Tag Archives: Steiner School

Laying the Foundations

It’s been just over two years since August 2017 when Beechtree took the big step of expanding to become an Independent School and this has been a time of laying the foundations to ensure that the school is as solid as possible. From our tiny beginnings as a parent and child group in a front room in Woodhouse and as a well established Early Years Setting our aim has always been to provide high-quality Steiner Education and an alternative method of teaching and learning for families in Leeds.

Becoming a school was the natural next stage of the journey albeit a daunting one especially as it was also accompanied by a move to new premises in Chapeltown,

As we grew, we kept much of what has always made us unique; the children at Beechtree are at the centre of all we do and they are surrounded by a community made up of staff, trustees and parents working together to make the setting robust. Staff use an in-depth curriculum rooted in child development that is also reflective of the needs of the specific children in the school and designed to cultivate motivated, responsible and competent young people with a life-long love of learning. Parents work hard to provide much-needed resources and funds to Beechtree and were instrumental in our move from packing to painting to bringing to life our outdoor space, and trustees provide the support and legal governance necessary. Staff have a genuine love of teaching and many have moved from mainstream settings, drawn to the child-centred education we offer, with a methodology backed up by current research and to the skilled and professional staff team we have.

The community at Beechtree has sustained us all as we have tirelessly laid the foundations for the future, working with Ofsted to ensure we have everything needed in place, making sure that our curriculum is reflective of and right for the children at Beechtree, and that we have enough of the recourses needed and our latest Ofsted Inspection that took place in November 2019 in which we achieved a Good judgement across the board is a testament to the solidity that we now have in place and a tribute to the school we have established. We are clear that we couldn’t have achieved this without everyone in our community working together and we are grateful for all the support and trust we have received from our parents and trustees, for the hard work of the staff team and for the children who teach us so much every day and who arrive at school ” with happy and beaming faces ” (Ofsted report November 2019)

by Cath Thurlow, General Manager, Beechtree Steiner Initiative

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.

Here be dragons

By Class 1 and 2 teacher Nicola

Michaelmas is a festival of inner strength. A time to conquer anxiety and fear. It’s apt that it’s the first festival in the Steiner school year!

In the legend, the archangel Michael offers four gifts – strength, courage, the will to do good deeds and love.

In Class 1 and 2 we celebrated by working together to create a conker dragon and making dragon bread.

We have also been practising several verses and our brave Class 1/2s acted out a scene from a Michaelmas play. Our favourite verse “Brave and true, I will be, Each kind word sets me free, Each good deed makes me strong, I will fight for the right, I will conquer the wrong” echoed out around the hall as the children recited it with tremendous vigour to the watching Bud children and Kindergarten teacher Ziggy,

Wow, we were proud of them. Goosebumps!

Would you like to find out more about the other festivals we celebrate?

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.

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.

Building a new Steiner school in Leeds

Written​ ​from​ ​the​ ​point​ ​of​ ​view​ ​of​ ​Kindergarten​ ​parent​ ​and​ ​Trustee​ ​Lianne​ ​Marie.

I am parent to a four year old boy who has attended Beechtree Steiner’s Outdoor
Parent & Child from the age of eighteen months and Snowdrops Kindergarten from
the age of three years. He has very severe dermal allergies and goes into
anaphylaxis when exposed to non-natural cleaning products, meaning that he could
not attend mainstream education or enter childcare anywhere except for a very
strictly controlled and safe environment. Discovering Beechtree Steiner has been so
important to our family. The love and support that we have experienced from the
other parents and the incredibly dedicated teaching staff have meant so much to us.
Beechtree Steiner is such a special place and we are very proud to be part of such a
warm, loving and inclusive community.
The first experience of the Beechtree Steiner community that my husband and I had
was stumbling across a sea of brightly coloured picnic blankets in Meanwood Park.
There were families of every conceivable ethnicity all talking and sharing food whilst
their gloriously muddy children played together. It was a beautiful sight to behold and
we could tell that there was something really significant about this group of people.
Our son got to playing with a little girl and a week later we found ourselves sat with
her parents under the shade of a giant Beech tree eating campfire flatbread made by
the children. Fast forward two years of attending Parent and Child group every week
and our children are now enrolled together in Kindergarten and we and our
wonderful friends are discussing what we are going to do now that our building is
due to be demolished and we have to try to recreate the same Beechtree magic in a
new location.
We all come together with ideas and spend the year raising funds by having coffee
mornings, nearly new sales, fayres, pay as you feel haircuts, a duck race, raffles,
applying to local businesses for funding and by completing Total Warrior; an obstacle
course race over a 12k track comprising of 100 tonnes of mud and thirty obstacles.

I’m quite sure that every parent is alike in being willing to do anything for their
children’s well-being, but this is a community of people willing to literally jump over
fire for them!
As the term ends, my husband leads the “dismantling team” who are responsible for
packing up the old premises in Headingley and moving it to the new location in
Chapeltown whilst I busy myself with the working group responsible for creating our
new home.
We have teams of parents responsible for prepping and painting the walls, teams of
parents responsible for sourcing new furniture, floor coverings and materials to
create the outdoor space and teams of skilled people to create new internal walls,
hang doors, do plumbing, electrics and build kitchens.

It is an absolutely mammoth task but it is encouraging to see everybody come
together to make it work – the people who are there on the ground painting or
building stud walls have incredible support from other parents who offer them
childcare or drop off supplies or fill the boot of their car with rubbish for the tip. Every
contribution, whether encouraging words on our Facebook group as the progress
pictures come in or somebody dropping off a pint of milk and a tin of home-made
biscuits for the tired and hungry workers is so appreciated. A person there at the
right time to just sweep and mop the floor makes just as much difference as
somebody who has been trained to lazure the walls in beautiful swirls of pale pink.
There is no better way to get to know a group of people than when you are building
something together. Skilled tradespeople rub up against enthusiastic helpers who
are eager to learn and organised people direct the right person to complete a
suitable task for their skills or find resources to solve problems. We all chat about our
children, sing along to eclectic playlists and make sure that we are all drinking
enough water and going home at some point to sleep and eat and see our families.
In the weeks before term starts, the staff return from their Summer break to unpack
the classrooms and figure out where the new and old furniture needs to go and the
reality of everything we have achieved together in such a short space of time is very
humbling. Seeing familiar things like the art supplies, natural wooden toys and
outdoor clothes all ready for the children to discover provokes a surprisingly
emotional response. As the lights are softened to a pink glow, fabrics are fireproofed
and safeguarding procedures are put in place, we head for the rapidly evolving
outdoor space to fill planters with topsoil and compost, plant bulbs and herbs and lay
bark chipping paths and fill the sand pit.
There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, it is certainly also true that
it takes a whole community to build a Steiner school.