SWS Brand Refresh: Reflecting on Our History, and Looking Ahead

“Our logo makes a statement about us—our inner and outward expression of the organization’s goals and values. Our logo exists in many places beyond the school website. It has recognition in the market and deep associations with other Waldorf schools. The logo lives soundly with many communities that we serve.” SWS Alumni Parent

Years ago, a logo task force (consisting of SWS School Board members and faculty, along with numerous passionate parents) set out to create a logo/brand for the school. Their purposeful work meant identifying the core values of the school- what it stood for then and what they wanted to carry forward into the future. They knew they wanted the logo to show incarnation of our children and to have a presence within nature and to make sure it included our inexhaustible inner light. “We did not want a snappy marketing icon.” The SWS logo carries with it deep and meaningful roots.

The spiral that our logo is known for was found originally as a petroglyph, discovered on Walnut Island (Lancaster County) in our beloved Susquehanna River. Alone, the petroglyph offers a deep, simple, intrinsic truth, a feeling of permanence and longevity, of geological relevance and sacred geometry. The inner coil of light was placed in a square box because of the beauty of its paradox, but also as the expression of the inner and outer community relationship in a continuum.*

Over the last year, SWS has carefully undergone the process of updating our school website. Not only did we want to be more user-friendly and accessible, we also wanted our “brand” and outward messaging to reflect who and where we are as a school. The new website, launched in late October, reflects a maturing school. Through beautiful imagery, the site highlights the work of community and the work of our developing children, while also leading new families through the value of Waldorf education. The gently updated logo is supportive of this as well. Holding to the foundational elements of the spiral and its color, the logo also reflects the colorful, warm energy presently elevating SWS into a bright, prestigious and sustainable future: honoring our school’s past, nurturing the lives of children and families today and looking ahead with united spirit in community.

 

This piece is an excerpt from our 2018-19 Annual Report.  Read the full report here.

*Source: “From the Heart of the Task Force: An introduction to our New Logo.” June 1, 2004. Read the original "From the Heart of the Task Force: An introduction to our New Logo" article here.


A Healthy Diet for the Digital Age

“Where do you see or use computers in your life?” Fausto Rivera asks the seventh grade class at the Susquehanna Waldorf School. At first, the students ponder the question quietly, exchanging a few thoughtful glances with their peers as they ponder their responses. “ATMs,” one student announces. “Toll booths,” another adds. “Cars.” “Phones.” “Healthcare.” What begins slowly quickly mounts into a lengthy list of daily applications for the technology. “These are fantastic answers!” comments Mr. Rivera. “Now, let’s actually open a computer up, and see how it works.”

Led by the expertise of Mr. Rivera, an expert Technologist with a degree in Systems Engineering, the students take their Cyber Civics program above and beyond the textbook. Separating into two groups, the students, without the aid of any tools, are tasked with opening up computers and locating various vital components that have been discussed throughout their study. The Cyber Civics course isn’t only about being able to understand the physical parts. It is approached the same way any other subject is undertaken in Waldorf education: by understanding what, how and why they use something, from the inside out. Aside from this study, computers are not present in early childhood and elementary Waldorf classrooms, and media use in general is discouraged, even in the home. Reliance on picture and images from screens can reduce a child’s ability to visualize their own thoughts and imagination. Because the cultivation of the imagination is paramount in Waldorf education, media mindfulness is practiced to strengthen creativity and foster deepened focus, critical components to an education that develops innovative thinking.

In the case of computers in the Cyber Civics course, the goal is to understand the history, evolution and physical components of computers, weaving everything together into a complete picture so that students can use the technology safely, effectively, creatively and wisely and grow into healthy, ethical digital citizens. “For a child, a computer is merely a toy,” says Leilani Richardson, Class 7 teacher. “At this age, and as they begin to enter adulthood and have more responsibilities around life, students now use computers for non-recreational purposes. It becomes a tool. We want to extend their digital literacy skills so that they are prepared to use this tool for life.”

As the class nears its close for the day, the students engage in a final hands-on exercise. Mr. Rivera asks the class to gather around as he lifts the lid to a computer server and presses the “on” switch; instantly, the server whirs to life, small orange and green lights twinkling across the board like a miniature city. “If you are going to teach Civics,” says Matt Bei of the New York Times, “then as part of Civics you ought to be teaching media.” At a time when the presence of digital media permeates seemingly every sphere of life, with children (and adults) around the world being conditioned to passively let technology control them, teaching young students that they can make healthy choices around computers has enormous implications for their own well-being, as well as the well-being of the greater community.


A Festival of Courage and Hope

The Susquehanna Waldorf School gymnasium vibrates with the rumble of drumming and the stomps of a fierce dragon. He marches, each heavy foot falling with the beat, towards Saint Michael at the center of the floor, standing bravely with his sword. The dragon lunges as his shadow falls over the brave warrior, knocking him back. A hush falls across the surrounding villagers. In a moment, though, Saint Michael is on his feet again, and as the day settles into dusk, worries of the fearsome, destructive dragon are dissolved with the dragon’s defeat. Hope prevails.

The dragon, of course, isn’t a real dragon—it is Class 3, skillfully cloaked in layers of silky fabric—and Saint Michael isn’t the archangel himself but a brave student draped in a red cape and sparkling golden crown. The festival of Michaelmas honors Saint Michael, an archangel in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is observed by people of all faiths and spiritual paths. Waldorf schools around the world recognize this festival, which underscores the importance of overcoming fear and strengthening resolve, of finding the courage to face both internal and external dragons. That Michaelmas is celebrated near the autumn equinox is no coincidence: marking the diminishing daylight, close of the harvest, and shifting of seasons in the northern hemisphere, the festival comes at an appropriate time to remind students that they must endow themselves with courage and fortitude for the cold, dark days of winter ahead. Held near the beginning of the school year, the symbolic gesture towards the new journey of the year ahead is also significant, as each student takes on their own challenges.

After the Michaelmas play, students head outside for a series of field games and activities that focus on courage. The activities meet each student at a developmentally appropriate age:  the younger children, for instance, balance a small pebble on a wooden sword as they tightrope a circle of logs; older students wield a javelin to collect large wooden stars; and all ages sprint to leap as high as they can over the high jump (with the bar rising after each success). The closing event, however, remains the favorite: an energetic tug of war that tests the strength and striving of students as they work together.  It is through these efforts that students discover new inner resources to help them grow towards life and light, for now and into adulthood.

“Michaelmas is about rising, physically, to face your inner battles, your inner ‘dragons’,” says Class Five teacher Salvatore Martino. “This is a common theme in stories, from the fairy tales to the Norse mythologies.” In Waldorf education, it is these teachings of parallel stories to our own human challenges that speak to students in a symbolic way, identifying with a need shared by all for truth and for justice.

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