In the classroom 2-3-14

Early Childhood

ada balance beam croppedsophia k roller dolly



The circle time in early childhood is a winter movement adventure (see photos above) where we go on a journey “O’er mountain high and bridges low…ever onward we must go!” The children walk across a balance beam “bridge” over an icy river below. We move from fine motor activities to gross motor movement as we build capacities that will serve us as we journey onward in our learning. One fine motor activity that takes much warmth and will forces to accomplish is our Wednesday morning beeswax modeling (see photo to left). What golden treasures they create!

The Parent-Child class has been enjoying warm and nourishing soups during these cold days…highlights have been Persian lentil soup, Borscht, and Curried Cauliflower In the circle Jack Frost has been visiting, and the gnomes have been carefully watching for children’s footprints in the snow. Seasonal songs and games with our families are a lovely way to stay warm, interact lovingly with our children, and just have fun!


1st Grade

first grade snowglobes

Block: Math- number bonds for numbers 1-12,  2,3,5,& 10 times tables reinforced with rhythmic movement, and simple math problems using manipulatives.

Language Arts Skills:  3-4 letter word families.

Painting: Complementary colors exercises (see photo on right).coco painting

Practical Arts- Snow globes (see photo above).

Spanish: A new bingo-like number game with playing cards has kept us thrilled and engaged!

Handwork: Four new kittens have been “born.”  Continuing to practice knit stitch.

Music: Introduction to the pentatonic scale and our new pentatonic flutes. Discovering the beauty of 12 in the 12 tones.

Movement:  Cooperative games.

Extra Lesson: Spiral foot forms. Clay modeling. Finger strengthening with rods. Relays with partners- leap frog, wheelbarrow.


2nd Grade

Block: Mathematics: multiplication and division tables presented in the context of multi-cultural fables.

Language Arts Skills: Vowel sound work as it pertains to spelling. We are preparing to perform a play for the 7-8th grades: writing some of the dialog together, costuming and blocking. 

Math Skills: Review of the four processes using bigger numbers both horizontally and vertically. Review of place value.

Nature Fridays: Friday’s lessons are themed with nature. Stories, crafts and activities weave into our studies.

Spanish: Students are reciting large parts of Pollita Chiquita (Chicken Little).  They love it!

Handwork: We have begun to knit a gnome in garter and stockinette stitch.

Music: We are gaining fortitude in our flute playing and composing a song about the cold winter!

Movement: Cooperative games.

Extra Lesson: Partnered rod tossing. Pushing and pulling with resistance for balance development and upper body strengthening.

3rd and 4th Grade

3rd 4th grade 2013 smaller

3rd and 4th Grade

Block: Math- Introduction to Fractions.  We began by dividing objects into parts and making fractions (and eating them also!), then finding equivalent fractions, adding and subtracting simple fractions, and finally discovering the relationships between  improper fractions and mixed numbers.  Later in the block, students will learn to use the greatest common factors and least common multiples to aid in solving fraction equations.  

Visual Arts: Painting-Finding form through the interaction of the colors. It is often a surprise to see what emerges!

Crafts:  paper weaving. 

Movement Arts: During morning circle we are walking the balance beam keeping a bean bag on our head and reciting, using copper rods independently and in partnership with skill, and practicing bean bag tossing and passing.

 Math Skills: Increasing speed and accuracy of basic facts.

Spanish: We’re taking a peek into Norse Myths…en espanol!

Handwork: Introduction to cross stitch, practicing mirrored image designs for their pencil case. 

Music: We continue striving to play our C- flutes with good tone. We have been working with call and response singing and activity songs.

4th Grade Orchestra: We are working to read music from a staff now and identify those tones on our instruments. Watch (and listen) for longer pieces of music coming soon!

Movement: Cooperative team games.


5th & 6th Grade

Molly B

Block: Ancient Rome.

Math Skills: Reviewing measurement. Grade 5 students are learning to check math by casting out 9′s. All are learning Roman Numerals.

Language Arts Skills: In reading, to tie in with our block, we are reading Detectives in Togas. This has some lovely activities to help us with vocabulary, grammar, and literary analysis.  


7th & 8th Grade

7-8th orchestra 2014

Block:  Physics- exploration of aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and electricity. The picture below is of a demonstration that visually showed the students how water supports objects and how the weight of the object is affected.

Math Skills: Group 1- Pre-algebra practice continues, as well as work with ratios and proportions. Group 2- Pre-Algebra, using algebra to solve word problems. Group 3- Algebra.

Language Arts Skills: Verbs and their uses, including: tenses, intransitive and transitive verbs, helping and linking verbs.

Visual Arts Working with pastels, interpreting the first part of our morning verse in pictures. And exploration of three-dimensional shapes (polyhedrons) and their nets.Looks good to me

Spanish:  The novel, Los Pirates del Caribe, has kept us entertained and engaged.  

Handwork: We are hard at work with humming machines and three of us have finished our pajama pants!

Music: Understanding the circle of 5ths (how the different keys relate to each other) as well as sight reading in choral parts.

Movement: Wrestling forms and indoor games.

Orchestra: Learning new key signatures with more difficult fingering (see photo, above).


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In the Classroom 12-6-13

Dec. 6, 2013

We welcome you here to take a glimpse into the school day and
the curriculum, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season.
- The DVWS Faculty

Early Childhood

EC seeds the prairie 2013

Apple Blossom students seed the prairie.

As the natural world has transitioned into a winter mood, so
has our seasonal nature table. The root children are tucked in
sleeping in Mother Earth’s winter home down below whilst
Mary has begun her star journey above. We dutifully and
reverently help move her along from star to star on her Advent
journey while we sing in circle time of the blessings and
treasures this time of year provides.
Miss Ieva’s class spread seeds in the prairie (see photo). Oh how
the children loved to watch the wind take the feathery wings!


1st Grade

First grade learns X and Y.

First grade learns X and Y.

Math Skills: Number bonds, counting forwards and backwards
to 100 and continuing practice with all four operations.

Painting: Color studies of complementary colors and the color wheel.

Practical Arts:  We made birdseed pine cones  to hang on the tree outside our classroom window.

Spanish: Students have delighted in hearing  ”The Gingerbread MaN” in Spanish. They’ve quickly learned the famous words of that quick little fellow in Spanish! Like the fox, we will enjoy delicious gingerbread men at the end of this month.

Handwork: Knitting a square.

Music: Introduction to the lyre.

First grade beanbag exercises.

First grade beanbag exercises.

Movement: Farm listening game-animals in the barn.

Extra Lesson: Picking up, counting and sorting marbles using toes. String
games. Spiral forms with feet.


2nd Grade

Balance exercise in   1st and 2nd grade movement class.

Balance exercise in
1st and 2nd grade movement class.

Block: Language Arts, Continued consonant and vowel blends. Introduction of digraphs and sentence composition.

Math Skills: Increasing speed and complexity with vertical addition and subtraction problems.

Spanish: (2nd through 8th grades) We will spend the month learning about the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas, a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for room at an inn. All children will have a part in making and eating delicious tamales, a tradition of this holiday.

Handwork: Finishing knitting and purling a rainbow ball.

Music: Revisiting the lyre and making our own songs on the flute. Preparation for Santa Lucia festival.

Movement: Farm animal listening game.

Extra Lesson: Spirals using feet. Finger tip clay modeling.


3rd and 4th Grade

Block: Norse Mythology. Creation of the Nine  and stories of the gods.

Math Skills: Increasing speed and accuracy of  facts.

Language Arts Skills: Parts of speech, punctuation. Rehearsal of lines for pageant-finding our performance speaking voices.

Arts: Color study painting (see photo) and modeling.

3rd-4th Watercolor painting.

3rd-4th Watercolor painting.

Spanish: Las Posadas. (see description above)

Handwork: Crocheting and knitting individualized projects.

Music: More and more sounds in the major mode. Preparing for
Solfege (Do, Re, Mi). Preparation for the Christmas pageant.

Movement: Blob tag- a group tag game.

Extra Lesson: Developing finger strength and dexterity.  exercises to increase flexible thinking. Secondary color painting exercise- what colors are hidden in orange?


5th & 6th Grade

Block: Astronomy-calendar and stars. Prior to this block the class performed
A Wrinkle in Time, a play they wrote after being captivated by the novel.

A Wrinkle in Time.

A Wrinkle in Time.


Math Skills: Business math.

Language Arts Skills: Adjectives.

Spanish: Las Posadas. (see description above)

Music: Singing in parts. Recorder playing.

Orchestra: Exploring the sounds of Christmas through improvisation.

Handwork: 5th-Knitting the cuff of the sock. 6th-Embroidering handwork bags.

Movement: Soccer.


7th & 8th Grade

Block: The American and French Revolutions. There will be an exploration of how these wars put forward new ideals and how these ideals influenced modern history.

Math Skills: Group 1- Pre-algebra, writing and solving more complex equations. Group 2- Pre-Algebra, using algebra to solve word
problems. Group 3- Algebra, fundamental operations, applying the four processes to monomials and polynomials.

Language Arts Skills: Recognizing compound subjects and verbs.

Arts: Continued carving of linoleum blocks (see photo)

Linoleum block print 7th-8th grade.

Linoleum block print 7th-8th grade.

Spanish: Las Posadas. (see description above)

Handwork: Learning about pattern shaping. Making pajama pants (see photo) in machine sewing which connects with their studies of the Industrial Revolution.

7th-8th grade pajama pants.

7th-8th grade pajama pants.

Music: Circle of 5th Study through sound as compares to organic geometrical design. Preparation for the Christmas pageant.

Movement: Soccer.

Orchestra: Improvisation, and enjoying the sounds of Christmas.


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In The Classroom 11-13-13

Dear Parents,

This time of year brings an opportunity for deepening in learning. Routine and rhythm have been established in the classrooms creating a calm and order that can allow class work to flourish.  A new level of interest is active both in students and teachers.

We can see this in the activity of small hands that are ready to knit, and in the maturing minds that are enthralled in science experiments.

Take a few minutes to see what learning  can be- alive, imaginative, rigorous and lasting.

~ DVWS Faculty

Ms. Dudeck chemistry

7th & 8th Grade

Block: Chemistry- metabolism demonstration of sugars, bases, acids and enzymes. These reactions are happening all around us and in us. Students are able to observe these events firsthand in a microcosmic experiment.

Spanish: Conversation games have kept us laughing and learning about irregular verbs and adjectives.

Handwork: Machine sewing. Beginning to sew pants.

Music:  Music theory in the circle of 5ths, and understanding different scales.

Movement: Capture the Flag.

5th/6th Graders help 1st grade knit.
5th/6th Graders help 1st grade knit.

5th & 6th Grade

Block: Drama- play practice of A Wrinkle in Time. Come see the production on Nov. 20th at Matthews Middle School.

Math Skills: Metric conversion and graphing. Students classified all of their Halloween candy by type and are graphing the results. Reese’s  came out on top at 132.

Spanish: Conversation games have kept us laughing and learning about irregular verbs and adjectives.

Movement: Baton relay race.

Extra Lesson: Obstacle courses requiring teamwork, math frisbee, balance beam beanbag toss, and form drawing.

Language Arts Skills: Grammar- adjectives of quantity and quality.

Handwork: 5th Grade- casting on and knitting in a rib pattern for socks. 6th Grade- embroidery cloth for handwork bags.

Music: Music reading for recorder -quite different from string instruments. Singing parts.

Movement: Baton relay race.


3rd and 4th Grade

Block: Human and Animal. Discovering how humans are similar and different from animals, beginning with the study of the cuttlefish and field mice.

Arts: Form drawing.

Language Arts: Writing paragraphs, introducing “describing words,” and reading “tall tales” such as Ol’ Paul about Paul Bunyan.

Math Skills: Problem solving using story problems and skill review.

Movement: Builders and Bulldozers relay.

Music:  Songs about trades. Finding and playing songs on the flute that are familiar to our singing voices.

Handwork: Finishing crocheted flute cases.

Spanish:  The children have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting some Bible stories they heard last year…this time in Spanish!  Even the tiniest details aren’t lost on these kids.


2nd Grade

Block: Math-place value. Learning to stretch numbers.  Stories from Number Town continue unfold as two wanderers leave Number Town and encounter an Indian woman who trades in beads. She keeps track of her beads by grouping them in sacks by tens, hundreds, thousands and so on.  To keep track of how many sacks she had to trade, she wore a necklace of colored beads- orange for a thousand, red for hundreds and so on. Students are given necklaces each day to practice place value and number stretching skills.

Spanish: The children delighted in reenacting the story of Stone Soup by making a pot of their own- and eating it. Delicioso!

Handwork: Knitting and purling a rainbow ball.

Music: Flute practice. We wrote our first song about autumn.

Movement: What time is it Mr. Wolf?- a game of anticipation.

Extra Lesson: Painting exercises to develop use of outer and inner space.


1st Grade

1st grade learning their flutes.

1st graders learning their flutes.


Block: Form Drawing. Students develop essential visual-spatial and motor skills.

Math Skills: Using the four processes.

Spanish: Spanish Animal Bingo has been officially declared “the best game ever.”

Handwork: Our first knitting day. The fifth and sixth graders, now confident in knitting, visited the class to lend a hand.

Music: Listening skills, tone identification, songs with fine and gross motor movements.

Movement: What time is it Mr. Wolf?- a game of anticipation.

Extra Lesson: Developing  awareness of the six directions, and hand and finger strengthening. Body geography.

1st grade nature walk.

1st grade nature walk.

Early Childhood

Kindergartners finger knitting.

Kindergartners finger knitting.

The kindergarten classes take weekly hikes to a natural, wooded area to play, explore, build, and do simple woodworking projects. The one-mile round trip allows for many opportunities to run, roll, jump, zig-zag, and hike on non-landscaped, sometimes unpredictable, natural terrain. This is wonderful for balance and responsive movement! We return with hardy appetites for hot  soup and oatmeal.

EC weekly nature hike.

EC weekly nature hike.

Parent-Child classes meet each week to share circle time with autumn rhymes and finger games, a hearty snack and parenting experiences. Parents in the class are reading The Incarnating Child, discussing children’s drawings, and learning how to crochet.

Hot soup and bread for snack in the parent child class.

Hot soup and bread for snack in the parent child class.





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8th Grade Vision Quest 2013


Da Vinci 8th graders set off on their vision quest.

DVWS 8th graders set off on their vision quest.

In some Native American cultures, a rite-of-passage event, called a Vision Quest, was used for an adolescent to seek purpose and meaning in his life. An individual was sent out alone, in nature, with only the bare essentials to survive. His time was spent in prayer and meditation, reflecting on his life and the changes he was about to face as an adult in the community. This significantly spiritual event would guide the individual to his purpose and a new sense of self. This new self, an individual with deeper insight and understanding, was then faced with the task of bringing his new knowledge back into the world, for the benefit of the community.

Carrying water several miles to camp.

Carrying water several miles to camp.

Our eighth grade students spent the weekend of November 1-3 backpacking and camping in Wisconsin’s North Kettle Moraine State Forest as part of our second “Vision Quest” experience at Da Vinci Waldorf School. Movement education teacher, Sarah Westlund, along with parent and outdoor educator, Dave Brooks, chaperoned this trip for our eldest students. On the second night of the trip, after hiking approximately six miles while carrying their personal camping gear and food on their backs, the students built their own camps (separate from everyone else and under the stars). The vision quest provides 8th graders an opportunity, via an outdoor adventure experience, to develop and discover personal skills and inner strength to overcome adversity.

The students constructed their own shelters.

The students constructed their own shelters.

The Vision Quest is intentionally held in Wisconsin in early November to provide students with a challenging setting and season in which to test themselves physically and emotionally. Under the guidance of skilled leaders, the students gather firewood, carry water to camp, and learn outdoor skills. Most importantly, the students learn that they are indeed stronger and more capable than they think. By pushing them just outside their comfort zones, they gain new insights and confidence in their ability to get through difficult situations.

Many bridges to cross to adulthood.

Many bridges to cross toward adulthood.

At Da Vinci Waldorf School, we believe this to be an essential and valuable experience that will serve these young adults as they step into adulthood.

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In the Classroom 11-1-2013


Dear Parents,

If you were to look through the window of your child’s classroom, you would see students learning many subjects in a variety of ways. We’re inviting you to share in the experience through the photographs and words below.

Together the teachers and students are breaking new ground, making connections and discovering the wonder of our world. Thank you for your support of this effort!

From the DVWS Faculty

7th & 8th Grade

Block: Organic Chemistry. The “Carbon Snake”  (or in this case “swan”) where students watched with interest and delight  as sugars reacted with acid.

carbon snake organic chemistry


7th 8th watch chemistry experiment







Math Skills: Group 1-Pre-algebra, solving for X with fractions and decimals. Group 2- Percentages. Group 3-Algebra-, substitution in a formula.

Language Arts Skills: Spelling and increasing vocabulary – a favorite word this week was “epitaph.” Presentation of book reports.
Spanish: Dia de los Muertos Celebration.  Central and South American geography reports.

Handwork: Trip to the fabric store to select and measure fabric for machine sewing projects.

Music: Lantern Walk/Martinmas songs, choral music reading and recorder ensemble in parts.

Orchestra: Syncopated rhythm and “Spook House” improv.

5th & 6th Grade

Block: Astronomy- observations of sunrise and sunset.  Seasonal results of sun’s position.

Math Skills: Metric conversion and graphing time and events.

Language Arts Skills: play practice- A Wrinkle in Time.

Spanish: Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead celebration.  Number review.

Music: Lantern Walk/Martinmas songs. Recorder parts.
5th 6th play practice
Handwork: 5th-  knitted “swatch gnomes.”/ 6th- transferal of design to cloth handwork bag.

Extra Lesson: Counting Star exercise. Students discovered the challenge of dividing a large circle evenly on the chalkboard without any tools.

3rd and 4th Grade

Block:  Math-weight measurement. Students found balance on scales with common items.
3rd 4th scale
Math Skills:  Number arrays. Continuous review of times tables.

Language Arts Skills:  Presentation of book reports.

Arts:  Painting a scene from David and Goliath.

Spanish:  Seasons and months of the year, and celebration of Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead.

Handwork:  Continuation of crocheted flute cases. Exploring colors.

Music:  Martinmas songs. Steps toward round singing.
happy Liam

2nd Grade

Block:  Math-place value using manipulatives, number charts, story and mental math.

Math Skills:  Addition and subtraction of larger numbers.  Number families- 7 and 2 live in the Nine House with 6 and 3 and many other friends.

Language Arts:  The “oo” sound. Boo! Who knew Sue?
2nd grade circle

Spanish:  Fruits and vegetables.  Dia de los Muertos.

Handwork:  Continuation of knitted lions and mice.

Music:  Singing Martinmas songs and flute playing.

Extra Lesson:  Body geography and laterality- Can you stand on one foot and rub your tummy and pat your head?

1st Grade

Block:  Qualities of Numbers : Introduction to the four processes. Will Peter Plus add anything to your pocket?

Math Skills:  The many ways to think about a number: 12 is 6 and 6, but also 5 and 7. Encouraging flexible thinking and problem solving.

Watercolor Painting:  Working with pigment washes in varied intensities.

Spanish: Dia de los Muertos and body parts vocabulary.

Handwork: Learning how to cast on stitches. Getting ready for our first knitting day.

Music: Learning soft breath for excellent flute playing skills!

Extra Lesson: Body geography awareness with counting- 7 windows in my head!

Early Childhood
Rowan fall

Children hammered holes in cans for Martinmas lanterns. This kind of activity builds fine and gross motor skills, integrates the sensory system, and strengthens the will system.

trinity big stick
In early childhood, the children are “bathed” in rich language throughout our morning.  In one of the kindergarten rooms, the story “Rumplestiltskin” was recently told:

“Whirr, whirr, whirr, three times round.
Whirr, whirr, whirr, three times round.
Straw into gold the bobbin be found.
And so it went on until the morning, when all the straw was spun, and all the reels were full of gold.
By daybreak the King was already there, and when he saw the gold he was astonished and delighted, but his heart became only more greedy….”


Stories, songs and rhymes rich in vocabulary enter the child’s imagination and auditory memory. Later these experiences are resourced for writing and reading… and so much more.



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In The Classroom 10-28-13

knitted lions

Dear Parents,

Below is a peek into last week’s  goings-on in the school. There are so many things to say, but here are just a few to share. It is a joy to greet and teach your children each day!

From the DVWS Faculty

1st Grade

Block: Qualities of Number. Students are discovering the truth of numbers in nature- the rose and the apple are 5, the honeycomb is 6 and the clover is 3- or 4 if you are lucky!

Math Skills: Reinforcement of number sense through body geography and movement- step counting and jumping rhythms.

Language Arts Skills: Developing and continuing phonetic awareness. The students are collecting items and sorting them by beginning sound and letter.

Spanish: Hansel and Gretel story, and numbers from 1-20.

Movement:  Seasonal cooperative games.

Handwork: Learning how to cast on stitches.

Music: Learning soft breath for excellent flute playing skills!

Extra Lesson: Left to right tracking. Awareness of feet and hands.

baking letters

Other Highlights:

The class  baked bread in the shapes of letters, and continued its weekly contemplative nature walk.


2nd grade math board

2nd Grade

Block: Math: Addition and subtraction in the vertical. Number bonds. Introduction of larger numbers, all in the context of Native American and saint stories and legends.

Math Skills: Repetition of math facts up to 12. Review and continuation of place value.

Language Arts Skills: Consonant blends and vowel usage and exceptions.

Spanish: Stone Soup, numbers 1-100, and preparation for Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead.

Movement:  Seasonal cooperative games.

Handwork: Finishing knitted lions.

Music: Singing in “call and response” style; pentatonic flute playing.

Extra Lesson: Bilateral integration through movement. Point and Periphery painting exercise.

3rd and 4th Grade

Block: Math: Review of long division and measurement.

3_4 counting coins

Math Skills: Assembling and using scales- finding balance. Times tables reinforcement. Ongoing visual and mental math- thinking on your feet in time and visualizing an equation.

Language Arts Skills: Reading for content and comprehension. Preparing a first book report.

3rd grade girls crochet

Spanish: Joseph and His Brothers, fall season, Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead.

Movement: Introduction of skill-based and boundary games.

Handwork: Starting to crochet a flute case. (see photo)

Music: Singing in quodlibet (Latin for “as it pleases”) in preparation for singing in rounds, and playing diatonic “c” flute.

Astronomy blackboard

5th and 6th Grade

Block: Astronomy. Movement of the Sun. Students observe where the sun rises and sets each day.

Math Skills: Metric Measurement.

Language Arts Skills: Spelling review. Noun and adjective classification.

5_6 extra lesson star

Spanish: The Adventurers! Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead.

Movement:  5th – pentathlon introduction and endurance training.
5th and 6th – endurance training through mile-long runs, and kickball.

    5th- knitting swatches before beginning to knit socks.     6th- hand sewing and embroidering handwork bag.

Music: Singing in parts; recorder playing in parts.

Orchestra: Working with rhythm and more difficult time signatures.

Extra Lesson: Upper and lower body movement differentiation. Spatial planning through form drawing.

Day of Dead drawing

7th and 8th Grade

Math Skills: Group 1-Pre-algebra introduction.  Group 2- Algebra 1

Block: Organic Chemistry. Experimenting in the kitchen with sugars, starches and proteins.

Spanish: South American culture and geography, and Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead.

Movement:   Building endurance running a mile; archery.

Handwork: Machine sewing and pattern planning.

Music: Choral music reading and recorder ensemble in parts.

Orchestra: Syncopated rhythm and sight reading.

fall nature table

Early Childhood

Exploring fall’s beauty in nature
on hikes and in play.

Making lanterns for Martinmas.

Autumn songs and rhymes.

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Why Take a Class Trip?


The 5th/6th Grade class at Da Vinci Waldorf School just returned from its class trip to Starved Rock State Park.  The class trip in the Waldorf school has several purposes.  First, it is an opportunity for the students to understand themselves in an environment that is not their home and where they are allowed to make choices for themselves in a safe environment.  This step towards independence is extremely important in the development of the human being.

climbing rocks and trees compressed web The trip serves the additional purpose of letting the students explore the world around them in ways that relate the curriculum.  Our trip to Starved Rock State Park allowed the students to see the geology, zoology, botany and geography of just one region of our home state.

big rocks compressed web

We also learned quite a bit of history on our stop at the visitor center of the park itself, the Locks and Dam, which is overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Illinois-Michigan Canal system.  From Native Americans who first inhabited this land, to French explorers of the 1600′s, and civilian workers of the mid 1900′s, we learned of the many people who explored, developed and shaped the land we call Illinois. Local Geography and Zoology are part of the Fourth Grade Curriculum; North American Geography and Botany are part of the Fifth Grade Curriculum; and Geology and Astronomy are part of the Sixth Grade Curriculum.  These subjects are introduced in the grades mentioned, and carried forth throughout the child’s education.  Aside from a lot of hiking, we looked at the wild life around us throughout the parks we visited, including the geometry in nature.  We are fortunate, being a private school, that we have the freedom to bring the curriculum in this very experiential way, with class trips scheduled each year and lasting between three and ten days.   Class trips are also a lot of fun!

Grade 5-6 starved rock treehuggers 2013 compressed web



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Service is Part of Learning at Da Vinci Waldorf School

This year, Da Vinci Waldorf School sixth- through eighth-graders were involved in numerous service projects. They volunteered with Citizens for Conservation, based in Barrington; Walk on Farm in Barrington, which provides equine assisted therapy; and at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center—the veteran’s hospital in North Chicago.
“It’s very important for adolescents to feel a purpose, a place in the world—that they’re not just receiving from the world,” said eighth-grade teacher Kathy Matlin.

The students removed buckthorn at Flint Creek Savanna South for Citizens for Conservation.

The students service project at Walk on Farm involved cleaning horse stalls and grooming horses that are used in equine assisted therapy.

At the VA hospital, students spent time with veterans, playing games and listening to their stories.

“What they are really doing is providing space for veterans to tell their stories. A lot of veterans don’t have visitors and are forgotten. They tell their stories and establish a connection with the children; children can see the older side of life. We often put older people away and their untapped wisdom, their knowledge gets lost,” Matlin said.

The variety of service projects allows students with different interests to connect to giving.

“Some kids are great with older people; some like conservation; for some, animals is their way of service. You never know what’s going to be the thing that touches somebody,” Matlin said.

Last spring, Da Vinci Waldorf seventh- and eighth-grade students went on a service project to Appalachia. Through Project HELP, they performed minor home repairs and maintenance for people living in poverty. This spring, sixth through eighth-grade students performed a service project at a Lakota reservation in South Dakota.

Students prepared a garden for the Lakota Waldorf School, helped make a tipi and made a bench at the school.

“The service projects allow students to feel valued and necessary as they make way to becoming young men and women,” Matlin said.

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Determining a Child’s Readiness for First Grade


When is a Child Ready to Start Grade School?

By Kristine Fiskum, on behalf of the DVWS faculty

To answer this question we must look at a child’s natural, chronological development. Much like a pregnancy, each and every child goes through stages, and at certain points new processes occur. Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, was a pioneer in the area of developmentally based, age-appropriate learning, and many of his insights and practical applications were later borne out by the work of Gesell, Piaget, Gardner, and others. The Waldorf approach recognizes that children younger than seven years learn best when taught concretely through movement and example, whereas school-age children (ages 7–14) learn best when they are engaged imaginatively and artistically. Then, when children reach high school, around age 14, their growing ability to analyze and think abstractly has a rich body of experience on which to draw. ( Rahima Baldwin Dancy, Waldorf educator and author.)  The first stage is the time of adventure, discovery, and mastery of movement. A child under age seven has not yet completed the process of physical and sense maturation, and it is in his best interest to be in a classroom where these aspects are nurtured. This is indeed learning of a very important sort.

Why is it important to let a child who is six complete this stage in the kindergarten?  Children continue to grow physically well into their twenties.

All of a child’s innate activity and focus in the first stage is devoted to optimizing the workings of  the body and discovering the world through the senses. A body that has mastered this stage is coordinated, capable, strong, and willing. His body will continue to grow and his senses sharpen based on the happenings of the first seven years. If a focus toward cognitive abstraction pushes into this stage, the child is prematurely giving his attention to the next stage at the expense of mastering the first.

My child is learning all kinds of things everyday and  is smart. She wants to learn. She recognizes letters, does math, can even read. What do you mean she is not yet ready to learn?

The question to ask is not about  the benefit of early cognitive learning, but about the deficit created by not playing and moving. It is the view in a Waldorf school that a relevant and developmentally appropriate kind of learning is taking place in the kindergarten through play, socialization, and movement. The question for first grade readiness is not proving that a child is academically ready, but asking if s/he is physically and socially ready.


Children are quite able, and even precocious at this age. Some educational models have pushed children and shown that they can become whizzes at mental exercises. Yes, we can ask that of children and some will answer, but they will not do it naturally. We can even make them want to do this because we value their progress and praise them for it. In truth though, they want to play and discover at this age. There is real educational, even academic, value in giving a child time to know their physical body, know the world around them, and develop socially. The words of Rudolf Steiner give us pause to consider the value of this time:  “If a young child has been able in his play … to give up his whole living being to the world around him … he will be able in the serious tasks of later life, to devote himself with confidence and power to the service of the world.” (Caroline von Heydebrand, one of the first Waldorf teachers.)

The child who has completed this stage is able to attend to focused academic learning without physical exhaustion, sensory overload, and the insatiable urge to move. A child who is rushed may struggle unnecessarily and formal learning may be a negative experience. Even the rare geniuses and prodigies will offer the world and themselves more if they are given time to be a child. Capacities that show themselves early in children will not disappear because education does not capitalize on them. Given time they will mature and be at the child’s command. 

The DVWS faculty has set forth guidelines for first grade entry after full consideration of many factors. It recognizes that the decision is inconsistent with many public and private schools. Through direct experience, wisdom shared by expert teachers, authors and researchers, the school bases its decision on what is in the best interest of the child’s development. The Waldorf curriculum is directly related to the chronological age of a child. There are many ways that kindergarten teachers will meet the needs and desires of their oldest students; learning will not be stifled but will blossom with new responsibilities, leadership roles, stories rich in language, problem-solving and memory skills, and new capacities of constructive and  imaginative play.


DVWS Grade School Entry Guidelines

First grade entry for children who turn six between March 31-May 31 will be determined by the Early Childhood teachers. Students turning six after May 31 will not be considered for first grade entry.

New student placement in grades 2-8 will be considered on a case-by-case basis in the best interest of the child.

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What makes a “high-quality” preschool?

High Quality Preschools Should Be Grounded in Play

It’s a question asked by parents of three year olds about this time every year. They’ve been told that it’s time for their child to begin preschool. Maybe they have even been counting the days.  There’s a notion very prevalent in the U.S. that we need to start  educating our children early. President Obama talked about it in the State of the Union address this year, vowing to make “high-quality” preschool available to every child in America.   There is research indicating that early education does help down the road.  But what kind of early education?   What is a “high quality”  preschool?  Does it mean your child will be reading at 4?  That she can read a map, add and subtract, spit back facts about the rainforest?   Or does it mean that she will be developing capacities like physical dexterity, self-regulation, social competence, and rich imagination?

Early childhood educators and child development experts on the whole believe that play is the most important work of early childhood, providing the skills and capacities that are essential for later success in school and in life.  Play is also the natural state of childhood.  Just as the baby lion’s pounce on his mother’s tail prepares him for pouncing on prey later on, a young child who figures out how to build a playhouse out of cloths with some friends may be preparing himself for solving complex math problems in high school or for negotiating differences in the board room.  If children are left to their own devices, they will play, just as the baby lion will pounce.  This should tell us that perhaps this is what they need to prepare them for adulthood, just as the young lion’s play prepares him.  There is wisdom in paying attention to what happens naturally when adult agendas are not imposed.

Sadly, the trend in education over the past few decades is to impose a fear-based adult agenda of “start earlier and do more.”  This has resulted in kindergarten being the new first grade, and moving steadily in the direction of preschool being the new first grade.  One reason for the fear is falling test scores.  A good question to ask is, how has “start earlier and do more” affected test scores so far?  A better question is, are standardized test scores the measure we should really be looking at for whether our children are well-prepared for the future in our rapidly changing world?  The truth is, we don’t know that pushing academics down into preschool is going to help at all.  What we do know is that doing so will crowd out the activity that will help the most,  play, and that this can actually harm children.

Diagnoses  like  ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder continue to become more common in children.  The suicide rate for adolescents has continued to rise, so that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people 10 to 24.  Obesity rates are rising, along with all the accompanying health problems.  Children and adolescents are more stressed than ever, and these are the children who have steadily lost play at the same rate that they have been burdened by more and more homework and academic expectation.  They are the children who have spent their childhood in front of screens  and doing hours of homework instead of making mud pies and exploring the woods.

Young children need to play. They need to spend lots of time outside. They need to learn to wait, to help a friend, to do work that really matters. Children need to make pictures in their imaginations when they hear a story. They need to crawl up on a dead tree across the path on a nature walk and wonder what might live there.  They need to feel what it’s like to move their bodies through mud, through deep snow, across slippery ice.  They need to watch adults doing real things and then try it themselves. They need to become deeply absorbed in something of interest—how the grain turns to flour when you grind it, how tall you can build a tower before it falls over, how the color blue meets the color yellow in their painting. A “high-quality preschool” will provide plenty of time for all of this and more. It will provide children with the raw materials to build worlds from their imaginations. It will provide them with a healthy rhythm that supports their best behavior and their joyful attention. A high-quality preschool will provide plenty of movement and plenty of time outdoors in all seasons. A high quality preschool will respect the natural pace of childhood, and by so doing will encourage  health,  happiness, and a lifelong zest for learning.




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