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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Clover Hill School Q&A Article: Natural Awakenings: Natural Awakenings talks with teacher Anna Silber of The Clover Hill School to learn about the benefits of a Waldorf education

Dec 19, 2010 09:47PM

The Clover Hill School Classroom

The Clover Hill School
Q&A Article: Natural Awakenings
 

Q. The Clover Hill School is patterned after the Waldorf early childhood education model. How long has Waldorf Education been around, and what sets it apart from other pre-school and kindergarten programs?

A. We are a play-based program, which means we do not teach academics, such as reading and writing, per se. However, we are building the foundation for a lifetime of learning. In a Waldorf kindergarten the children learn through play and imitation—
the true mode of learning in the earliest years. Through a nurturing, homelike, play-based environment, Waldorf education provides the child with the opportunity to build strong physical, social/emotional, and cognitive capacities, which all factor in later in building academic success.
 

 The first Waldorf school opened in Germany in 1919, and there are now thousands of Waldorf schools all over the world. The first Waldorf school in the U.S. was opened over 75 years ago in New York City. A fully developed school offers programs from nursery through high school.

Q. How are these values reflected within the early childhood curriculum?

A. One way of describing a Waldorf program is that it recognizes the need to offer nurturing experiences to the “head, heart and hands.” So much of education today simply focuses on head learning. Through guided circle activities, the children learn songs and social games. They also hear beautiful poetry and stories, which serve as a first step toward a rich and vibrant literacy. The children are embedded in a highly social setting, finding confidence and security performing domestic tasks together. Some of these tasks include kneading bread, making seasonal crafts, chopping vegetables, sweeping and clearing the table. In their free play time, they are invited to play imaginatively with beautiful, natural play materials, such as silks, woolen dolls, felted balls and wooden toys. In our effort to nourish the whole child, we also serve wholesome organic food, the preparation of which often involves the children.

Q. Mixed-age kindergarten is unusual. How are you able to address the needs of varied ages?

A. We are like a family with younger and older children. The younger ones are "socialized" by looking up to the older children and imitating what they do. The older ones learn care and compassion for the other, by having tender three-year-olds around who look up to them. It brings out the best in everyone, and is especially important today, when many people have technical proficiency, yet lack a social and emotional intelligence.

Q. Given your unique program, how does a Waldorf early childhood education define success?

A. Because academic skills are not drilled into our kindergarteners, and learning comes through play, the natural joy of learning remains alive and well in the child. We believe strongly in protecting childhood, so that a child can start his or her life off with a rich imagination, a joyful outlook, a sense of security and enthusiasm for learning. More and more, we see children robbed of these experiences by technological interruptions, academic demands and competition. We offer a space where a child can truly be a child, so that he or she can have the best chance at growing up to become a strong, confident and responsible adult.

Q. When is enrollment for The Clover Hill School?

A. Enrollment is occurring on a rolling basis for the current year, as we still have space available. We are currently accepting applications for next year’s September enrollment. Applications are due on April 1 and are available on our website.

Q. How can readers learn more about The Clover Hill School?

A. There are several ways. First, you can visit our website at TheCloverHillSchool.org , where you will find upcoming events and a description of our programs. You will also find excellent links for researching Waldorf education in general.

Starting in January we are offering two “Tea and Play” afternoons per month, where families are welcomed into the classroom to have a cup of tea with a teacher and tour our school. We are also offering a public puppet show, open sampler days and a public lecture on Waldorf early childhood education, all after the New Year. Please see our website for specifics. Application materials will be available at all of the events listed.