Three Rhythmical Kindergartens
“Children who live in an atmosphere of love and warmth, and who have around them truly good examples to imitate, are living in their proper element.” – Rudolf Steiner
Our three rhythmical kindergartens, serving children from ages four to six, aim to support the healthy development of the young child in a nurturing, non-academic setting, through imitation, movement, imaginative play, story and the work of daily life.
Young children thrive on a rhythm that they can count on, with plenty of inbreath and outbreath, in order to blossom and to develop new capacities. This principle guides the organization of the day, the week, and the year. In the kindergarten a rhythmic structure is created that moves daily between focused group activities and individually initiated activities, including circle time, creative free-play indoors and out, eating meals together while working on our finest, golden manners, clean-up time, and story time. Weekly activities include a visit to our Biodynamic farm, painting, drawing, eurythmy (an art of movement) and practical skills. Kneading dough, chopping vegetables, sewing, finger knitting or working in the wood shop with industrious and capable hands to saw, rasp or sand are some of the weekly tasks the children enjoy. For the older children in the kindergarten, this ‘real work’ meets the transformational changes happening within.
The essential path for learning and growth for the young child is through imitation; therefore, the activities offered and modeled in the Kindergarten are worthy of imitation. During circle time, the children imitate the teacher’s singing, spoken words and gestures through a seasonal movement story that develops fine and gross motor skills as well as bilateral and cross-lateral movements, all necessary steps that are precursors for the child to later move to the next stages of abstract thinking in the grades. Also, through imitation and doing, the children help with the daily life of the kindergarten, with myriad activities such as sweeping, peeling carrots or setting the table with placemats, napkins, cups and water pitchers that they carefully pour.
Every morning the kindergartners take a daily walk around the school and farm. When autumn is upon us, a carpet of golden leaves blankets the ground and the golden corn rustles in the tall stalks as we walk about the land with the children. In our daily walks we are able to see, smell and feel the small changes each day that herald the coming of the seasons and allow us to sense completely the turning of the year without speaking about it. Of great importance, while we walk this bilateral coordination movement fosters the healthy development of the brain and the essential myelination of the bridge between the right and left halves that will later be crucial for reading, writing and logical thinking.
The environment in the kindergarten is carefully created and invites imaginative play. In the words of Rudolf Steiner, through imaginative play, ‘everything depends on the inner work’ of the child. Through the transforming of natural and unformed materials into fire trucks, gnome caves, rockets to visit the man on the moon or kitty and doggy homes with cream and fish for the dogs and cats to eat, the children are doing their necessary work through their play. The chairs from the lunch table come out into the playroom to become an airplane with pilots at the controls and stewardesses serving drinks and food. The room is alive with transformation. Our outside play yard finds children climbing trees, galloping about the yard wearing horse harnesses, digging in the sand and soil with shovels, and building houses, restaurants and bakery shops.
The stories told in the kindergarten are traditional fairy and folktales from different lands and cultures that help to develop a rich vocabulary and a facility with language. The spoken story evolves over the course of three weeks into a puppet play and then a children’s play with the children waiting with excitement to be, among many other roles, the strong and silent bear, the dragon with it’s great tail, the rooster that crows at the well or the brave lass who travels with her llama through forests and over mountains in search of the magic water at the end of the world. This unfolding of the story with the children strengthens memory skills and listening capacities that will serve the child later in the academic setting.
On our Biodynamic farm, the children can be found walking between the tall corn paths or running down the apple row. After the hard work of picking apples the children help the farmer to press sweet cider to drink. Yumm! Later we may feed the chickens, collect eggs, comb the soft bunnies or harvest potatoes, corn, brussel sprouts or even the overly-mature plants for the animals like the giant cabbages that we throw with strong arms over the fence to the sheep and cows. There is always good work that needs doing!
The kindergartens often have children with cultural heritages from many lands. In the play yards in the morning as the children are saying goodbye to mamas and daddies, a mix of languages may be heard such as Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Russian or Spanish. Sometimes a family might bring a special story, feast or festival from their land such as the Good Luck Dragon that paraded through the yard at Chinese New Year with sweet oranges for the children or the yummy latkes and lighting of the menorah that lit our way in the dark of winter. Some other festivals that are celebrated in the kindergarten year are Michaelmas with the capes of golden light and the eating of the dragon bread, the quiet walking of the candle-lit Advent Spiral or the flower bedecked dancing around the maypole high during the May Faire. These seasonal festivals foster community and mark our rhythmic passage through the turning of the year.
The kindergarten day begins at 8:30 and ends at 12:45 with a nutritious snack and a warm, healthy lunch. Each week we use seasonal vegetables, fruit or yogurt from our very own farm! Our aftercare program begins at 12:45 and is well-loved by many parents and children. The children have a quiet rest with the classroom assistant who will sing or play quietly on a lyre. Then the children go outside to play and have a nourishing snack. Pick up for aftercare is at 3:00 or a child may stay for cozy, late aftercare that runs until 5:30.