Sharing the Solar Eclipse with Young Children

Sharing the solar eclipse with young children offers a rare opportunity to help your child learn that they can stay safe and grounded, even when something extraordinary happens.

Learning Through the Senses

For the young child, every day is a celebration.

Young children experience the world through their senses. They feel the light and warmth of the sun through their bodies. They marvel at the sun’s power to wake up plants and birds, chase the clouds away and peel off our winter coats.

Celebrate the Good

In Early Childhood classes at Berkshire Waldorf School, we celebrate all that’s good in the world: the beautiful light of the sunrise, food prepared with so much care, the children’s community of loving family, the safe embrace of Mother Nature, and so much more.

Instead of Explaining…

In our modern world, we focus on the scientific, material aspect of things. We tend to understand phenomena like a solar eclipse through intellectualized explanations. However, giving children rational explanations prematurely can contribute to confusion, anxiety and hypervigilance. It pulls little ones out of the developmental space where the world makes sense to them because they can experience it with their senses. The sages of old knew to meet events like this with the same wonder and reverence as other cosmic events.

Waldorf Education founder Rudolf Steiner writes about how children’s feelings during such moments are the same as what we could call “religious feelings” in an adult.

Focus on Experience

So instead of looking up during the time of the eclipse, how about we look down?

I invite you to tap into your inner quiet during the time of the eclipse, and observe your children and nature. How does the light and the mood change? Look for shadows and light. How are your pets behaving? And what about the other animals that might live in your backyard? The crows, the geese? Are the birds singing? Are the bees buzzing? How do the flowers and trees change? Is your child getting a bit clingy, or are they oblivious to what is happening in nature? Let the experience resonate without a verbal explanation.

Highlight with Gratitude

We can take this opportunity to give gratitude to the Sun and the Moon for sharing their light with us. How about planting some flowers for the bees, who are sometimes called “light workers”? Sunshine soup for dinner? Moon cakes (aka pizza or tortillas)? How about a candle for the moon and a candle for the sun, to give thanks for their life-giving light? These are just a few thoughts to fuel your imagination.

A solar eclipse is so much more than one celestial body passing in front of the other and blocking the light, it’s an opportunity to share the wonder of the world with our children.

by Star Room Toddler Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof

Happy Spring! Join our Coffee, Tea & Tour mornings Wednesdays @ 8:30a starting March 20.

Happy Spring! Coffee, Tea & Tour mornings continue Wednesday 4/10 @ 8:30a.

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 longest night and shortest day of the year, we celebrate the spirit of peace and joyful anticipation by 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 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, students 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. Each Week, students light one more candle in the Advent wreath, to balance the increasing darkness outside. The menorah stands next to the wreath, and students light it, along with the wreath candles, during Hanukkah.

The weeks of “Waldorf Advent” honor 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 and people (some hand sculpted by students out of beeswax). Early childhood students celebrate these festivals in their classrooms. 

Waldorf Verse for Advent

The first light of Advent is the light of stones.

The light that shines in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants.

Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.

It shines in the greatest, it shines in the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.

The light of love, the light of thought, to give and understand.

Celebrating Together

BWS families are invited to gather in the auditorium on Winter Solstice, Thursday, December 21 at 11:00 am, 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. 

Happy Holidays!

Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention….Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies that magnify life.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, from Braiding Sweetgrass

Snow and stars from Ms. Alessandra’s First Grade chalkboard.

In-School Festivities for the Season of Light

Wednesday, December 6, 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). They 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.

Wednesday, December 13, Santa Lucia Day In our school, Santa Lucia Day and the visit from Nicholas come out of the Second Grade curriculum of “Golden Hearts,” people who devote their lives to their values. We follow in the tradition of a day widely celebrated in Sweden on the feast day of the “Queen of Light,” an historical figure 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 20, 3:00 and 7:00 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 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, based on indications by Waldorf Education founder Rudolf Steiner, 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 inward to reflect on the passing year, and look forward to the sun’s return and lengthening days.

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. What a joy to celebrate together!

One joy of the season – Middle School students cross country skiing during recess.

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.

Join us! May Day @ BWS

Berkshire Waldorf School May Day Celebration MONDAY May 1at 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.

May crowns ready to go in the Pumpkin Patch Farm & Forest Kindergarten.

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 admissions@berkshirewaldorfschool.org

Happy Spring!

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