Category Archives: Uncategorized

The power of chalk board drawings in the Waldorf Steiner classroom

If you were to walk into any of the 1,200+ Steiner classrooms around the world, your eyes will likely be drawn first to a beautiful chalkboard drawing.

These wonderful, whimsical images are created by the class teacher to illustrate the main lesson each day. They might take the form of a letter or number worked into a fable or fairytale design or they might represent a festival that we are preparing for.



In the early years, we introduce a subject that we wish the children to learn in the same way people have learned throughout human history.
First, we tell a story, then we create an image of it and then we write it and read it. Writing may start bodily with tracing the letters in the air, walking them on the ground and then writing them on the page.
We revisit the subject over the coming weeks until the message is gradually learned through the children’s heads, hearts and hands in a way that appeals to their imaginations.



The aesthetic of the Steiner environment is to inspire creativity and instil reverence in the children. Their play materials in Kindergarten are natural, hand-made, beautiful and tactile. Our classrooms are warm, nurturing and aid concentration by not being over-stimulating.

We hope you enjoy this small selection of chalkboard images. Can you spot the shapes of the letters or numbers in the pictures?





Diwali celebrations at Beechtree

Today our two Kindergarten classes came together to learn about Diwali, the festival of lights – an ancient Hindu festival which we celebrate every Autumn.

For Kindergarten children (aged 3-6) understanding an abstract concept such as Diwali is possible when we make it more tangible for them, and so we introduce elements which the children can see, hear, touch and taste as part of our learning.

Teacher Ziggy told the children the story of Sita and Rama, a Princess and Prince who are banished from their home in India, and Sita kidnapped by the King of the Demons. Sita then dropped a trail of jewels behind her and so the children are given beautiful bindis to wear which helps to illustrate the story. Over time all the animals in the world work together to build a bridge to rescue them and then Sita and Rama begin their journey home. It is traditional for people to light candles in the window of their houses to light their way and so the Kindergarten children made clay pots to hold tealights.

We were welcomed by our neighbours the Sikh Temple to visit and have a snack of jelappia. The children wore head coverings and watched the preparations for the festival with interest. We especially liked the decorations – strings of lights against the Autumn trees look pretty as the evenings draw in.

The Kindergarten children made chapatis to have with their lunch of dhal and rice. They were joined for this meal by the Class One and Two children and afterwards we painted mehndi, which is applied to bring good luck, health and prosperity. The little hands showed great patience whilst their henna dried. It was lovely to celebrate Diwali as a school community.

The festival of Diwali spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.

Class One and Two have been working with these themes both consciously and unconsciously over the last few weeks as we strive to conquer fears, be brave and embrace learning with our heads, hearts and hands.

Our usual Wednesday walk was to Laurel Park today where we created the image of a diva lamp with Autumn leaves. We looked at the beautiful colours which nature gives at this time of year and used them to reflect the earthy tones of the diva lamp and the fiery flame.

We had a tour around the outside of the Temple, looking at the colours, patterns and shapes we could see. We then created rangoli patterns inspired by what we had seen on the pavement using chalks.

Like the Kindergarten children, the School children made clay lamps, decorated with tiny beads and fashioned a wick from wool, which would traditionally sit in oil.

We wish a happy festival of light to you and yours and look forward to our next community event, the Lantern Walk. Here’s a memory of our walk from two years ago.

September Sunflowers



Our Kindergarten and outdoor Parent & Child Group children enjoy a cheerful cluster of sunflowers towering over their outdoor space, casting interesting shadows and dropping their precious seeds.



Those on their way to our indoor Parent & Child Group may notice the bright glow of more sunflowers as they pass the nature table in our lobby.



The theme continues to include our School children. Each child was handed the gift of a sunflower from teacher Nicola to welcome them to their new term at Beechtree Steiner Initiative. What a lovely way to hold on to the last sunshine of the year as we prepare to welcome in the Autumn.

In this first week, our School children have worked together to create some classroom rules based on what they have experienced as they have played and worked in the classroom, on walks, during games and at lunchtime.

Each child was given the opportunity to suggest a rule and the other children listened whilst they talked and then everybody agreed upon the rules and signed their names.



How to be a happy class
1. Be fair and kind and look out for other people
2. Compromise
3. Take turns
4. Share
5. No snatching – use your words, not your hands or feet
6. Listen to each other
7. Kind hands, feet and mouth
8. Ask before you leave the classroom
9. Look after our world
10. Find a way to be sorry


We hope you enjoy what our blended Class One and Two came up with as their own version of our behaviour policy.



Being different is good, but being together with other different people is beautiful and precious and the only way to peace and happiness.

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.