The Good and the Beautiful
The Woodland Star kindergarten is a play-based, half-day or full-day, two-year program. In kindergarten, the teachers gently lead the child across the bridge from home to school, laying a strong, healthy foundation for the academic program that begins in first grade.
In a homelike environment, the kindergarten program is rich in singing, seasonal activities, circle, painting, puppetry, and storytelling. The teachers believe it is profoundly important that the child has time to develop body, imagination, and will in a secure setting. Free play with simple natural toys draws out the imagination. Shells, seeds and homemade dolls, wooden toys, beeswax crayons, and modeling wax are familiar and loved playthings in the Woodland Star kindergarten.
Because the kindergarten child lives so deeply in the environment around him and imitates all he sees, the teacher strives to create an environment that mirrors back to the child the good and the beautiful. The teacher cultivates reverence for nature and caring relationships and good habits, laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning.
Within the framework of Public Waldorf Education, the kindergarten is structured to provide a gradual transition from the life of the home to the life of the elementary classroom. It is based upon the simple, yet profound concepts of imitation, repetition, and creative play. Due to its unique two-year format, the Woodland Star kindergarten is appropriate for a mixed age group of children from four years old to six years old. The cut-off date for entry into the first year of kindergarten is February 2nd.
The Woodland Star kindergarten child will gradually become accustomed to working within a group, listening to stories, interacting with the teacher, and following a daily routine, while at the same time being aided in his or her development as an individual through the encouragement of creative play, healthy movement indoors and out, practical life skills, and many artistic opportunities. All of these activities are carefully developed and guided by the teacher, who deeply understands the young child and his or her immersion in the world of movement, as well as the child’s devotion to learning about the world through imitating everything he or she experiences.
Here are some of the core activities of the Woodland Star kindergarten and the significance of each in relation to lifelong learning:
Creative Play Time
The children are encouraged to imagine and play with a wide variety of adaptive toys and natural materials, following their own initiative. During this period, the teacher is involved with preparing the snack, sewing, or any number of practical activities with which the children are welcome to help. An atmosphere of work and play permeates the room. Creative play fosters the ability to use one’s imagination and to think abstractly.
The class is brought together to recite verses, sing songs, and play developmental games with the teacher. These are often connected with the season, a particular fairy tale, or are just part of the general lore of childhood. Repeating and remembering verses and song sets lay a strong foundation for the more intense memory work to come in the grades. Repetition is also known to be an important foundation for healthy brain development. In the circle, we begin our oral approach to teaching reading and literacy, and we provide the opportunity for healthy movement, spatial and body awareness, and social interaction.
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, crayon drawing, as well as forms of handwork such as finger knitting, and sewing are done as a group activity, although each child is absorbed in his or her own work. High-quality materials are used for these activities. These activities encourage the child’s natural sense of beauty, color, and form, as well as laying the groundwork for the artistic techniques that will be required for all grade subjects to come. They also aid significantly in the development of fine motor skills.
Music is woven throughout the day and is often used for transitioning from one activity to the next. Often, the teacher and children use simple instruments, such as chimes, harps, and wooden flutes. Music lays the foundation for future math and engineering skills, as well as the in-depth music curriculum to follow in the grades.
Children help with all aspects of this shared mealtime, from preparing the food (always whole grains and homemade bread), and ironing napkins, to cleaning the dishes and tables. An emphasis on gratitude for the food and on table manners sets the stage for lifelong social skills.
Similar to indoor creative play, the group is taken outdoors to experience the natural world in all of its different seasons. You will find the kindergarten outside in all but the most formidable weather. A child who has the experience of the yearly seasons can enter very deeply and comfortably into the later studies of plants and animals, the weather, geology, astronomy, and other natural sciences. Also, the opportunity for healthy movement offered in the outdoor setting is crucial to the healthy development of the young child.
The children are gathered together to hear the teacher tell a special story. It may be a fairy or folk tale from around the world, a nature tale, or a puppet show. Stories are worked with over a long period of time so that the children may learn them well, and later act them out. In many cases, six-year-old children are allowed to assist the teacher with the puppet shows. The ability to listen to an adult for a sustained period of time is a skill that is gradually developed. The content of the stories also affords an opportunity for the children to experience human language in a very pure and beautiful form. In story time, the language and reading skills of vocabulary and comprehension are strengthened.
In addition to the daily activities described above, there is an ongoing celebration of the seasons. The mood of the season permeates all that we do in kindergarten. Annual celebrations and festivals become highlights of the year for the kindergarten and the entire school community.
Directed academic activities are not emphasized in our kindergarten. The emphasis lies on the foundation skills and experiences mentioned above.
Woodland Star School is a tuition-free, public, charter school in Sonoma, California, inspired by Waldorf Education and serving families with children in transitional kindergarten through grade eight. As an alternative public school of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, we offer a rigorous academic curriculum fully integrated with art and a full complement of specialty subjects, including Spanish, violin, woodwinds, choral singing, movement, and gardening.