BWS Holiday Handcraft Fair Auction Is NOW LIVE!
Holiday Handcraft Fair magic continues in our online showcase of gifts, experiences, memberships and services. Open through SUN Nov 19, 9:00pm. Click the button below to view and bid, and have fun planning all your next adventures!
For more information, call 413-528-4015 or email email@example.com
Sharing the Delights of a Creative Family Holiday
Our gift to the community, Berkshire Waldorf School families, teachers and students come together to create a festive Holiday atmosphere, making tiny gifts for the Little Peoples’ Shop and the Pocket Fairy, transforming every room in the Grades School building into magical realms to explore, and knitting squares to form the unique 2023 Community Afghan.
Berkshire Waldorf teachers share the magic of storytelling with puppetry.
For the Child in Us All
Early Childhood teachers perform a puppet play featuring handcrafted puppets, with two performances during the day. Other Fair highlights include the Children’s Craft Room where youngsters can make their own presents, “Sweet Spot,” an interactive game with live musicians (and desserts for prizes!) and the Pocket Fairy, whose many pockets are filled with small surprises.
Treats for All Ages
Revel in the premium local goods and services at the Fair’s Silent and Online Auctions. Shop for warm handmade items in the Handcraft Room, and join the grownup fun at the Silent Auction, centerpiece of the Fair, with one-of-a-kind toys and gifts. The Berkshire Country Store stocks artisanal and gourmet treats, and our lunchroom, Rudy’s Diner, serves lunch, warm drinks and homemade desserts.
Berkshire Waldorf School’s curriculum of academic excellence activated with movement, music, outdoor learning and the arts has been preparing students to achieve their full potential for 52 years. The school welcomes Fall 2024 applications for students 18 months through Eighth Grade starting November 1, and offers generous tuition support for qualified students.
Thanks for joining us! All Handcraft Fair Auction proceeds benefit the programs and students of the Berkshire Waldorf School.
PIE! Parent Info Events start WED, 11/29. Visit our News & Events for details.
PIE! Parent Info Events Start WED 11/29. Visit our News & Events for Details.
Celebrating First Nations Day
As you walk onto the Berkshire Waldorf School campus this week, you’ll see turkey feather flags that students of all ages have hung on branches for First Nations Day, to remember the connection between the people, the land and a spirit of gratitude.
We were honored to welcome members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok (Mohican Nation) Shawn Stevens and Shannon Chada back to their Homelands from their current-day reservation in Wisconsin, for our school celebration on Tuesday.
Mr. Stevens, also known as Standing Eagle, visited the school for the first time last year. He and Ms. Chada were visibly touched by the turkey feathers—hung knee-high by our youngest students—welcoming them along the path beside the native “sumac forest,” near the Nursery play yard. (Sumac is a treasured Mohican medicine plant.)
Fire Circles – The Original Classroom
This year, Mr. Stevens brought traditional flute and drum songs to Early Childhood students, plus a humorous story. (Kindergartners can tell you the story of “How the Bear Lost Its Tail”—that tricky fox!)
Around the fire with First through Eighth Graders, Mr. Stevens spoke about many aspects of Mohican culture that resonated with topics our students are already learning about, such as how Mohican family groups lived in longhouses, all along the Mahicannituck (Hudson River), and east to the Housatonic. Mr. Stevens described how warriors (“those with big hearts”) went out in their canoes to meet Henry Hudson when he came up the river; at that time, the Muh-he-con-ne-ok had already lived along its banks for thousands of years.
Mr. Stevens discussed how many Nations in our Eastern Woodlands region are relatives, springing from the original Algonquian language group, and had disbursed as far as the Great Lakes and the Carolinas, in order to share available resources. For this reason, he noted, the name Muh-he-con-ne-ok designates “where we’re from” more than “who we are.” It translates approximately to “People of the Great Tidal River.”
What We Learned
Eighth Graders reflected on the ways of thinking that Mr. Stevens discussed in the circle. Here are a few of their takeaways:
“We are all family. We are all the same species, and all come from the same place (Earth). If we could really realize this, we could end war forever.”
“My shirt is made of thread, woven into cloth to keep warm, but it doesn’t mean anything; it’s a thing. Mr. Shawn was saying every thread and bead and stitch of his sash was woven with good intentions and prayers. Imagine how that feels.”
“The tribes of North America, just like the tribes of Africa, aren’t generic, but distinct Nations, with their own languages and cultures and ways of life.”
Onewe! Thank you for teaching us!
Click the button below to see more pictures of the Great Barrington town ceremony and walk on Monday. We are so grateful to see our students carrying the banner for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
We remember that we are gathering and learning on the sacred, unceded Homeland of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok, the People of the Waters That are Never Still, who are now living and thriving in Wisconsin and the Berkshires.
First Days of School
Beginning our 52nd school year with the traditional Rose Ceremony marks the first key transition our First Graders make, as Eighth and Twelfth Graders welcome them into the Grade School.
First Days of First Grade
First Graders begin the school year with a Main Lesson block in Form Drawing. This three-week block introduces straight and curved lines, which are the basis for all the letters and numbers students will learn over the course of the year. It’s how drawing organically becomes writing and all four mathematical operations. BWS and BWHS students build on this strong foundation over their twelve years of Elementary and High School starting right here, in the first week of Grades School!
The Class Teacher presents fairy tales and stories from all over the world, teaching in a form that children already know, love and understand, through stories. She creates living pictures using both movement and imagination, without notes or screens. The children listen transfixed, then each child carefully draws a form from the story into their very own main lesson book.
First Graders practice making straight and then curved lines. Next, they incorporate the straight and curved lines together, creating a new form. At last, the focus turns to learning to draw a spiral, as the children first practice walking a spiral, forming it on the ground with rope, as well as drawing on each other’s backs!
Becoming a Class
So much of First Grade is about learning to become a community. At Berkshire Waldorf School, the class will move together through the Grades, and frequently on through High School, so relationships, belonging and etiquette are an important part of education. Notably, in Waldorf Education, this social learning is part of the curriculum in both academic and subject classes.
As an example of social learning in First Grade, Class Teacher Victoria Cartier discussed the importance of building up the basics (already well-established in BWS Early Childhood classes). This is what Waldorf teachers call “form”: learning to walk in a line, work together in a circle, attend to the teacher–all the ways their experiences teach the children how to work and play together, help one another and take care of the space they share.
Ms. Cartier spoke about the development of the children from Kindergarten to First Grade.
Ms. Cartier also emphasized not taking for granted just how new everything is for students brand new to the Grades School, and how much growth and change is occurring within them. In First Grade, Games period and recesses are organized by Ms. Cartier, while the afternoons are reserved for free play. During free play, the teacher has time to observe social dynamics, and discover students’ different affinities, strengths and joys, when they are free to explore, climb and play whatever calls to them. The strength of the class as a whole shines through during this time.
The Very First Days of School
Our youngest Early Childhood students in the Star Room (Toddler), Rose Room and Robin’s Nest (2-4 years), and Sun Room, Rainbow Room and Pumpkin Patch Kindergartens (5-6 years) started school with surprisingly few tears. Some children had their very first experience of being away from parents and regular caregivers. We were delighted to see and hear them playing, running, visiting the sheep, climbing trees, singing and laughing. It’s wonderful to have our youngest students back on campus!
Welcome dear families, to this learning and growing community.
Join us! May Day @ BWS
Berkshire Waldorf School May Day Celebration MONDAY May 1, at 11:00 a.m.
Wear your May crown! Berkshire Waldorf School invites our community to enjoy this joyous Waldorf Spring festival, celebrated every May 1 on the school Green. Free; rain or shine.
To welcome in the summer
Wear your May crown! Festivities begin at 11:00 a.m., featuring our May Pole and all the trimmings — live music, local Morris dancing teams and country dancing by Grades School students. Bring your family and friends, blankets, weather appropriate hats and a picnic, and help us welcome in summer in the Berkshires! Rain or shine.
Come early to see the school in action
The school will host an informal open house and tour at 9:00 a.m. the same morning, prior to the celebration. To register, please contact Admissions Director Robyn Coe at 413-528-4015 x. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Season of Light
As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21, Berkshire Waldorf School, with Waldorf schools all over the world, enters the Season of Light.
During this time of the shortest day and longest night of the year, we celebrate the spirit of peace and joyful anticipation, bringing light and warmth into the darkness with candles, holiday lights and observance of the moon and stars.
For inner warmth and light, we take comfort in family, friends, food and traditions of giving.
Berkshire Waldorf School celebrates these qualities through a number of rich, reverent celebrations and festivals.
The Spiral of Light
Lighting the Darkness
BWS kindergartners and younger Grades students participate in the Spiral of Light, which brings a mood of quiet reverence to the season. Each child walks a spiral path made of evergreen boughs strewn with minerals and crystals. As they reach the center, children light their “apple candle” at the central candle, and place it along the path home, to light the way for friends.
Elementary and Middle School students mark the Season of Light with age-appropriate festivals and rituals that come out of the learning content from each grade. These speak to children with soul-satisfying comfort and peace. Practicing warmth and joy at a dark time centers us all in strength and hope.
Advent in Four Weeks
In Waldorf schools, children from all backgrounds participate in the month-long observance of “Waldorf Advent,” anticipating the rebirth of the light.
Grades and Middle School students gather on Monday mornings in December for special songs, stories and verses, marked each week by the lighting of one more candle in the Advent wreath, to balance the increasing darkness outside. This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on a Monday, and students will light the menorah as well as the wreath candles.
Each week of “Waldorf Advent” honors one of the kingdoms of nature—minerals, plants, animals and human beings—and this theme is brought into classroom activities and decorations as well.
As the weeks progress, the Waldorf Advent wreath is decorated with crystals and shells, flowers, small animals (some hand sculpted by students out of beeswax) and people. Early childhood students celebrate these festivals in their classrooms.
All BWS families are invited to gather in the auditorium on Thursday, December 22 at 11am, where our month of festivities culminates in a holiday assembly to celebrate the Season of Light as a community.
Berkshire Waldorf School faculty and staff wish your family a beautiful holiday season, and memories that bring renewed warmth and light throughout the years.
Snow and stars from Ms. Alessandra’s First Grade chalkboard
Other festive days on the BWS calendar during the Season of Light:
Tuesday, December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day The story of a wise and generous person, Nicholas, captivates the imagination of our youngest students, and brings the warmth of caring and giving to this season of celebration.
Early Childhood classes receive the surprise of a basket of treats that Nicholas brings (golden walnuts and clementines are favorites), and sometimes catch a glimpse of him passing across the landscape on his journey of good will.
Nicholas will visit children in the Grade School this year. Many of the children have heard the story of this wise person, also know as St. Nicholas, in their classrooms, but his visit is a special surprise for them. Nicholas represents one’s “higher self” to the children, embodying goodness, understanding and wisdom. Nicholas carries a golden book, and he reads a personal message to each Grade School student.
Sunday and Monday, December 11 and 12, The Spiral of Light
Kindergartners and younger Grades classes participate in the Spiral of Light.
Tuesday, December 13, Santa Lucia Day
In our school, this festival and the visit from Nicholas come out of Second Grade studies of “Golden Hearts,” people who live their values. We follow in the tradition of a day widely celebrated in Sweden on the feast day of the “Queen of Light,” who brought food to the hungry during a time of famine. Second Graders perform this seasonal role, dressing in white with candlelight “crowns,” and visiting throughout school, including Early Childhood, to bring each class freshly baked saffron buns and a song to light the darkness.
December 21, 3:15 pm, Shepherd’s Play
The Christmas image is one of a humble birth surrounded by love. In the Christian tradition, Christ’s birth is celebrated just after the winter solstice, as the light of earth is returning. This humorous and joyful “Oberufer” Christmas story has been played for decades at Waldorf schools throughout the world, and is performed at BWS by faculty as a gift to students, families and the community.
The Joy of Giving
In the Berkshires, when the earth falls quiet under winter snows, we look forward to the sun’s return and lengthening days, and look inward to reflect on the passing year.
As a community, we take comfort in the light of family, food and traditions of giving. We hope this helps you understand all we do to celebrate the Season of Light at Berkshire Waldorf School.
Looking forward to the Grades!
Come learn more about the next eight years of your child’s education at this special event, where we’ll discuss:
- Learning through imagination, curiosity and action in the Grades at Berkshire Waldorf School.
- Becoming a class community starting in First Grade.
- Helping your child transition from Kindergarten to Grades School.
Your participation at this in-person event includes visit to classes in progress and a saved seat at the BWS Thanksgiving Assembly (11am-12pm), for an inspiring survey of what Grades 1-8 have been learning during Fall term.
We look forward to celebrating this special moment with you!
Meet Our First Grade Teacher
Welcome Class of 2030
Berkshire Waldorf School is pleased to announce Andrew Gilligan as First Grade Class teacher for the 2022-23 school year.
About Mr. Gilligan
An experienced Waldorf educator, Mr. Gilligan has taught students across Elementary and Middle School grades as well as Early Childhood for the past fifteen years. He is currently the second grade class teacher at the Seattle Waldorf School. Mr. Gilligan previously worked at Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond, RI, where he taught students from First Grade to Middle School. At Meadowbrook, he was a member of the Board of Trustees and the Core Teachers, acting as a leader of fiscal and pedagogical decision-making for the school.
Mr. Gilligan completed his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont. He earned his Elementary Education Certificate, Waldorf Education Certificate, and Masters of Education from Antioch University New England.
Meet Mr. Gilligan
Families whose children will be six by September 1, 2022 and interested community members are invited to meet Mr. Gilligan, with First Grade subject teachers, at our Meet the First Grade Teachers event. The meeting will be held over Zoom Saturday, January 29 at 10:30 a.m. To join this live, free, virtual event, create your account in our family portal, and select this event. To learn more, contact Admissions Director Robyn Coe at email@example.com.
At Berkshire Waldorf School, students start with their Class Teacher in First Grade and move through the Elementary and Middle School curriculum with their class, to build strong, long-term relationships.
Berkshire Waldorf School is now accepting applications for the Class of 2030. The new family application deadline for Fall 2022 is February 1. Visit our How to Apply page to register in the parent portal, create an inquiry, register for events and access the First Grade application. (Current BWS students who will be 6 by September 1 are automatically pre-enrolled for First Grade in the Fall.)
Berkshire Waldorf School is one of over 1,000 international Waldorf schools, part of the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world. The school welcomes students from all backgrounds, and offers generous financial aid for students based on need. Happy 50th anniversary, BWS!
Holiday Fair Time!
There’s no place like home for the holidays, and the same goes for Berkshire holiday gifts. Our Holiday Handcraft Fair Auction offers the best of the Berkshires – local gifts, get-away packages, treats, warm and cozy wraps, toys and handcrafts, all local and ready for the holidays!
Starting November 26, and running through December 12 at 9pm, click on the link below to register, place your bids for your favorite items, and check back often, as we’ll drop new surprises throughout the auction.
The best part? Berkshire holiday gifts mean no supply chain delays or shipping. So join the fun at the Holiday Handcraft Fair Auction, good for the environment and good for our local community. Click the button below to explore! We’ve brought the best of the Berkshires to you.
All gifts ready for pickup in time for giving. Happy Holidays!
Now our minds are one.
For the first time in many months, our community gathered this week to give thanks, for the earth and the Muhhekunneuw (Muh-he-con-ok) elders and land keepers who have lived in balance and unity for 10,000 years on the sacred land on which we learn together.
Now called the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, the first nations people of our region are alive and well in Wisconsin, and are returning to their homeland. We strive to live in relationship, respect and shared values with their community. To do that, we open our hearts and turn our minds toward listening.
At the assembly, each of the grades classes shared a little of what they have been learning during Fall term. Waldorf teachers bring all they teach to the children through story. When BWS adapted Waldorf education for COVID times, much of our learning went outside. Starting in November, when temperatures dip below freezing, we light a fire every morning for outside classes. Hearing stories around the fire is ancient learning technology, both essentially human and unforgettable.
Second grade has been learning stories from the Muh-he-con-ne-ok (Mohican, now known as the Stockbridge-Munsee community) and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Our teachers feel strongly that Berkshire Waldorf students should learn the stories native to this land, before extending out to stories of cultures across the world, putting these stories at the center of the here and now.
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address
Third grade has also been learning from the Haudenosaunee. At the assembly, they recited a portion of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address.
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one, as we give our greetings and our thanks to one another as people.
It’s important to know that the Haudenosaunee thanksgiving is not a once-a-year event. Just as the Haudenosaunee do, Waldorf students and teachers begin their days with a blessing, preparing to work together and do their best, and building collective strength in this way.
Many of the grades hung turkey feathers in the apple trees in the big backyard – each feather a blessing of gratitude. These are ways to begin to reclaim the meaning of Thanksgiving. Seventh grade smudged with sage around their fire, to purify seeing, hearing, speaking, hearts and minds. These actions are the beginning of reframing Thanksgiving in our diverse community.
We are Grateful
So you might be wondering, What do I tell my children about Thanksgiving?
To reiterate from our blog post last year, start with learning together about Thanksgiving and ways to practice gratitude from Indian writers and storytellers. Learn about food sovereignty, and consider adding diversity to your celebration with a dish that includes rich indigenous flavors like corn, beans and squash. More learning resources are listed below.
As adults, learn that not everyone is feasting and celebrating; indigenous people, especially in New England – especially in Massachusetts – are fasting, and meeting at Plymouth Rock to hold this day as a National Day of Mourning.
While it’s important that parents know and acknowledge the truth of history, fourth grade teacher Victoria Cartier points out that you will want to tune what you say to your child’s age and development.
For example, with early childhood students, the focus is on making food and saying a blessing for all the good gifts of the earth.
“And I would add, give gratitude to nature,” Pumpkin Patch Kindergarten teacher and Pedagogical Lead Christianna Riley suggests. “Take walks in nature, be in wonder together and admire its beauty. Young children are so good at finding ordinary rocks or sticks as beautiful and special treasures. We can learn from them.”
With third graders, Ms. Cartier says she would emphasize generosity, working together for the good of all, and gratitude. In eighth grade, children are ready for and seek the truth, and that’s a time to share more details. In high school, students will want to act for justice.
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address:
Learn more about the true story of Thanksgiving:
Visit Berkshire Museum (through 1/9/22) to learn more about the past, present and future of the Mohican Nation:
What you can do now to promote healing: