The Sandpoint Waldorf School is part of the largest, independent educational movement in the world and is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. The first Waldorf school opened its doors in Stuttgart, Germany on Sept. 19, 1919. Waldorf schools around the world are marking this day by year-long celebrations.
Waldorf Schools arose out of the devastation of World War I, the famine and hardship that followed it, and the desire to create a better world. Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher, and visionary, was sought out to develop a comprehensive education, available to everyone, regardless of social background, that would give each child the opportunity to discover his or her own potential.
The Sandpoint Waldorf School is celebrating its 26th year this year. It has always been seen as somewhat of an anomaly for such a small town to be able to support a vibrant and growing school. This year, the school has over 160 students in its early childhood through eighth grade programs.
In honor of this momentous occasion, the Sandpoint Waldorf School is engaging in social and environmental impact projects throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
For the first project, they are focusing on gardens, trees and bees through their gardening program. A farm-based curriculum is the cornerstone of all Waldorf schools. Given Sandpoint Waldorf’s small footprint they are focusing on small community-based projects that include creating nesting spaces for native pollinators, fruit trees, flowers that attract pollinators, and vegetables. They are always looking for ways to expand their gardening endeavors beyond their school. Last spring the third grade helped plant the vegetable garden at on developing the the Sandpoint Senior Center. Julie McCallan, the school gardener, notes “Children and gardens belong together. From seed to harvest and from harvest to meal, the children enthusiastically engage in the process, and in the process they learn reverence for life and responsibility for being caretakers of the earth.”
The Waldorf 100 theme of service lives strongly within the school. Each year on Martin Luther King Day the school participates in a day of service for our community. Sarah Shaffer, describes her class’s experience
“To honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the seventh grade volunteered their time at the local food bank to sort through all of the food donated during the Christmas food. For the students, the whole thing was quite an experience. They walked away not only with a sense of pride in the success of their hard work, but also with a greater compassion for those in need around them and a feeling of empowerment, knowing they can participate in ways that make a difference. It was heart-warming to see the amount of donations given by the Sandpoint community, and it really strengthened our sense of appreciation for the community that we live in, knowing that in our community, people will work together and, however big or small, pool their resources and efforts to help those in need. I know it also really kindled a deep respect and appreciation for our local food bank and the way it serves our community.”
The children are encouraged to take their service learning beyond the classroom, and you can often find them volunteering at area non-profits. If your service group could use help this year the school encourages you to call and let them know about your needs.
The final portion of the year wide celebration is titled, “encounters and connections.” The students have been participating in sending hundreds of postcards to various Waldorf schools throughout the world. The students draw and write greetings on the blank side of the card and then mail them off, sentiments of hope and beauty, reminding us that we are all one world.
Today, what started as one school has become the fastest growing world-wide independent educational movement with over 1,100 Waldorf schools and almost 2,000 Waldorf kindergartens in more than 80 countries. Each school works to adapt the education to the culture and needs of the local and regional community, while striving to expose children to the richness of cultures and languages around the world.
If you would like to learn more about Waldorf education, go online to: Waldorf 100, waldorf-100.org; general information, WaldorfEducation.org; or Sandpoint Waldorf School, sandpointwaldorf.org.
Julie McCallan is the educational administrator for Sandpoint Waldorf School.