PIE! Parent Info Events START 11/29

You’re invited for some special PIE (parent info events, aka parent education), on the menu at BWS between Thanksgiving & Holiday Break! We are grateful to be together, in the spirit of learning and community. Bon apetit!

Waldorf 101: How, When & Why Waldorf Education Works

Wednesday, Nov. 29 | 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Join experienced Berkshire Waldorf School teachers Alessandra Profumo and Lynn Arches for an inspiring overview of how, when and why Waldorf teachers bring the “3 Rs” to students in ways that create lasting learning and meaning, not just rote memorization.

Free; all welcome. We will meet in person in the school library. Bring your questions! Bring a friend! Adults only, please. 

*PRO TIP: For real insight, we invite you to experience the school in action at our “Coffee, Tea and Tour” the same morning, WED 11/29, or the following week, WED 12/6, starting in the Library (Grades School building), from 8:30-9:30 a.m. For more info or to register, email Admissions Director Robyn Coe at admissions@berkshirewaldorfschool.org.

Since You Asked: Why We Do What We Do

Friday, Dec. 1 | 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Join veteran teacher and Berkshire Waldorf School Council of Teachers Chairperson Krista Palmer for a conversation about how BWS teachers meet the whole child, according to Rudolf Steiner’s indications on child development.

Mrs. Palmer will give an overview and answer your questions about the incarnating child from birth through adolescence, continuing her primer (begun at our “Looking Forward to the Grades” meeting in November) around the “Whys” of Waldorf Education and the philosophical understanding BWS teachers work from. Don’t miss this!

Winter Tips & Tools for Prevention and Wellness 

Monday, Dec. 4 | 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Join licensed acupuncturist, Berkshire Waldorf School alum and Board member Emily Kasten to learn basic acupressure, Chinese medical massage techniques, plus simple herbal and kitchen remedies for immune support, wellness and recovery.

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.

Eighth and Twelfth Graders welcome First Graders in the Opening Day Rose Ceremony. On the last day of school, rising Second Graders will give roses to the Twelfth and Eighth Graders, to wish them well on their next journey.

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!

Fifth Grade at Recess. Kickball is big here!

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.

The transition from Kindergarten to First Grade is crossing a bridge, a critical passage as students’ energy slows down and they are able to learn internally, become aware of their feelings and access a deeper ability to produce, express and generate their internal thoughts and memories, without relying on sensory reminders.

-First Grade Teacher Victoria Cartier

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. 

First day of school outside in the Star Room play yard. Yay!

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.

Looking forward to the Grades!

Learning in first grade with color, action, imagination.

Come learn more about the next eight years of your child’s education at this special event, where we’ll discuss:

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!

Happy Ramadan!

Puppets made by BWS Teacher Christianna Riley tell the story of a family’s celebration of Ramadan.

“This Ramadan story was written by a parent in my class, Saadia Shaza. We collaborated and turned it into a puppet play that we performed for the kindergartens. I hope you enjoy this sweet and educational story about Ramadan.”
– Christianna Riley, Pumpkin Patch Teacher & Pedagogical Lead

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Halima, who lived with her family near the
edge of the forest. She was excited, since she knew that soon it would be the ninth month
of the lunar calendar, and Ramadan would begin.

On the night near the new moon, Halima went outside with her family to see if the
time had come. She wanted so much to see the sliver of moon that would begin this special
time!

After dinner, as the sun set, she and her family went outside to see if they could catch a
glimpse of the crescent. Halima went into the dark night with her family. They carried
lanterns to light their path. They walked and walked until they got to a field. They brought
a blanket to spread out, and Halima’s Mama brought a thermos with warm tea to sip as
they waited and watched.

Halima realized she had forgotten her binoculars. She ran home to get her binoculars, and on the way back, in the dark night, Halima took a wrong turn and found herself in the
forest.

She asked herself, “Which way do I go?”

Then she heard a familiar sound.

Hooooo Hooooooooo Hooooooooooooo!

It was the sound of her friend Owl. She was so happy to see him! Owl swooped down to her.

“Halima, what are you doing here all alone?” asked the gray owl with huge round eyes and
silvery feathers.

“It is almost Ramadan!” said the girl. “Soon it will be time to fast.”

“What is Ramadan, and what is fasting?” asked Owl.

“Ramadan lasts one month. It is a time to reflect on ourselves, to be thankful and to help
others. Fasting happens during these special thirty days. During our fast, we eat and drink
only when it’s dark outside.”

“You don’t eat and drink all day?!” said Owl.

“Well, before the sun peeks out each day, we have a big meal. We fill our bellies with food
that will give us energy all day. When the sun disappears in the evening, we gather with
family and friends to break our fast with a feast!”

“That sounds so fun,” said Owl. “Can I come? What do you eat?”

“Every family has different foods that are part of their tradition, but everyone begins their
evening meal with a plump juicy date. In my family, we always make pakoras! Those are
delicious fried potatoes and vegetables with yummy spices!”

“But why do you fast?” asked Owl.

“We fast because we know there are many people who are less fortunate than us. We
appreciate how lucky we are, and we give thanks!”

“Halima, what else do you do during Ramadan?”

“We think about what is most important to us, and we spend time with family. We pray, we
lend a helping hand, and try to do other good deeds.”

“How do you know it is the end of Ramadan?”

“When the new crescent moon finally appears in the sky, it marks the end of Ramadan and
then we celebrate Eid! Eid is also called the Sweet Festival.”

“What happens then?”

“For the next three days we eat and pray, and we give each other gifts.”

“This all sounds like so much fun! Can I come and celebrate with you?”

“Of course you can! Gathering together in community is the best way to spend the month
of Ramadan. But first, I need to get to my family. Can you help?”

“Yes! Jump on my back, and I will take you to them.”

Halima and Owl soared up in the sky. It was a cloudy night, but they flew up so high they
made it above the clouds to a clear sky, and there they saw…

A beautiful, thin crescent moon.

“Ramadan Mubarak! Happy Ramadan!!!!” Halima exclaimed.

They swooped down and found her family and so many other families looking for the
moon. Halima announced, “We saw the moon! Tomorrow is Ramadan!”

Everyone celebrated and shouted “Ramadan Mubarak!” while hugging each other.
What a joyous time it would be.


– Saadia Shaza, Kindergarten Parent

Diversity & Inclusion in Kindergarten

Rainbow Room Kindergarten is celebrating Khmer New Year this week, singing a Khmer song and hearing a Khmer fairy tale in circle time. Did you know the third-largest Cambodian community in the world, after Cambodia and California, is in Massachusetts?

A New Friend

Teacher Charlotte Hoppe writes: ​”A ‘new student’ named Kim Huoy joined our class this week. We are treating her as a peer because it’s important that the children’s relationship to this Persona Doll feel real and personal. By encouraging their imaginations to grow in this way, we can work with the values of empathy, sympathy and feelings as a shared experience.

“This work is based on the concept of ‘windows and mirrors’ when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion education. We want our children to have the chance to see themselves mirrored, but we also provide opportunities to see into someone else’s life, and what it’s like to live or look differently than they do. This helps us celebrate both the ways we are the same and the ways we are different.

Rainbow Room’s “new student,” Kim Huoy, by teacher Charlotte Hoppe


“I introduced Kim Huoy (a doll that I made),” Ms. Charlotte continues, “And shared parts of her background story–not all of it, just little parts as they come up in conversation naturally. Here is the story as I created it for Kim Huoy:

“These details help build Kim Huoy’s personality,” Ms. Charlotte continues, “And help to inform how she might answer the children’s questions. Because I lived and taught in Cambodia, it’s easy for me to bring her story with true depth of understanding, authenticity and enthusiasm. Personal experience also helps to avoid stereotypes and assumptions.”

Story Circle with Kim Huoy

“Our first circle with Kim Huoy was a huge success,” Ms. Charlotte says. “The children were kind, welcoming, brave and had many great ideas. I was so proud of them! We will continue this work in circle time, and if we have a pattern of behavioral problems, or a social incident that causes someone to feel left out, teased, or embarrassed, I can bring out Kim Huoy to help the children work through their own emotions and find solutions as a team.” 

Khmer New Year in Massachusetts

Rainbow Room kindergartners will celebrate Khmer New Year in their circle starting on April 15th, with a special fruit feast. Families are also invited to connect to the local Cambodian community of Lowell, Mass during this festive time of year.  The celebration will include singing, dance and poetry.

Sour Sdey Chnam Thmey (Happy New Year)!

Lowell, Massachusetts is the third-largest Cambodian community in the world.


To learn more, Ms. Charlotte recommends these books for children:

Colors of Cambodia highlights one thing from Cambodia for each color of the rainbow. It’s is written in English and Khmer. Many children noticed how the Khmer symbols look like Hebrew symbols and they all loved the painting of the Khmer dancers and the monks. 
The Cambodian Dancer – Sophany’s Gift of Hope is about a young girl who was a dancer before the Khmer Rouge (“bad people”) came to Cambodia. This child-appropriate story tells how Sophany came to live in the United States, and how her gift of dance made her feel close to her culture, so she opened a school of dance for the Cambodian children in California. The story is told in a beautiful and artistic way, but highlights that there were people who didn’t know how to share, made lots of bossy rules that hurt peoples’ feelings, and forgot to act with love and kindness. Ms. Charlotte adds: “This story provides a great opportunity for talking about empathy. It helps to address some of the bigger problems of race and racial injustice in our culture today that many children in our class are aware of and trying to understand.”

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