Seventh Grade Rights of Passage, By Erika Danforth, Waldorf M.Ed. & Integrated Learning

May 31, 2008

One day on the playground, a Waldorf teacher was observing the movements of middle school children in comparison with their elementary school peers. “There was a distinct difference between the movement patterns in the youngsters after the fifth grade. Some of the sixth graders had suddenly shot up and were long-legged and lanky; they seemed to tip forward slightly from the waist up as they ran, and sometimes they stumbled. They had lost the grace of the younger children, and seemed to go abruptly from standing still to tearing around like mad, with no transition whatsoever.” (Koepke, 1992, p. 41) The changes occurring outwardly in the adolescents’ physical body mirror the transformation of their emotional body occurring within.

Historically, cultures recognized this transformation of adolescence as a significant rite of passage into adulthood. It was honored with ceremony and celebration. Today, while some indigenous cultures still maintain these initiation traditions, most children who grow up in Western society do not receive this type recognition for the transformation they are undergoing from the inside out. Some modern Western versions of initiation include adventure education and ropes course challenges that provide opportunities for social and emotional processing.

In the seventh grade at Waldorf schools, students study African culture. As part of their study, they learn about the tradition of initiation ceremonies for African boys and girls in different tribes, as boys prepare to be warriors and girls to be mothers and wives. One such initiation practice involved ‘trial by poetry.’

Seventh graders write their own initiation poems, following the powerful metaphoric format of the tribe. It allows the students to discover themselves through images and metaphors of the outer world. The format begins with the phrase, “Young Woman/Man you are:” and is followed by five metaphors. The short, well-defined format creates a canvas on which adolescents can express themselves. The writing is followed by a read-aloud, giving students the opportunity to share intimate insights with their peers into whom they are becoming. The following poems were written by Waldorf Teacher Trainees at Antioch in their study of seventh grade curriculum. Try it yourself…

Young man you are:

The warm tones lifting from a brass instrument

The spark of passion in a forest fire

A watchful owl over a field of workmice

A galloping steed on the desert of my life

An unspoken promise whispered into a lonely ear

By Aleshanee Aiken

Young woman you are:

A braid of joy, sorrow, and stardust;

A glass jewel held up to the sun;

Tears from a happy whale;

Crimson silk hidden beneath rough wool;

Laughter from a pocket of wind.

By Anna Scalera

Young woman you are:

A white lily about to open and blossom

The gentle breeze that calls everyone to play

The strong oak tree that gives shade to those who are weary

The harmony that makes the melody sound just right

A locked treasure box that is looking for the key

By Jen Davis

Young woman you are:

A ponderosa pine growing straighter and taller day by day,

An eagle flying high above the trees, able to see what is below her,

A wise wild iris who knows that it is best to grow in the sand and shade,

A mama grizzly bear that has the skill to defend her young from danger,

Young woman your strength is a mountain that can not be moved.

By Carrie Reuther

Young woman, you are:

A crop of lettuce gone right to seed

The mandala on the third day

The only boat on the river at dawn

An unmetered verse

And so many cups of coffee

By Greta Jee

Young woman you are:

A bud swelling in the spring

A ray of intuition dancing in the sunlight

A loom upon which the grandmothers weave

A cavernous womb, black as the night sky

The buffalo who faces the storm

By Erika Danforth


Gyotaku: Japanese for fish (gyo) and rubbing (taku)

February 27, 2008

Pronounced gee-oh-tah-ku, this is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing dating back to the mid 1800’s. Easy to do, kids love it, and the results are impressive. Using a dead fish, fresh or frozen flat, or better yet, a rubber fish model, apply a coat of paint on the fish, thoroughly coating it. Apply rice paper or any thin paper to the top of the fish and press firmly with your fingertips to coat the bottom side of the paper with paint. Each print will be unique, and worthy of framing!

Submitted by Sophie Barbier

1st Grade Pretzels by Hannah Putnam

February 27, 2008

Making pretzels with the first graders in my classroom was the perfect culminating event for their science unit on matter. As we mixed the ingredients together, we discussed which ones were solids, liquids or gasses. We made predictions about what changes might take place and were able to watch some states of matter change before our eyes as we cooked. Watching the yeast was the most exciting! For some students, making food themselves from scratch was a new experience, and one that everyone enjoyed. Because they were involved in the entire process of making the pretzels, they enthusiastically ate their creations. I sent the quick and easy recipe home with the students, and many of them reported making pretzels at home with their parents. This activity also bridges across disciplines. I was able to weave in language arts by teaching a lesson on how to write their own simple recipes, which suddenly had more meaning for the students since they had learned to read a recipe while making their pretzels.

In a big bowl mix together:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package yeast
1 teaspoon salt

Stir in 3 1/2 cups flour.
Knead on table until dough is smooth using another 1/2 cup of flour.
Shape dough and place on cookie sheet.
Brush with beaten egg. Lightly sprinkle with salt.
Bake in oven set at 425 for 15 minutes or until browned.

What Makes a School a Community? By Jan Lyndes

February 27, 2008

This is a question that I have pondered from many angles over my life. What is it that makes a school work together? What is it that makes a school a community? What is a community? I ask these questions not to answer them but as a starting point from which to reflect.

I would like to start with an activity which may help us see the variety of roles played in community. Place a group (school, community etc…) of people in a room, give them a simple cooperative activity to perform together with only a few rules: All the people in the room must come together, hold hands to form a circle. Once this circle is established share these few rules and goals with the participants:

1) In silence (no intentional verbal or nonverbal communication) start expanding and contracting the circle in unison; three steps in and three steps out, three steps in and three steps out. I will call this a pulse.

2) Once this pulse is established, start to form an (one) opposing pulse by somehow having every other person deviate their original pulse rhythm.

The group will probably have questions. Only a few are to be answered so not to give people too much time to think of a ‘strategy’ in their minds. This includes not letting them count how many people are in the circle.

Before you read on, take a moment and visualize this activity with a group of people you know. Let’s say your family. Now, close your eyes and see what your family does…

I will share the start of mine: My mother sat on the couch, because ‘playing games’ is for the kids. My father passively participated. As for my four older siblings: The oldest, my brother, jumped in ready to play. My oldest sister gave off a sigh, dismissing the activity and left the room. The next oldest sister, was in for the challenge: “It sounds fun and having run a business for 20 years, it should be easy enough.” The next to the youngest sister played because the others were, and of course I was there for it is my visualization.

I am not even to step one and I have lost two participants. Of the five remaining: two are passive, one is playfully engaged, one is engaged and ready to ‘make it work’ and I am still unaware of the role I am to play. My shared dynamic is a small group of people with a long history of family bonds, which are more sticky then the more professional connections we make in chosen professions, right? Or are they?

This ‘pulsing’ activity I outlined above is an example of the “Expansion and Contraction” Eurhythmy exercise experienced during an Antioch course entitled Waldorf School Administration which was held for two Saturdays in January 2007. Since that Saturday in January, I have continued to reflect on the questions of What is it that makes a school work together? What is it that makes a school a community? What is a community? I have reflected on the multi-faced roles I have played in various communities and the roles I see played by others, and I have come to one conclusion for myself: We are all part of community; it is not a choice. Our choices are whether we choose to participate and if we choose to be conscious of our role with in it.

It is my conclusion that any school can be a strong community if all members choose to consciously participate. It is our choice to pick the community where we can be true to our beliefs and that we can act consciously within.

Shining the Light on Poverty by Sally Newton

February 27, 2008

The second annual conference, Shining the Light on Poverty, may have been run on a shoe string, but the program was thought provoking and the presenters were powerful. The conference, sponsored by Antioch University of New England, the LOFT Foundation and The United Church of Christ in Keene, was held in Keene on March 23rd and 24th. There were a variety of presenters, from teachers and administrators speaking about how to address poverty through education, to students describing their experiences doing relief work in New Orleans.

On Friday night there were three keynote speakers. The first two, Paul Gorski and Felice Yeskel, spoke convincingly about the need to look at poverty as a problem caused by economic, social and political inequalities, rather than deficits in the people who are victims of these inequalities. To be effective in making significant progress towards the goal of eliminating poverty we must focus on changing these inequalities, instead of trying to change the people who are affected by them. Educators, and others who work with people living in poverty, need to continue to help individuals and groups with their immediate needs. We also need to become activists and advocate for changes in those aspects of our society that oppress the poor.

It was fitting, therefore, that the third speaker was an activist with many years of experience fighting for the rights of oppressed people. He was 87 year old Reverend Simmie Lee Harvey, resident of New Orleans, and a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He worked with Dr. King in the fight for social justice and civil rights for black people.

Reverend Harvey spoke of the need for health care, jobs with a living wage, affordable housing and equal opportunities for education. He said he was especially concerned about the young people who had no direction and often turn to drugs. He spoke of the need for leadership and someone for children to look up to. He insisted that people in public office are not there for their own good, but to “look out for our welfare”.

Some of us had the opportunity to speak to Reverend Harvey the next day and hear him tell stories from his experiences with Dr. King. He described Dr. King as “meek yet strong”, a man who “knew how to work with people” but “had a mind of his own”. Dr. King would always tell you why he chose to do something, to explain his decision. He believed that “words are the vehicle by which you can convey your thoughts”. “He had words, drawing power.” Once you started to follow him you “just couldn’t stop”.

Martin Luther King’s life was threatened many times. Rev. Harvey described an incident in Jackson, Mississippi when a message carrying a threat came to the hotel where they were staying. We “got around him in a circle to get him (out of the hotel and) in the car.” He also spoke of how many of King’s supporters, both black and white, left him when he protested against the Vietnam War.

When Reverend Harvey was asked how he felt about the war in Iraq, he said that all countries had their problems. He spoke of how we had invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam’s statue because he had treated his people badly, but no one came here to our country when the black people were being hurt.

Shining the Light on Poverty By Sally Newton To be effective in making significant progress towards the goal of eliminating poverty, we must focus on changing these inequalities, instead of trying to change the people who are affected by them. He said that we need to be helping our own people, not spending all our money on the war. When he heard that there was a peace march and vigil, in the center of Keene at noon time, he insisted on attending it. He spoke briefly to the people gathered there, encouraging them to continue to stand up and speak out for peace.

When asked what advice he would give to those of us who wish to solve the problems of inequality and social injustice we face today, he explained that before the civil rights movement “this country was on the wrong road and that all kinds of people worked together” to change things. It’s “on the wrong road now” he said. “The president does anything he wants to”. He suggested that we work together, “point out our target”, talk to our representatives, get people to vote and most importantly to use our voices.

Educators can make a difference in the lives of the children with whom they work but struggle to do so because of the impact that poverty has on those caught in its web. Along with the work we do in the classroom, we should also take a stand on issues, such as universal healthcare and against a war which is consuming millions of dollars that could be spent on education and effective social programs. It is most comfortable to stay in our own familiar places, doing the things we know we can do well, and not to speak out on these controversial issues. If men like Dr. King and Reverend Harvey had decided to stick with preaching to their own congregations, the civil rights movement would not have happened. As citizens of a democracy it’s our responsibility to be activists for the causes we believe to be important.

In the words of Reverend Harvey, “If you want to have a better America, let’s go!”

Kindergarten Cake by Abi Ceccolini

January 24, 2008

This is a simple, sweet recipe that all children (and adults) love. It’s also easy to pull off in a classroom setting, assuming an oven is available at your school. Measuring quantities, pouring & sifting ingredients, and mixing them together are all developmentally appropriate activities for kindergarten kids to practice. And the gratification of making a tasty snack to enjoy afterward is a worthy reward for all the hard work. The best part is – this cake is even better the day after. I have done this cooking project several times with 5 and 6 year olds but I’m sure it can be made with older children too. Of course, working with small groups is ideal for putting together this nutritious yet yummy, homemade recipe. Enjoy!

½ cup of oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups of unbleached flour
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. nutmeg
2 cups applesauce
½ cup raisins (opt.)
1 ½ tsp. baking soda

Mix oil and sugar well, add applesauce, and mix in the dry ingredients.
Beat until smooth.
Pour in an oiled and floured 9″ x 13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until done.

Teach Wherever You Want: An International Opportunity By Matthew G. Blake

January 24, 2008

If I told you that in the span of three days you could find yourself forced to clearly identify your educational philosophy, express it to as many as 12 administrators and be committed to living and teaching in a different country for two years would you be interested to hear more? Would you go? I did, and it changed my life. I attended the 3-day international school recruitment fair in Waterloo, Iowa in February 2007. It was demanding, affirming and very intense. In the end not only did I leave Iowa knowing I had a full time 4th grade classroom teacher position in Honduras, I also realized how important it is to find a school that will support your educational vision.

The University Of Northern Iowa has hosted the fair for over 30 years. This year there were over 100 schools in attendance and 600 eager teachers looking to take their passion to a different country. In the end I had 9 interviews with schools throughout Latin America and India. I was offered 4 positions and accepted one at the Discovery School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I am writing this article to encourage anyone with ambitions to spend time living in another country to attend this event. It is a truly amazing experience.

On the first day of the fair you find yourself waiting outside the doors of a gigantic room full of school administrators standing behind tables looking to hire you. However, you are not alone: there are 600 other candidates who have the same feeling you do. You are all highly qualified teachers and you are all worthy of teaching anywhere in the world. That said, you’d expect the tension to be high, but the truth of the matter is that everyone is so outside of the environment that they are used to, that you stand united and find yourself supporting each other with words of encouragement, taps on the back and even hugs. The doors open and everyone moves inside. This is the part where you had better have done your research: know what schools you’re interested in and why. You walk around the room for over an hour making initial contact and asking for interviews. Have your resume polished and your firm handshake at the ready. This is your first impression.

After the chaos dies down it is time to assess your situation, figure out how many interviews you have, eat some lunch and drink some water. I had three interviews during the afternoon of the first day. I intentionally set up interviews with schools that I was only mildly interested in first. That way I could establish a rhythm before I had to speak with schools that were on the top of my list. The administrators have about 30 minutes to understand who you are and how you think children learn best. At the same point, you have to learn the same about them. If you haven’t already learned this skill, this is the point where you figure out how to express your philosophy crisp and clearly, and assess whether a school would be a good match for you. The administrators want to know that you are a great teacher so have some samples of the work you do but not an entire portfolio, be ready to talk about all your specific problem solving strategies for classroom management, and explain why you will thrive in a country that doesn’t use English (in other words why you won’t feel like you want to go home after 5 months).

The next day, I had interviews with schools in Mexico, El Salvador, India, Ecuador, Columbia and of course Honduras. My initial goal going into the fair was to get a job in Ecuador. Within 30 minutes my dream was within reach, the interview went very well and before I knew it the offer was on the table. All I wanted to do was say yes, but something told me not to. I needed to crawl back to my hotel to drink more water and sleep. I had been talking education jargon non-stop for over 9 hours, running up and down the stairs of a 9 story hotel building and engrossed in the excitement of making a decision that would last for at least two years. I was in no position to make the choice until the third day.

During your interview, if an administrator decides they want you to work for them they will offer you a contract to sign on the spot. There is pressure to accept the position but you can wait; I chose to wait. When I woke up the next day it was very clear to me: Ecuador would have to be put on hold. I wanted to live in the country very badly, but the philosophy of the school paled in comparison to that of the Discovery School, the Director of which is an award-winning educator who believes that children learn best when they “discover” knowledge for themselves. If you attend Antioch hopefully this notion sounds familiar to you by now. If you have ambitions to teach overseas I encourage you to explore the opportunities found at international job fairs. The fair in Iowa is held every year in February.

I invite you to explore the Discovery School at