HWS Blog

Read and learn about the events and projects at our school, and the experiences of our staff, families, and students.

Creating Rhythm in your Child’s Life, July 2018

We live in a world of rhythm. Most days we wake up at a set time, go to the same coffee place before work and eat lunch around noon. Each week we take out the garbage on garbage day and do the laundry or grocery shopping on the same days. When winter comes, we put snow tires on our car and plant flowers in the garden in the summer. Whether we realize it or not, we take comfort in this gentle flow of life. A predictable rhythm is especially comforting to our children, as it provides them with the ease and security of knowing what comes next.

A rhythm is like a sequence of activities and tasks combined together in a balanced flow. It allows for flexibility and is not as rigid as a schedule. Children have a hard time remembering what we tell them but their body memory is strong. They will not remember that their naptime is 1:00, but if every day they have lunch, then a story before settling down for a rest, their bodies will relax into the rhythm and they will just know it’s naptime.

In a Waldorf early childhood programs, teachers establish strong daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms in the classroom. Children experience times of “breathing in” and “breathing out”, meaning that there are times when the child is encouraged to participate in a structured activity such as preparing lunch or listening to a story before being encouraged to then have unstructured playtime. This allows for a balance between quiet inner focused activities and more high-spirited outer focused ones. The day unfolds in a natural way, following a dependable rhythm and the children learn to move through the transitions of the day with ease.

Creating a family rhythm with a similar philosophy can be a wonderful way to simplify activities at home. Base your rhythm on anchor points such as wake up, nap, bed and meal times and scheduled activities such as school and work. This provides for both the calm and comfort that come with predictability and the creativity and fun that come with flexibility.


The Importance of Handwork in the Waldorf Curriculum, June 2018

Our students spend a lot of time making things with their hands, such as knitting, felting, painting, sculpting, and woodworking. In Waldorf education, handwork is integrated into the curriculum through the grades and increases in complexity with the children’s advancing skills. For example, the grade one class knits a case for their recorder as they begin to learn to play the instrument and our grade 8 class is taught how to use a sewing machine at the same time they learn about the Industrial Revolution.

“Through beauty, colour, and form, handwork and crafts help to lead the children from play to imaginative thinking as adults,” wrote long-time Waldorf handwork teacher, Patricia Livingston almost 20 years ago in the article, ‘The Importance of Handwork in the Waldorf School.’ Patricia added, “These imaginative, creative thinkers can go into any profession or any area of work with new, creative ideas – ideas that will be urgently needed as we meet the twenty-first century.”

The importance of embracing creativity in education to successfully face the challenges of our every changing world has been discussed throughout the years by noted psychologists and educators such as Sir Ken Robinson. In it’s recent report, “The Future of Jobs,” The World Economic Forum ranked creativity as one of the top 3 job skills needed in 2020, up from number 10 in 2015.

Handwork not only encourages creativity in children but also offers many other benefits. Specifically, it provides the opportunity for children to learn “real world”, practical skills. Children learn how to respect and care for the necessary tools, and how to use them to create the designs they envision, which also promotes capacities for thinking and problem solving.

In particular, learning to knit helps children master a fine motor skill known as “crossing the midline”. This is an important developmental skill that connects the right and left brains and it is required for overall coordination and everyday tasks such as writing, putting on socks or hitting a ball with a bat.

The lessons of focus, concentration and patience are taught through handwork as the children work through the task of transforming the given raw materials. During a handwork class, students learn to manage a balance between socializing and working, a skill that is important to self management.

Handwork builds self confidence in a students’ ability to learn and to apply new skills. This self esteem boost can be valuable for a child who may not be succeeding in other areas of the curriculum. As crafting is something that can be done both in and out of the classroom, it can also be a positive distraction for a child who’s going through tough times to stay positive through rough patches.

One of the most rewarding benefits, (from the children’s point of view!), is the resulting creation – a beautiful painting, knitted scarf, or wooden spoon.


The Transition to Grade One, May 2018

At Halton Waldorf School, we have a unique school community that many call family. The Waldorf curriculum is about more than acquiring knowledge. We do not rush through childhood by academic expectations that exceed their developmental stages. Instead, our teachers cultivate a lifelong love of learning by addressing multiple learning styles and incorporating principles of emotional intelligence.

The Waldorf approach recognizes that a developmental appropriate kind of learning is taking place in Kindergarten through free play, socialization and movement. Kindergarten children are given time to know their physical body, the world around them and to develop socially.  When children enter Grade 1 at age six (as of September 1 of the school year) they are prepared both physically and emotionally for focused academic learning.

Grade 1 is an exciting year full of new experiences and learning.  The first school year assembly at our school begins with a Welcome Ceremony.  During the ceremony, the grade 1 class is warmly welcomed into the grade school community as each grade 8 student presents a flower to a grade 1 student.  The pair become “buddies” and have a special relationship that lasts the whole year.

In kindergarten the children learned through play, mostly in movement. In grade 1, the Class Teacher begins each day with a Main Lesson, a two hour period exploring a specific theme related to science, math or English. The teacher will lead the students on an in-depth exploration for a three or four week block, enlivening the academics with a range of artistic and hands-on activities. There are no text books. Children create their own Main Lesson Book as a way of taking ownership of the material they have learned. To broaden children’s knowledge, the main lesson concepts are repeated in different ways by Subject Teachers during their weekly lessons in art, handwork, French and Germen.

In Grade 1 the teacher draws the form of each letter on the chalkboard, connecting it to an image from a story.  For example, a tale about the Mighty Mountain, a portrait of the letter M emerges.  The children draw the letters in their main lesson book.  The relationship of the image to the letter sound forms the child’s basis for the decoding process and the introducing to reading.

The entire academic program, is purposely integrated with art, movement and music. These rich curricular experiences enhance the schoolwork, ensuring that the students are always engaged in these essential ways:  actively, emotionally and thoughtfully. This comprehensive, three-dimensional focus helps to develop the mastery of skills and the essential capacities that children need for their future in school, as well as for success and fulfillment in life.


 What is Eurythmy? April 2018

Eurythmy refers to an art of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. It is an expressive art form, also called visible song and visible speech. The word Eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning “beautiful” or harmonious rhythm”. The aim of Eurythmy is to bring the artists’ expressive movement and both the performers’ and audience’s feeling experience into harmony with a piece’s content. The performers speak and sing through movements and gestures that reveal to the eye what language and music bring to the ear. 

There are more than 250 eurythmy gestures to express the phonetic sounds of speech, the tones and rhythms of music and to express soul moods such as joy or sadness. These gestures are woven together into choreography. The choreography may be based on geometrical patterns, on forms that are the expression of grammar in speech, or the pitch of the music. Eurythmy is performed to classical music, texts, poetry or stories. Watching eurythmy choreography is a little like watching synchronized swimming in the patterns that are formed. The costumes worn by performers are simple silk dresses and silk veils. The veils, when used skillfully, will make the life force of the movement visible and add feeling nuances to the gestures.

Steiner claimed that the complex language of eurythmic movement would develop all three types of intelligence; intellectual, emotional as well as kinaesthetic. At the time, maverick scientists envisioned links between thinking and movement, but today many studies have been carried out to confirm a strong connection between movement and improved cognition. Studies demonstrate that movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to (1) strengthen learning, (2) improve memory and retrieval, and (3) enhance learner motivation and morale.

To move harmoniously with a group is also a concrete practice in healthy social interaction. Many who have experienced this movement have commented that the soul is moved in eurythmy along with the physical body and that they have a greater ability to engage with others harmoniously because of their eurythmy experience.


The Waldorf School Postcard Exchange – A Worldwide Collaboration

Halton Waldorf School is participating in a worldwide postcard exchange initiative to both broaden the global perspective of students and kick-off the 100 year celebration of Waldorf Education planned for 2019. 

Throughout the current year, students in 1,100 Waldorf schools from more than 80 countries will send a postcard to every other Waldorf school in the world. Each postcard is being individually designed by a young person, telling or showing something of his or her country, school, or self.

This innovative global project will connect hundreds of thousands of students to one another through individualized and artistically designed postcards, which will then be arranged, by each school, into a display. Our school is proud to be a part of this million-fold Waldorf greeting from around the globe!

We recently received a wonderful email from Ms. Sophie McCook, class 1 and 2 Teacher at Drumduan School in Scotland after her class received a postcard sent by our school. Her class was excited to receive a postcard that one of our grade 2 students designed and wanted to share some information and pictures of their school with us.

Drumduan School is set in a spacious woodland campus, with magnificent views overlooking Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth, Drumduan School offers Steiner Waldorf education, from Parent and Toddler sessions, through Kindergarten and Middle School, to the Upper School, which students complete at 18 years old.

The grade 1/2 class has 14 students who love playing outdoors and participating in activities such as candle dipping.

Ms. McCook and her class wish us “an interesting and learning filled year!”


 Most Important Skills for Success at Google, February 2018

Google recently completed an analysis of the most important qualities of their top employees based on 15 years worth of hiring, firing and promotion data. Considering their ongoing hiring practices throughout this timeframe were to recruit computer science students with top grades from elite science universities, they were prepared for results that supported STEM expertise (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) as the most successful trait.

Researchers were surprised to find that the top characteristics of success at Google were all soft skills: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others, having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues, being a good critical thinker and problem solver and being able to make connections across complex ideas. STEM expertise came in dead last.

These results prompted Google to enlarge their previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists and even MBAs, concluding that these foundation skills are not narrow occupation-specific skills but instead are broad skills related to the ability to work with others, think critically and be a lifelong learner.

Read the whole article from Michiganfuture.org:  “Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills.”


 

Grade 6 Geometry Calendar Project, January 2018

One of the highlights of the Grade 6 curriculum is the Geometry Calendar Project where students learn about starting a small business to raise funds for class trips and activities. The class connected artistic elements with precision mathematics to create beautiful geometric images for the calendar. The project began in the Fall as Mr. Makin taught the class the mechanics of drawing instruments such as the straightedge and compass. The children used these instruments to learn the challenging six part division of the circle and applied these skills to create the various geometric patterns.

As their individual work on the calendar was complete, Mr. Makin introduced the class to the topic of business math. The students gained an understanding of business terms such as production costs, unit costs, inflation, investment, profits, taxes and interest. The class discussed how much it cost to print the calendar, how much they should sell the calendar for and the resulting profit. The students applied their business study with the experience of selling the calendars at our school Christmas Fair. The grade 6 Geometry Calendar project is a wonderful example of how Waldorf education supports a truly integrated, experiential approach to teaching children.

There are a few remaining calendars for sale at our school store, Tomten’s!


Time Online and its Effects on Teen Mental Health, December 2017

A new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science found that between 2010 and 2015 the number of U.S. teens who experienced depression increased by 33%, teen suicide attempts increased 23% and suicide among teens rose 31%. An analysis of the environment during this time period concluded that academic pressure and economic factors remained steady and were most likely not the cause of the increase in these teen issues. They did however find that by 2015, 73% of teens had access to a smartphone. Further research uncovered that suicide risk factors (depression, thinking about/planning suicide, suicide attempt) rose significantly after two or more hours a day online.

Why does this happen? Even if time online doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online decreases time spent on other activities. Interacting with people face to face is one of the greatest sources of human happiness and without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Studies have found that teens who spend more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were more likely to be depressed. As well, teens who spend more time on their phones are also more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Inadequate sleep is also a major risk factor for depression.

Some might say that given that the research isn’t completely definitive, it’s too soon to recommend less screen time. But given the possible consequences of depression and suicide, limiting screen time seems like a logical and simple way for our teens to maintain good mental health.

Read the whole article from the conversation.com: “With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit.”


Burlington Green Youth Eco Summit, November 2017

Did you know that we divert over 90% of our school’s waste by recycling and composting? This means A LOT less garbage going into our landfills. Our school waste management program led by Ms. Thorton is organized by a team of student volunteers from grades 5-8 called the Waste Warriors. The Waste Warriors:

  • supervise our waste station
  • manage waste at school events
  • care for our red wiggler worms in our vermicomposters
  • speak with classes about green initiatives
  • help prepare for our annual Community Earth Day clean ups
  • attend Eco Youth Conferences

Four members of the Waste Warriors attended the recent Burlington Green Youth Eco Summit and wrote about their wonderful experience…


Grade 8 Marimba Performance at the Orchard Street Festival, October 2017

As part of their study last year on Africa, our grade 8 students learned how to play an instrument called the marimba. The marimba was developed in Zimbabwe and is a traditional instrument whose name means, song made by hitting planks. Students entertained the festival crowd playing two beautiful songs on the marimbas.

In a unique approach to teaching academic work, the class teacher begins each day with the Main Lesson, a two-hour period exploring a specific theme related to science, math, English, geography or history. Whether the topic is algebra or Africa, the teacher will lead the students on an in-depth exploration for a three or four week block, enlivening the academics with a range of artistic and hands-on activities. This integrative approach allows the teacher to thoroughly engage the students, encouraging reflection and consolidation of new material.


Grade 1 Handwork Project, September 2017

The grade one children had help from their grade eight buddies as they began their first handwork project. In grade one, children learn how to knit. Handwork and crafts have been taught in all the grades since the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919. Recent studies have found that using the hands opens up neurological pathways that would otherwise atrophy.

Our students spend a lot of time making things with their hands, such as knitting, felting, painting, and sculpting. Learning to knit takes concentration and builds confidence. It also develops fine motor skills, effortlessly builds counting skills, and then there’s the lesson of perseverance. Not to mention, at the finish, your child is the proud owner of handmade scarves, socks, and hats.


Grade 7 Chemistry, November 2016

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Before she was our faculty chair, Lylli Anthon was a class teacher at the school. Several times throughout the school year, she looks forward to getting back into the classrooms to do science experiments with the students.

She recently did an experiment with the grade seven class in their chemistry block….


Grade one pumpkin carving, October 2016

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The grade one children had help from their grade eight buddies to carve some beautiful pumpkins. See more pictures here.


Welcome Picnic September 2016
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Every September our families and faculty enjoy a Welcome Picnic early in the school year. Read on for more details about this beautiful event in Lowville.


Rose Ceremony June 2016

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Wednesday, June 15 was our last day of the school year and it included the annual rose ceremony where our grade one children say farewell to their grade eight buddies and wish them well in high school. The official graduation was several days earlier.  Following the gift of individual roses on this last day, our music teacher, Greg Csefko, gave a lovely tribute to the grade eights as we all  gathered together for one last time with them. Read on for Greg’s speech…


Grade 8 trip to Camp Wenonah, June 2016

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Blue skies, nothing but blue skies is what the Grade 8 class, Greg Csefko and I had at Camp Wenonah last week. This was the last field trip to celebrate all the hard work and many accomplishments which have led to the amazing growth of our students. Read more about parent Patti Zettel’s experience on this field trip….


Grade 5 Greek Olympiad

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Our grade five students recently performed a Greek play and today, May 26, they departed for the Greek Olympiad event in New York State. These beautiful costumes…..


 Earth Day 2016

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Off through the woods behind the school, looking for litter to clear.

On Earth Day, students in grades one to eight took part in the Burlington Green’s “Clean Up Green Up” by collecting litter at the school and around our neighbourhood. Our City of Burlington councillor, Paul Sharman, dropped by to help too! For eight years, HWS has been an active participant….


Grade 8 Projects, Spring 2016

Last week was a special one for our grade eight students as they presented what is known here as The Grade 8 Project. After selecting their individual project’s focus at the end of grade seven, each student devotes considerable time to the work, most of which is not done at school.

This part of our curriculum serves to support….


 Sock Workshop for Parents
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The flyer posted in the front foyer of the school read, “Join us for cozy afternoons curled up on the couch and knit socks!“  So, that is what a group of us did – on Monday afternoons in Miss Judi’s wonderful room at the Halton Waldorf School. Read more about the parents who learned how to knit socks!


 Hamilton Steam Museum Trip

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On February 23 Miss Hill’s Grade 8 class learned about life in Hamilton from our excellent tour guide, Janet. She invited students up to participate in a demo that showed how water was pumped into Hamilton from 1859-1910.  Students also learned about the 1910 Immigration Act with a hands-on activity involving original artifacts. Read more about this trip from the perspective of a grade eight parent….


 Grade 6 Play

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On February 22 and 23, our grade 6 class performed “Six Friends Travel the World”. They kept the audience in stitches throughout their performances….


 Annual Basketball Tournament 2016

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On January 29 and 30, 2016, our grade 7 and 8 classes attended the annual basketball tournament hosted by Toronto Waldorf School in Thornhill. The students arrived on Friday afternoon and once they were settled in, played a couple of basketball games, and ate a delicious dinner, they attended a dance for participants of the tournament. Perhaps only at this dance would you see ‘YMCA’ by the Village People performed in eurythmy style! Even our very own Mr. Csefko tore it up on the dance floor with the students…without embarrassing anyone! Read more about the tournament….


Volunteering at Hamilton’s Good Shepherd Centre

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Volunteer and charitable endeavours are particularly important for eighth graders as their awareness of the world expands ever wider. On January 22nd, 2016, Miss Hill’s grade 8 class along with two parent volunteers, Patti and John, worked at the Good Shepherd Centre in Hamilton. Read about the students’ perspectives from this experience…


Parent Festival 2015

Our annual Parent Festival held on December 2nd, 2015 was a great performance by grades one to eight and our bands as well. Our parent volunteer photographer took some great pictures…..
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 Grade 4 students visit Crawford Lake

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As an important part of our school’s hands-on approach to learning, field trips provide real-life experience that bring lessons and our curriculum to life. Read about this field trip…


 Grade 8 Canoe Trip to Temagami, 2015Halton Class

At 6:30 a.m. on September 22, 2015, fourteen very excited grade eight students and one slightly anxious yet enthusiastic class teacher boarded a charter bus at the Halton Waldorf School. We were more than ready for the six hour trip north to Temagami as we had been anticipating this seven day canoe trip for the last couple of years. One of the highlights of the grade eight year is an outdoor wilderness adventure. Read more about this incredible trip….

 

 

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