A Gratitude Note from Dr. Tom

As we enter this season of gratitude, I'm reminded of a poem written by a Waldorf teacher that begins with the two lines...

Home is where the heart is

So let this heart beat strong.

For the children in our care, home and school is the heart of their world. The support of our parents and the hard work of our teachers create a nurturing culture that we are grateful for at this time of Thanksgiving.

For our students, the heartbeat of the day starts with a greeting from a teacher, a rhythmical verse with classmates, and a measured song of reflective meaning. The challenge of the main lesson transcends memorization and recall to focus on the essence of learning: reflection, debate, understanding, and application. When I observe our dedicated teachers at work, I am thankful for their energy and talent to create authentic learning materials that challenge critical thinking and nurture self-discovery.

Susquehanna Waldorf's teachers are aware of society's influences on young people that can lead them to feel entitled to many things we can take for granted. Each teacher accepts the challenge by modeling reflective behavior and designing lessons that build awareness for all we have. How exciting to think about the impact of our grateful and resilient students will have on our future world! To borrow from the principles of Waldorf schools...

As an individual in society, our students are empowered to serve humanity with the strength of will, depth of feeling, clarity of thought, and the ability to work with others.

Thank you again for all your support of SWS. Have a warm and reflecting Thanksgiving!


Mandarin Lessons with Tseng Lao Shi

Learning world languages is a vital piece of Waldorf education. Waldorf students begin learning two languages in 1st grade. Here at Susquehanna Waldorf School, one of the languages our 1st through 8th grade students are learning is Mandarin.

Our students begin learning Mandarin in 1st and 2nd grades through oral storytelling, song, and movement. By the 3rd grade, they begin learning to write Mandarin.

Our class 3 students have loved to write Chinese characters on the chalkboard since they were in the 2nd grade. They often bring characters they find on soy sauce bottles or a Chinese book. "I'm impressed by their ability to write the characters without being taught how to write them first," says Hui-Ling Singer, our Mandarin teacher.

Our class 6 students just finished a 12 day imaginary trip to China. On Day 6, the students visited the panda reserve in Chengdu. The students learned Chinese paper cutting and how to make a panda.

In Waldorf education, we don't just teach a language, we teach culture; which helps our students develop empathy and understanding of different ways of being around the world.

Día de los Muertos, Grades One through Four

In Spanish class, our students are not only learning a new language, they are learning a new culture!  "When students learn a new language, they have to feel it. It is not just about experiencing how people speak their language, but also the way they think and live," says SWS Spanish teacher Fernanda Brito-Munoz.

Grades one through four celebrated Ancestors Day, or Día de los Muertos, on November 3rd. They remembered the lives of loved ones who have departed and shared stories about them (including pets!). After decorating the table with paper flowers, paper flags and pictures of their ancestors, the students discussed their thoughts about family and how important it is to honor life.

It is our hope that this celebration will grow over time and, in the future, will include baking a special bread, decorating chocolate, and the retelling of many, many more family stories.

7th Grade Renaissance History

The 7th grade just finished diving into the history of the Renaissance and what beautiful work they did! In Waldorf education, our teachers employ a multi-faceted approach to learning. Ms. Tucker taught the history of the Renaissance through writing, artistic expression, math, reading and even a trip to the Renaissance Faire.

The 7th grade began with the review of life in the Middle Ages, discussing what changed during the Renaissance and why. Next, they learned the biographies and stories of many Renaissance personalities such as Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I & Henry VIII of England, Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, Lorenzo de' Medici of Florence, Martin Luther, and Johannes Gutenberg. The history came alive with their field trip to the Renaissance Faire, which was presided over by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself!

The students wrote love letters to Queen Elizabeth. They put Queen Isabella of Spain on “trial” and wrote about her reign from different perspectives. They read several non-fiction articles about the Renaissance and ended the week reading the short story "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allen Poe aloud while sipping hot chocolate. They also learned the “Song of the Witches” verse from Shakespeare’s Macbeth during morning speech work, which they performed for the community at our Harvest Assembly.

The 7th grade ended their study of the Renaissance with an entire week dedicated to Renaissance art. They viewed and heard stories about the creation of some of the great works of 4 Renaissance masters: Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. The students studied the proportions of human faces while drawing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth and they practiced mirrored writing in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci, who notoriously wrote from right to left with mirrored letters in his notebooks. They experimented with sketching hands and painted the "Hands of Adam" detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with their paper pinned above their heads to better understand how it would have felt for Michelangelo.

The 7th grade ended this learning block with a research project and presentation featuring 6 "outrageous" women who lived during the Renaissance. Their next main lesson block is Physics, where they will continue their study of acoustics, optics, electricity and magnetism, and introduce a new topic: simple machines.