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A MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN OF SCHOOL
April 16, 2014
Dear KWS Community:
Welcome back to all of our students and families after Spring Break. It’s nice to be finally experiencing spring-like weather. While walking through the Middle School library last week, I was delighted to see Roman History projects on display from Sally Boyd’s sixth grade class. There was a large balsa wood model of a Roman ship, beautiful mosaic tile creations, models of Roman amphitheaters, catapults and siege engines, and a model of a Roman aqueduct system that had an ingenious system for having water run from the mountains through the aqueduct to a village in the valley below. Click here to view some photos of the projects.
I think an invaluable value of the education at Kimberton Waldorf School is the opportunity that our students have to learn through a variety of activities that engage their creativity and problem-solving skills. Imagine how designing and building your own ship or aqueduct makes Roman History come alive, and allows for the use of all of oneself in the learning process: head, heart, and hands. Recently the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article on the benefits of art in education ("Closing in on Proof of Art’s Value to Kids," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 23, 2014.) The article was about a study being done by a psychology professor at West Chester University. Her research was on the effects of art on reducing stress levels in young children and involved measuring cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) in children in learning environments that are arts-based as opposed to those that are not. Her findings point to an association between art classes and reduced levels of cortisol in the children in the study. “Chronic elevations of cortisol impair cognitive and emotional functioning, as well as physical health. Cortisol is closely related to the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, and scientists believe that higher cortisol interferes with both.”
In contrast, I am reminded of a friend of mine who has a child in a school that was recently putting the students through a battery of standardized tests. This friend shared with me how stressed her child is because of the testing. She commented that it wasn’t just the children who were stressed. Everyone seemed to be---teachers and students. More and more, children in conventional school settings are expected to perform academically through high-stakes testing in younger and younger grades. Play is no longer a part of kindergarten programs in many schools. The arts and movement are secondary, and often cut from programs. Recess is reduced or eliminated. Students do not spend time in nature during their school day. Is it any wonder that children are stressed and our time is referred to as the age of anxiety? Why are we doing this to children? I think in large part it has to do with educational systems that are not based on an understanding of healthy child and human development, but rather are driven by standards set by bureaucrats that have more to do with politics and fueling our economic system than with helping children develop into healthy adults. Adam Winsler, a psychology professor at George Mason University who edits the Early Childhood Research Bulletin and is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer article says, “These days people are trying to do reading, science, and math a lot earlier, and a lot of developmentally inappropriate things are happening...the arts may prepare youngsters for math, reading, and science better than a pure math, science, and reading curriculum would.”
I believe that there are many invaluable values of Waldorf Education and the education provided at Kimberton Waldorf School, including an education that is firmly rooted in an understanding of healthy child and human development, and an education that makes art and the using of one’s hands and imagination an integral part of the academic learning experience. Recently, Kyle Schutter '06, a graduate of KWS and Brown University gave an evening presentation for our community on the business that he has started in Kenya. At the end of the talk he was asked by someone in the audience about his perspective on the value of his Waldorf Education at KWS. He spoke about the importance of art in helping him develop creative capacities, and in a card thanking me for introducing him at his presentation, he wrote, “Remember, it’s all about the art.”
Speaking of art, I would like to commend the eighth grade class for an outstanding production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew just before Spring Break. Everything about the production, acting, set, and costumes was superb. Thank you so much to the students, the parents, and to Elisabeth Tarsio and Raymonde van der Stok-Fried for their directing skills.
There are a number of upcoming events to take note of over the next month including a special fundraiser Coffeehouse on April 17 for Kimberton high school student Nora Neely '16, who was injured in an skiing accident over Spring Break; an All School Assembly on April 24; Senior Project Presentations on April 25, 26, and 27; Maypole dancing on May 1 and the May Faire on May 3; the middle school and high school Spring Concert on May 9; and the Senior Play on May 15, 16, and 17. You can find out more about these events on our website calendar.
Kristin Hughes, one of our lead teachers in the Rosebud Garden pre-Kindergarten program, let us know recently that she will be moving next school year to take a job closer to where her husband works in order to cut down on his commute. We are very sorry to see Kristin go, and we wish her all the best in her new venture. We are very grateful for the enthusiasm and skill Kristin brought to her work as the lead teacher in the Rosebud Cottage.
Dean of School