• students and wreath

December 16, 2013

Dear KWS Community:

At the end of last month’s Dean’s letter, I expressed gratitude for Alarick and Mabel Pew Myrin, who founded our school in 1941. The unique quality of Kimberton Waldorf School, and the school’s strong connection to the land, is a legacy of the Myrins' interest in agriculture and education. Before they founded Kimberton Waldorf School, they founded a school for organic and biodynamic agriculture on this land. They recognized that in an age of increasing industrialization of agriculture, that a new kind of agriculture needed to be developed that provided healthful food to people. That school did not last, but a legacy of the Myrins' interest is the farm that surrounds our school, which is dedicated to using organic and bio-dynamic farming techniques, and our school which has gardening and agriculture as a core component of our curriculum. In fact, the original name of our school was Kimberton Farms School, which is a reflection of the importance the Myrins saw in the connection between agriculture and education.

Gardening and farming has been a part of the school’s curriculum from the beginning, and not just a passing educational fad for the school. Some years ago, KWS more firmly grounded (no pun intended) our commitment to the land, sustainability, and to gardening education by putting most of our agricultural land under agricultural easement (meaning that it is preserved for agriculture and can not be developed), and by developing an expanded school garden with classroom building. Since then, Mason Vollmer, our former gardening teacher, and our current gardening teacher, Celia Martin, have done excellent work building the program and the garden itself. The program that we offer to our students is something quite unique. Our students start experiencing the garden at the earliest ages and the program expands and develops as the students get older. They learn how to plant, cultivate, and harvest food using organic gardening techniques. Mrs. Martin plans the program so that a class can harvest a crop in the fall that they planted in the spring. They learn how to prune fruit trees and berry bushes. They learn how to preserve foods, use herbs to make teas or condiments, and how to work with bees in the garden’s apiary. Some of these items they produce are sold in our the school’s annual Craft Show. According to Mrs. Martin, the gardening program’s involvement in the Craft Show provides a learning experience for the students who take the raw materials that were grown in the garden and transform them into beautiful and delicious products that are in high demand. They learn not only how to create quality products and make them look nice, but they also learn about quality control, marketing, and entrepreneurship. They learn about philanthropy by donating part of the profits from sales to a charity. Last year they were able to donate $1100! The students also see the food that they have grown used in our school’s excellent organic lunch program, and they learn how to make compost from the lunch program waste. They experience first hand (and with their hands) the full cycle of a natural approach to growing food. It’s not merely an intellectual understanding but a real experience for them. This is not a matter of insignificance. It’s interesting to note that Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, stressed the importance of teaching children about gardening and farming. From Steiner’s perspective, without the teaching of these subjects, our culture was in danger of raising young people who would be making decisions in the future about agriculture with no experience and understanding of what it means to grow food---let alone good, healthful food. People who had never grown anything would be making decisions about food production. That detachment would lead to policies, techniques, and practices that undermine the production of healthful food. Production, and techniques for increasing production, in an industrial model would trump policies and practices to ensure and promote health. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to see that we are facing that situation today.

I see this as one example of the need for Waldorf Education and the important and unique opportunities and experiences that the education at Kimberton Waldorf School provides for children. Earlier this month we launched our annual giving campaign for the Community Spirit Fund. You should be receiving an appeal in your mailbox in the next day or two. We need your help to ensure that we can continue to provide the unique gift of Waldorf Education to children and young people, and to our culture as a whole. This, also, is not an insignificant matter. I believe that Waldorf Education is the education that has the possibility to provide healing influences for our culture. Your support will help that healthy influence grow. Please click here to make your gift online.

I would like to take a moment to thank Board member and alumni parent Sherry Wildfeuer for her work in support of Kimberton Waldorf School. I did not start writing this letter with this connection in mind, but Sherry’s expertise and passion is bio-dynamic agriclture, and it’s healing potential for the soil, the plants, and the people who benefit from it. Sherry is finishing her second term as a Board member and will be leaving the Board as of January 2014. Sherry was also a long time parent at the school with four children who graduated from KWS. We are very grateful for Sherry’s dedication and wisdom in the work that she has brought to the Board.

Earlier in this letter I mentioned our organic school lunch program, Food for Thought. Other schools have lunch programs, but not many have organic, locally sourced programs that use food grown and harvested by the children in the school. This is very special. I want to take a moment to recognize the Food for Thought staff and their hard work and dedication to bringing good healthful food to our students. It’s a big job, and everyday they perform it well! Thanks to Food for Thought manager Karen Scott Flores '79, her staff of Ellen Fiorito who lends her culinary expertise to the kitchen and Cindie Gunther who has helped with Food for Thought from its early days. The kitchen is also supported by a number of dedicated parent volunteers, including Hope Merkert and Gail Youngs who give a considerable amount of time. It is also important to note the folks who work behind the scenes washing dishes, Howard Bartley and Joe Overdevest. Howard and Joe come to us through the Cornerstone Clubhouse which provides job coaching for people in Phoenixville, and they both are dedicated to our kitchen. Thank you all for your work. Every day our bellies and bodies appreciate the work you do.

I also want to thank all of our parents in every class for all of the work and care in producing another fantastic Artisan’s Village and Craft Show. Special thanks for Kim Wolfram who took over the overall management of the craft show this year from Cindy Dunphy. Thank you Kim, and thank you Cindy! Cindy has managed the craft show for many, many years with expertise and grace and was a key person in developing the show into the fine event that it is.

Additionally, I am truly grateful to the work of the following community members for their incredible dedication in supporting us as we remodel our Middle School Conference Room: Lael Rasch, Nancy Coe McLane, Gary Arthurs, Chinyelu Kunz, Silvano Biffis, and a generous financial contirbutor who wishes to remain anonymous.

And a big thanks in advance to music faculty members Esther Walsh and Elisabeth Tarsio and to our students for the Candlelight Sing, to occur tomorrow (Tuesday, December 17).  We are also looking forward to our Shepherds' Play this Thursday (December 19). What a wonderful way to transition into the upcoming Holidays.

Wishing all of you a peaceful holiday season,

Kevin Hughes
Dean of School