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Advent at Beechtree

Our children are helping to move Mary and Joseph around the spiral of advent on their long journey to Bethlehem.

As we wait for the return of the light at Christmas in these short and dark days we make sure we have moments of quiet reflection at Beechtree.

Snowdrops teacher Nicola Milton

Not all classrooms have four walls

As the sun sets on another beautiful day at Beechtree, we are very grateful to our parent community for their hard work transforming our outdoor space.

The outdoor area at Beechtree is used by both our Kindergarten classes and our outdoor Parent & Child groups. On any given day the children are outside, climbing, building their own play equipment from logs and tyres, helping tend to the garden through the changing seasons or playing in the sandpit or mud kitchen. The worlds they create during outdoor play are a joy to behold.

When we moved from the wild woodland of Moor Road, we were sad to say goodbye to all that greenery and to the climbing trees. After a year of getting to know and love our new premises, however, Kindergarten parent Charlie had some great ideas for how to evolve the space to add some much -needed verticals!

Over the last half term (plus many additional weekends and evenings!) he and his team of parent volunteers worked tirelessly to transform the mud shelter into a two-story play space. Raising the roof was an interesting challenge – thankfully our parents are two-time Total Warriors and quite capable of holding it up!



With our beautiful new sign, it’s really starting to take shape. We are so grateful to our parents and especially Charlie for sharing his vision and time with us. Our parent community is so dedicated and we’re very proud of them. Beechtree is a success because teachers, trustees and parents work together in order to make the setting run smoothly with the children at the centre. We believe in our ethos of children learning by imitation so it is important that they see the parents and staff contributing equally to the running of their school. With such a fantastic example set to them, it’s no wonder we are blessed with such wonderful children!

You can visit our new premises at our upcoming Winter Fayre on 1st December. Staff will be reading stories, helping children craft gnome gardens, there will be a festive photobooth, craft stalls, an amazing raffle with prizes from local businesses and wholesome vegan and vegetarian food made by our parents.

Chutney

National apple day for Class 1 & 2

In order to celebrate National Apple Day class 1/2 went to the Yorkshire Show Ground at Harrogate for a school trip.
We were shown the orchard and discovered that all apple trees do not look the same. Some like to stand up tall and straight, like the Fillingham, the seed of which was originally planted by a butcher in Hull and others like to spread their branches wide, like the Yorkshire Beauty.
One tree’s branches were laden with red fruit and hung down like a weeping willow tree. This was called New Bess Pool. The guide was full of very interesting facts and the children listened to him intently. They were amazed to learn that apples from a tree called Hunt House were originally grown in Whitby and Captain Cook took them on his voyages as they contained more vitamin C than oranges and helped reduce the risk of scurvy for the sailors. The apples on the Sharkton Pippin looked lumpy and gnarly because a beetle chews on its skin. The children were glad we didn’t taste that one.

We did, however, taste Acklam Russet, which had brown skin like a potato and was very sweet. Dog’s snout tasted delicious and we were not sure if it looked more like a lemon shape or a dog’s nose. Arthur Barnes appealed to those who preferred a sharp flavour but the star of the show was a bright red apple called Red Devil. Our least favourite was the Rubinola which was light yellow in colour and had a vague honey flavour. There was also a Japanese variety in the mix called Mutsu.

Before we moved on to make some juice the guide cut an apple in two and we could see the 5 pointed star shining out. Amazing how that fit in with our number work at school. It was just as if it had been planned!

5pointedstar

The children enjoyed crushing the apples and turning the apple press. Most of us agreed that the apple juice tasted delicious, although it looked like tea. We then cored a cooking apple and filled it with oats, butter, sugar, cinnamon and raisins and brought it home to cook and enjoy later.

Thank you to parents Kylie and Kana for their help. It was a pleasure taking such well behaved, polite children on this trip. Their enthusiasm and ability to observe details was a joy to see and we had such wonderful feedback from the venue about how engaged and enthusiastic the Beechtree children in particular were.

Teacher Ziggy’s advice for snowy weather

At the beginning of this week the children and staff took great joy in exploring our outdoor space, completely transformed by a layer of snow. They discovered new physical boundaries as ice made climbing and running different, they made impressions in the snow and sang songs about the season.

Despite our all-weather approach to learning through play, the safety of our staff, the children and their parents and carers comes first so rather than encourage driving in dangerous conditions we closed the school for a snow day on Thursday and Friday.

Teacher Ziggy was delighted to announce the news, Steiner style in the form of song. We hope you enjoy it!

 

A Story of Tales and Whales

Written by Beechtree Steiner Kindergarten teacher, Ziggy Jones.

Friday in Kindergarten comes in many guises; “Pizza Day”, “Walk Day” or “Bud Day” being a few well loved names in use. Our weekly trip to the local park has been established since before I began teaching 5 years ago, instigated by former Beechtree teacher Leah Findlay who was inspired by a visit to an outdoor kindergarten led by Helle Heckmann in Nokken , Denmark, and our very own Cath Thurlow who introduced the outdoor Parent and Child group sessions.

For several years the walk served as little more than an after lunch stroll until the wheel turned full circle and Helle Heckmann visited us while touring the country. She was very complimentary about the work we were doing, but insisted that children today were not walking enough generally. We agreed an undertaking to make the walk more central to our Fridays, and with the extension of kindergarten hours in 2016 my dream of reaching the Hollies, a very special part of Meanwood park, became reality.

By setting off after Tidy Away time at around 11am we could negotiate the few roadside parts of the walk safely before enjoying Ring Time in the park itself, often watched by squirrels, birds and the odd jogger.

One of the other beauties of Meanwood park is the myriad paths to take and yet still reach your destination, which we did while telling story after story (“Tell one about a princess!”; “Tell the one about the mole!”) and working up a hunger.

Once in the Hollies there is one spot which demands to be picnicked on: the little clearing just next to the Whale (of “The Whale In The Woods” fame) which serenely keeps guard over the little brook by it’s side. So it was with delight that at our opening ceremony we received a print from that very book by author and kindergarten parent Julian Oxley.

With all the excitement and pride in all that had been achieved in finally establishing a Steiner school here in Leeds, as well as moving the thriving and growing kindergarten, it was lovely to take a moment or two to look back and remember


Books by Julian Oxley

– The Whale in the Woods
– The Wooden Dragon

 

Class One’s second half term at Beechtree Steiner

Written by Beechtree Steiner’s Class One teacher, Anthea Stock.

With the help of fairy tales such as The Three Sons of Fortune, The Bremen Town Musicians and The Six Swans, class 1 discovered the magical world of numbers which they recorded with Roman Numerals.

They discovered that we have four limbs, five fingers, seven days of the week and colours in the rainbow and seven windows in our heads allowing us to explore the outside world and allow that world to enter us.

In Steiner education, numbers are traditionally learned in a way that is meaningful to the children, such as:

1- The whole, the individual.
2- Duality of Sun and Moon, day and night, mother and father, two eyes, ears, hands, feet
3- The mother, father and child; the triangle
4- The square, four directions, elements, seasons,
5- The five pointed star, the human form, fingers of the hand.
6- The hexagon, beehive, snowflake
7- The rainbow, seven days of the week

We drew around ourselves and found that we made 5 pointed stars.

We marvelled at the hexagonal honeycomb made by the bee and the honey tasted all the sweeter for it. We clapped, stamped and jumped lots of numbers rhythmically and we managed to skip all the way up to 100.

With the help of our little gnome Burdock and his friends Celandine, Rosehip and Sam squirrel we had all sorts of counting adventures using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and we used shells and conkers to help us find the answers.

Nimble fingers and toes make for nimble minds so we practiced lots of finger rhymes and played a game called Storks where we picked up little marble fish with our toes and did lots of counting work with them. After a very fun packed exciting 4 weeks we are now ready to let numbers rest and go back to learning some more letters.

Beechtree Lantern Walk 2017

“Through our collective action we can light up the darkness in the world”

Tonight we celebrated Martinmas by holding our annual Lantern Walk at our former stomping grounds of Meanwood Park. The children all made lanterns with Autumn leaf designs, Class One creating beautiful leaf silhouettes and Kindergarten children using a leaf rubbing technique.

The way to the meeting point in the park was lit with little glass lanterns. Once the children had collected their lanterns, we began the walk through the woods.

As we walked, we sang:

“I go with my little lantern, my lantern is going with me,
In heaven the stars are shining, on earth shines my lantern with me,
My little light, it shines so bright, please help me to find my way in the night,
My little light, it shines so bright, please help me to find my way”

Then walked in reverent silence, enjoying the Autumn evening and watching the lantern lights dance through the trees.

After the walk, the children offered round some simple biscuits they had all made to share  and enjoyed some hot fruit tea before we said our goodbyes.

Steiner festivals are a continuation of a tradition of communal celebration which people all over the world have engaged with throughout history; a chance to share genuine human experiences, such as hopes for a new year, joy at springtime or thanks for the life-giving power of the sun, for example.

One may use the analogy that if the year were a necklace then the festivals are like the jewels which adorn it; little highlights which have their own characteristic beauty which allow us to look forward to something and work towards it together.

One of the fundamental aspects of Steiner Waldorf education is that physical growth and development is the main focus for children under seven. Hence we allow them to learn “bodily” through play, imitation, movement games and undertaking craft and domestic activities. We consciously avoid awakening the intellect through factual or scientific explanations, but try to use stories and pictorial imagery which is more appropriate for the children at this stage. As such a festival can allow children to experience the community coming together to celebrate, acting socially, and often with reverence.

Class One’s first half term at Beechtree Steiner

Written by Beechtree Steiner’s Class One teacher, Anthea Stock. 

The time with the lovely class 1 children at Beechtree Steiner in Chapeltown is flying by. I can’t believe it is October already and that half term is nearly here. The classroom looks beautiful with lazured walls, a fantastic new blackboard and some traditional wooden desks and chairs; a perfect place for serious fun whilst learning.

Here are a few snapshots to share with you all.

In Waldorf education, the letters of the alphabet are presented in a lively pictorial way, which appeal to the child’s imagination. “D” is a magical door in a tree through which two children crawl to find an old lady called Dorothea who tells fairy stories to them. From these stories letters are discovered. “B” is a big bellied brown bear from Snow White and Rose Red. The children draw the letter in the air with their hands and on the floor with their feet; their whole being participates in the writing experience. Then the children make their own pictures of the images with wax blocks and then write the actual letter. As you can see in the picture, “ G” is a golden goose. We also modeled the very funny procession from the story out of Alkena beeswax.

At this time of the year we think about being brave and courageous so we have been reciting poems, singing songs about St Michael and knights and fighting dragons. The children made thin swords out of branches, a fiery red dragon out of leaves and baked delicious dragon shaped bread. It is very important to educate using hands as well as hearts and heads.

The Flight of the Robins

There was a commotion in the ivy. It was subtle and required that I listen over the sound of the children’s voices- joyous due to two days of brilliant sunshine at the start of a new term, but it was there, soft yet penetrating.

Two red-breasted robins were chirping and flying, darting about in the air in a manner that suggested anxiety. It reminded me of the way in which bats fly at dusk, swooping repetitiously in search of insects, and at first I thought I had unexpectedly disturbed their nest while I was weeding the potatoes. But no, the robins’ circuitous flight disregarded me and instead focused and returned to the tree beside the garden, a spot which was close to me, but not close enough to warrant the alarm I heard and saw in their flight.

Nonetheless, I left the potato bed and observed from afar.

With some perspective on the scene I saw something in the green leaves of the potatoes. Fleeting. Perhaps a frog since the movement had a hop to it. I went over to investigate and found a brown ball of a bird fluttering and jumping in the large leaves. With a combined jump-flutter the brown bird managed to get up into the ivy where it perched in indecision. The larger birds darted and chirped, flying close enough and around me that I decided to take a moment in order to process this new development.

Back beside the toy washing basin, hands full of suds, I was of two opinions. The first, and the more unlikely of the two, was that the brown bird, as small and benign as it appeared, could be a threat to the robin’s nest- an egg snatcher or an egg eater. I admitted it was unlikely, but the darting of the robins made me think of panic and panic made me think of attack. The other option I weighed began with a question to Ziggy.

“Ziggy, do you have any idea what a baby robin looks like? Well, what I mean is, do they look entirely different from their parents?” He couldn’t answer me with complete certainty but he did offer, “I do know that robins can be very territorial should they feel threatened.”

So I watched.

The little brown bird sat on a gnarled branch of ivy just behind the sand pit, heaving noticeably. In a blink, a red-breasted robin was beside it. It had something pinched in its beak. A worm perhaps? It was too quick to tell, but with a flit of its wings, the red-breasted robin ducked its head into the wide-open mouth of the little brown bird. I had it! They had to be a parent and child! As the baby robin chirped in appreciation, and upon closer and now unhurried inspection, I saw tufts of white down underneath the brown feathers. And there was not one ball of brown robin but three, all of them hopping and fluttering and crashing through the potato plants with excited abandon. The baby robins were learning to fly!

As the children and I watched the baby robins become more and more adept at flying, I thought of how quickly this year had gone by, of how dramatically our children learn, and of how very soon we will be celebrating the flight of our own kindergarten children.

It is my hope that all of our children soar into summer’s new adventures full of excitement, confident that their Kindy-strong bodies will take them places they haven’t yet imagined.

Galanthus Nivalis

Three weeks ago we turned over the garden. At the time, and not being completely familiar with the growing season in West Yorkshire, I thought it a little optimistic, but then two weeks ago I saw flowers budding on a row of fruit trees, and just this past week outside Beechtree, I saw my first snowdrop flower of the season.

Spring is upon us.

We have retired the winter-warming Ringtime “Penguin” song in favour of the carefree and humorous songs of “The Flippy Floppy Pancake” and “The Farmer in the Den”. The new songs are suggestive of the abundance soon to come, of the return of daylight and fair weather, and most importantly, of the return of hope.

Tomorrow the Bluebells and the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis, the botanical name for Snowdrops, are also known as “Candlemas Bells” because they are quite often in full bloom on Candlemas Day) will celebrate Candlemas Day together outdoors under a gorgeous blue sky…. (wishful thinking, right?). Now I must admit that I wasn’t too familiar with Candlemas Day, but I am familiar with Groundhog Day, and with the case of the latter, I would have been hoping for clouds instead of sunshine. In fact I vividly remember being in a classroom as a fourth grader, fluorescent lights buzzing above our heads, watching the news on a cranky old television, hoping, hoping, hoping that the groundhog over in Pennsylvania would poke his head out of the ground, fail to see its shadow, and announce the speedy arrival of Spring.

Tomorrow, I do so hope for at least a dry day since the festivities demand it. According to my sources we will set our freshly made beeswax candles into the ground around the base of one of our grandfatherly trees, light them, and with every ounce of our being, hope that the seeds planted in the earth will begin to sprout, grow, and bend toward the light.