Wednesday, January 19, 2005

County OK's Waldorf school

Pre-school and kindergarten programs focus on nature

Express Staff Writer

Katharine Woods, founder of The Mountain School, a Waldorf-based educational program for pre-school and elementary school age children, speaks with native plant expert Bill McDorman, who will be helping to provide some of the hands on, nature-based curriculum at the new school planning to open next fall on the outskirts of Bellevue. Express photo by Matt Furber

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of approving a conditional use permit for Waldorf teacher Katharine Woods to renovate property adjacent to Bellevue with the goal of opening The Mountain School in the fall of 2005.

Having ironed out issues regarding access and parking on the nearly half-acre plot for the school at 100 Mustang Lane, Woods plans to develop the school near the Chantrelle subdivision, just north of the Bellevue city limits on the west side of Highway 75.

Neighborhood concerns about traffic flow and child safety at the location off Kirtley Street, northwest of the Bellevue Business Park, were discussed during public hearing late last year. The commission agreed to approve Wood's application, Thursday, Jan. 13 after the withdrawal of plans for seasonal festivals at the property that would have created extra traffic in the neighborhood. Semantic refinements of the agreement were to be ironed out this week.

The Wood River Valley's first Waldorf School will join a network of some 1,500 Waldorf kindergartens in 51 countries. According to the Waldorf School's Web site, the goal of a Waldorf kindergarten is "to develop a sense of wonder in the young child and reverence for all living things. This creates an eagerness for the academics that follow..."

Woods plans to offer three programs—pre-school and kindergarten, after-school programs and summer school camp. Woods compromised on her idea to introduce the community to traditional celebrations like the May Pole, Indian Corn Dance, plays and summer sun celebrations. The activities will continue to be held at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, south of Ketchum.

Baring any appeal to Blaine County Commissioners over the permit in the next two weeks, Woods said plans to open the school in the spring for review by prospective families should go ahead as scheduled.

"Beginning in March, The Mountain School, in order to introduce Waldorf education to the community, will be offering parent-toddler groups, days-in-the-kindergarten, an evening seminar series for adults on Waldorf Education, and a book club that will meet once a month in which we study child development and parenting according to Waldorf principles," Woods said. "The parent-toddler groups will be held in a Waldorf classroom environment, and while the children play, the adults will discuss child development and child rearing practices according to the recommendations of the Waldorf Education movement. Days-in-the-kindergarten are weekend morning events for adults only, generally prospective parents. I will lead the adults through a day like the one I will be offering the children at school—with the addition of adult level explanations of why we do the wonderful things we do in our Kindergarten."

More information about the school is available on the Web site or by calling Katharine Woods at 208-720-4883.

School embraces nature as learning template

What is a Waldorf School? It is a system of education designed explicitly to engage and nourish the head, heart and hands of its students, said San Francisco-educated Waldorf teacher Katharine Woods. Such teachers have been embracing the power of the natural environment as a learning template for nearly a century, since Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf, open the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919 for the children of the factory workers of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company. Surviving the ravages of World War II, Waldorf Schools are now found internationally. The system of education Steiner founded was derived from his anthroposophical worldview.

"Anthroposophy translates as 'the study of the wisdom of the human being' and is a world view synthesized from many brilliant revelations and discoveries of humanity in the sciences, arts, and spiritual paths of many cultures throughout history," Woods said. "When Rudolf Steiner died, he left behind over three hundred books which indicate this great synthesis of information. Out of anthroposophy came a system of education with the explicit purpose of inspiring and nurturing all the dimensions of the human being—physical, emotional, intellectual, moral, and spiritual."

Steiner believed that there is no separation between spirit and science.

The Mountain School is located northwest of Bellevue at 100 Mustang Lane. Beginning next fall, the new school will be offering several programs, including a five-day-per-week, three-ear kindergarten program for 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds and an after school Art&Farm class for children up to 12 years old, Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m.

"Each afternoon will feature a different artistic activity," Woods said. "For example, Monday is painting, Tuesday is sculpture, Wednesday is drama, Thursday is handwork, and Friday is cooking. There will also be environmental and outdoor education projects taking place every afternoon.

"We hope to be able to offer music lessons on site as well," Woods added. "Finally, each summer we will have eight one-week summer camp sessions devoted to the same Waldorf curriculum as our school year programs."

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