now that the weather has changed and the children are eager to shed their bulky layers to run free, we can see how much growth has happened for each and every child. Their pants are just a tad too short, the sleeves of their rain jackets just barely touch their wrists, and new shoes are arriving daily as their feet have grown out of the shoes they wore when they first began their days in Farm and Forest. 

Spring time has brought a new connection with the earth. Where in winter it was a hard and often snowy ground when we began our morning circle with “Here is the Earth and here is the sky...,” now the earth has softened, and as we stomp our feet are greeted with warm mud and grass that is beginning to turn green. Our circles outside give us a chance to really experience the words we recite and the songs we sing. As we are “four little chickadees sitting in a tree, one flew away and then there were three” we can hear their call from the perch of our bird feeder. As we recite “in the heart of a seed buried deep so deep, a dear little plant lies fast asleep,” we can look over at our garden and truly see the seeds beginning to sprout. 

The snowmen and snow-shoveled paths are being replaced with energetic cooperative games and creative and thoughtful creations. Some of our toys from inside the tepee have come outside for play in the sunshine. Potions are being made from mud, grass, and hay. Their airplane (a leaning tree) has them crawling up in their “seats” and traveling to the great lands of Africa and Dorchester, MA. Their building of their giant nest has begun, using grapevine we harvested from the southern Orchard. The children become beautiful birds with wreaths of feathers and wings of fallen branches.   

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This time of year brings a lot of energy in the children and we can meet this energy with new work to be done. This is achieved through practical jobs in the garden or woodworking activities and by giving them space to explore the changing natural world as their bodies are bigger and ready to do new things they weren’t ready to do in the beginning of the year. They are building bigger forts, climbing trees a little higher, and we will begin working on our jump-roping skills very soon!

Spring also brings a lot of farm work that the children eagerly ask to help with. We have put up a new arbor to our classroom entrance, added hay bales to be planted and to create natural borders, and we are ready to expand the goat yard. We have extended the chicken yard and have added a corn grinder where the children can make food for the chickens to eat. We are raking our classroom and the children use wheelbarrows to bring the fallen hay to the farm house they have made among the apple trees. The goats and sheep have grown from the babies they were at the start of the year. The sheep are eager to begin grazing again and to be sheared, and the goats are mischievous and playful. They love to jump up onto their new play structure and use the balance beam that was made for them over the winter. 

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The garlic we planted in our Soup Garden long ago in the late fall is coming up beautifully, and the children marvel at this and the other seeds we have sown. This week we are adding more garden beds to house our Tea Garden, Our Bees and Butterflies Garden, our Herb Bed, and our Medicine Wheel.  

How lucky are we that we get to spend our days outside—still held in the traditional, rhythmic ways that meet our youngest students in our Waldorf school. At the same time, we are instilling a sense of love for our earth, our animals, and our classmates as we are on the land each day. We aim to cultivate a sense of flexibility and ease our movement through the day, the seasons, and the year—a skill that is so necessary as we move through this world.

Richard Freed's Top 5 Strategies for Healthy Technology Use

More than 50 people from the Central Vermont community attended the talk with Dr. Richard Freed on April 24th in Montpelier. Freed, a psychologist and author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age, offered a well-researched and engaging presentation, which made the case for parents to set strong limits on children's use of technology. "The Waldorf media policy is consistent with what science says our kids need," said Freed.  

Freed acknowledged the pressure on both children and adults to be online and offered parenting strategies to encourage healthy and productive tech use. Here are Freed's top 5 strategies to help us as parents:

Waldorf100 "Learn to Change the World" Video

Just in time! A new video has launched celebrating 100 years of Waldorf Education around the world. Watch and share this inspiring video!

Because giving attention is really love.

Additionally, a new international website,, has been established. It highlights shared themes and activities that will take place around the globe in 2019-2020. Stay tuned for more videos and information over the next 2 years.

Foreign Language Instruction Begins in Grade One

Foreign language instruction in Waldorf schools strives to impart a deeper connection with others. Rudolf Steiner's view of education was not one of human beings who are restricted by their sense of nationality, but of human beings who think—and therefore feel—in an international, multilingual way. Learning another language can also give us a deeper understanding of, and sympathy with, another people or nation.

From 1st grade through 3rd grade, all foreign language instruction is based on the conversation between teacher and pupils. Grammar is not taught explicitly in these first three years. Learning to speak, to listen, and to understand is the only goal. The children learn to speak the foreign language in the same way they learned to speak their mother tongue, through listening and imitation. From 4th through 8th grade, French lessons increase in depth through the addition of grammar, writing, reading, conversation, history and geography, and even a class trip to Quebec City to experience a French culture first-hand.

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."