Tag Archives: Snowdrops

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

 

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.

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.

Cultivating a Learner’s Mindset

This is not a scientific study by any means but I’ve been watching, my son especially, and I’ve noticed that he and the other students with whom I work at Beechtree, generally speaking,  do not differentiate among toys nor do they compartmentalize their play.

Blocks, blankets, dolls, pencils, and anything else within easy grab gets thrown into the mix of the children’s play. A gender neutral doll can easily become a girl, boy, or even an aardvark according to a student’s needs. The most innocent of looking of dolls have even been known to become a monster or acrobat. And accordingly, in this case, whole worlds grow up around a doll’s personality or characteristics.

At first I thought it was a Beechtree thing and part of the reason why I teach and why my son attends class. Then I noticed it at home. I had always noticed it, even encouraged it, but then one day it really snapped into me. My child will incorporate any toy, any kitchen tool, blanket, or piece of furniture into his play. I haven’t asked my mother to confirm, but I do not ever recall mixing toys with such ease. Little yellow-headed figures and their accompanying pirate ships would only play with other pirates. Yellow-headed pirates would not mix with yellow-headed city folk and they definitely wouldn’t mix with intergalactic star figures. I had justifications. Different worlds and unrelated time periods did not mix.

It seems that this Steiner education model, with its emphasis on cooperative, imaginative, and creative play encourages a learner’s mindset. Our Head Teacher Ziggy is great at role modeling lateral thinking and flipped expectations: quite literally flipping a table upside down to become a rocket ship, rearranging chairs to become a bus, or reshaping a broom to become a robot arm. Ideas are embraced and incorporated rather than discarded or negated. Time and again I have witnessed this lateral thinking expressed in the children and their play. This play is in fact pretty awesome stuff if you think on how it might mature in the coming years. The children themselves are breaking down barriers both physically and psychologically, creating peace within themselves and in the world around them.

The Art of Cooking

Jaime Oliver’s got nothing on me.

I admit that he’s good, and there’s nothing quite like snuggling up with my wife after a long week and indulging in one of his instructional Youtube videos from his younger years, but I think I’m the better chef because really, when’s the last time he had to share his kitchen with twenty or thirty children?

I am the soup chef this school year. Every Tuesday I chop, mix, and blend a soup for the Kindergarten. The ingredients vary slightly from week to week, but usually  the soup consists of butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, cauliflower, leeks, and lentils. As the children are arriving in the morning, I begin with a vegetable stock, and then with the help of the children, we chop up the veggies. In sensible fashion, we toss in the dense butternut first, followed by the potatoes, carrots, leeks, and just before blending it, finish up with the lentils. My secret touch involves going outside to the garden and cut a few leaves of sage as well as some thyme. I feel this brings a delicate touch of sophistication to the meal, a touch that the children need for their culinary development. Together with freshly baked bread and a finishing course of freshly chopped fruit, we all leave the table happy and satisfied.

Last Tuesday I started prepping the afternoon snack. It consisted of halved Beechtree bread (one of these posts I intend to share the recipe) with an olive-based spread and pear and apple jam. One child became intrigued and wanted to help, so I asked that she wash her hands and select an apron to put on. Within minutes five children were lined up shoulder to shoulder smearing the olive spread, and then the jam on each of the pieces of bread. There was concentration, smiles, and jam everywhere, but I think I can say with conviction that the overarching feeling was unanimous in that it was the best snack ever!