Red Rose Ceremony at Boulder Valley Waldorf. The first day of school is a rite of passage for the new first graders, marking the beginning of their journey through grade school. Each first grader receives a rose presented by the eighth-grade students, who welcome the young ones in to the “big” school.
Middle school students fare better when they are the “top dogs”
When schools have a longer grade span (such as with BVWS’s pk-8th grade school), and middle school students can experience being the eldest, both their academic achievement and their overall learning environment are positively impacted in comparison to middle school students in lesser grade spans (such as a 6-8 middle school) where they restart as the youngest grade (or “bottom dogs”).
Schwartz, A. E., Stiefel, L., & Rothbart, M. W. (2016). Do Top Dogs Rule in Middle School? Evidence on Bullying, Safety, and Belonging. American Educational Research Journal, 53(5), 1450–1484. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831216657177
“We must be guardians of spaces that allow students to breathe, be curious, and to explore.”
—Brené Brown, PhD LMSW and Research Professor at the University of Houston
Brené Brown speaks to the importance of a student-teacher relationship and classroom climate that invites in vulnerability, and by doing so, creates courageous classrooms where innovation, creativity, and learning will thrive. A key aspect of Waldorf Education is the ongoing self-education and self-development of the teacher as a learning, growing human being. It is through ongoing striving in this way that the teacher learns to set themselves aside and be “present”, listening with the heart to what the children themselves are bringing and to what they need. As trusted and respected role models, Waldorf teachers work together with their students to create a safe, predictable, and inclusive learning environment.
At Boulder Valley Waldorf, we view the role of the class teacher as extremely important in providing continuity and integration across subject areas and grades, and as a constant guiding presence in the students’ social and character development.
Students Socializing at Lunch. At Boulder Valley Waldorf, digital technology is not used for teaching, as we believe children learn best through direct interaction with one another as well as with teachers in exploring the world of ideas, participating in the creative process, and developing their knowledge, skills, abilities, and inner qualities. Technology as a tool begins in the Waldorf 9th grade curriculum. School policies also promote human interaction and relationships, such as declaring the campus a “no cellphone zone” for students, parents, faculty, and staff alike.
There is a reason why top Silicon Valley executives are saying “no” to the smartphone until at least age 14 for their children.
Let kids be kids a little longer. The Wait Until 8th movement empowers parents to say yes to waiting for the smartphone. Why wait?
SMARTPHONES ARE: changing childhood • are addictive • are an academic distraction • impair sleep • interfere with relationships • increase the risk for anxiety and depression • put your child at risk for cyber bullying • expose children to sexual content • Excessive use is altering children’s brains • Technology executives ban smartphones for their children •
Wait Until 8th. (n.d.). Why wait? Retrieved from https://www.waituntil8th.org/why-wait
Children’s academic achievement improves when they feel safe, supported, and have well-developed abilities for managing stress.
The Whole Child Report outlines key lessons discovered through research in the sciences of learning and development:
- The brain and development are malleable.
- Variability in human development is the norm, not the exception.
- Human relationships are the essential ingredient that catalyzes healthy development and learning.
- Adversity affects learning—and the way schools respond matters.
- Learning is social, emotional, and academic.
- Children actively construct knowledge based on their experiences, relationships, and social contexts.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Cook-Harvey, C. M. (2018). Educating the whole child: Improving school climate to support student success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/educating-whole-child-report
Waldorf schools are known for their welcoming and inclusive environment.
At Boulder Valley Waldorf, teachers are trained to recognize the unique individual and encourage each student to realize their full potential. We provide an education that is developmentally appropriate, based on an understanding of the stages of a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development.
Small class sizes and a class teacher that stays with the same group of students as they move through the grades foster strong personal connections, enabling students to feel safe and supported as they learn. Class teachers greet each student daily with a handshake at the door.
Learning at a Waldorf school happens in context. Subjects are taught in thematic units, utilizing both analysis and synthesis (whole-to-parts and parts-to-whole), which encourages flexibility of thinking. We are committed to teaching with the understanding that all subjects are interconnected and see the curriculum as a meaningful whole. By fusing artistic and academic instruction, we promote more complete learning, thorough retention and engender a deep love in the students for their subjects. Many Waldorf graduates have described their education as “learning to learn”, which has given them the confidence to dive into any situation and know they can navigate and problem-solve in the face of uncertainty and complexity.
The world of tomorrow needs people who know how to learn effectively in the moment and problem-solve with a transdisciplinary mindset.
How will emerging technologies transform our lives and how we work over the next decade?
“Workers in the gig economy will self-direct their wage. They’ll increase their salary by taking on jobs in which they can learn. People are learning as they go and considering new avenues for their career in the process. This will have wide-ranging implications—on work and educational establishments.” –Eri Gentry, Institute for the Future
Jeffrey J Evans, Ph.D. also emphasizes the importance of life-long learning as a key characteristic for jobs of the future. Evans suggests the extent that relevance and timeliness can be successfully applied to solve complex, real-world problems depends on the extent to which the problem can be viewed through a transdisciplinary lens. How well can one integrate knowledge from all disciplines into a meaningful whole?
Institute for the Future. (2017). The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships. The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships. Retrieved from http://www.iftf.org/fileadmin/user_upload/downloads/th/SR1940_IFTFforDellTechnologies_Human-Machine_070717_readerhigh-res.pdf
Evans, J. (2014). Retrieved from https://polytechnic.purdue.edu/blog/what-transdisciplinarity
A meaningful life transcends the self and the present moment. It is the pursuit of meaning, not happiness, that provides improved health, lifelong satisfaction and resiliency in hardship.
Humans are not unique in their pursuit of happiness, as this pursuit happens across many organisms in the natural world, but we are undeniably unique in our ability to pursue meaning. Meaning connects us to others and enables our survival in the most dire of situations.
“The benefits of purpose in adults are well-documented in medical and academic research: better sleep, longer life, greater happiness, faster healing, and lower rate of serious problems like strokes and cardiovascular disease. The benefits for teens are similar but include an important bonus: better stress management. Purpose is becoming a critical life skill because it helps youth navigate the uncertainty of our fast-changing, technology-rich time.”
—Ross Wehner, founder of World Leadership School in Boulder, Colorado, and TeachUNITED
Wehner, R. (2018). A New Focus on Purpose-Based Learning. Retrieved from https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/spring-2018/igniting-the-spark/.
Smith, E. E. (2013, January 9). There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/.
A core belief of Waldorf education is that learning be infused with meaning and purpose. We see ourselves as participating in a purposeful world infused with meaning. We see all humans – children and adults – as infused with purpose and meaning.