Earth Focused Greenwood School – Mill Valley – Enrollment time K-8!
Weekly outings, organic lunches, fine art, music, math, & science – tuition assistance! It’s school enrollment time for next year! It is a good time for me to marvel about the amazing elementary school my two daughters attend, Greenwood School in Downtown Mill Valley. Now, more than ever, it is important for young people to have a connection to the planet. They will be the ones to create the solutions to the problems that ours and past generations created, and the solutions will require working with and understanding our ecosystem. This will require not just a love for nature, but a deep understanding of science, mathematics, and engineering. There are many ways to present these subjects, and many philosophies of teaching. The Waldorf method is exploration based, and as kids move up in the grades, they gradually move towards more formal methods, with a goal of entering high-school slightly ahead of what is required.
If you are like me, I yearned for a school where my children could thrive, that would allow their minds to explore a wide range of curiosities, connect them to this planet, and that would have challenging, even above average mathematics and science woven into the curriculum in a way that felt natural and workable. I wanted a tech-free environment that got them away from the classroom and out into nature where they could learn how things work by experiencing them, rather than from a workbook or video.
My kids started out at a Waldorf inspired school in Minneapolis. When we moved to Mill Valley, we put them into the local schools for the obvious reason that they are free, and are known to be some of the best public schools. As time went by however, we began to miss what they had been getting from the hands-on natural world focused curriculum that they had received at their previous Waldorf school. We also missed the richness in the projects, and the fieldtrips that I know gave them a deeper understanding of how the world works. We looked at Greenwood, and knew that this was the right place for our family.
Nurturing Confident, Global Citizens
I heard some alarming statistics that in a survey of students, Mill Valley middle schoolers suffer some of the worst bullying, self-harming, and nicotine use in the state of California. In an area of such abundance, where these kids are getting such a head-start from most children in the world, it is they who have the greatest chance at making an impact, creating the biggest change, reaching the highest peaks. This is why we live here. I know that we all have this vision for our children. To observe what goes on when we release our children in the morning to the schools can be frightening, and as a parent it is easy to feel helpless and frustrated. There is a choice. We chose Greenwood for our daughters. Our son is in MVMS in sixth grade, and so-far is mostly oblivious to anything beyond “am I hungry” and “where is my homework”. Our daughters switched in third and fourth grades when we started to sense a change in the dynamics of the kids at school from innocence to something that felt harmful and having subject matters beyond their age.
The Greenwood school has a Waldorf inspired curriculum that combines play based learning, earth-centered history, and the mathematics and physics of the universe, solarsystem, and our physical world. The children have weekly educational field trips that include hikes and visits to nature-oriented organizations. Children begin to learn to play the violin in third grade, and they learn classical as well as folk songs. Before learning to read or write, they learn about the idea of language, the skills of drawing beautiful patterns that prepare their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills for writing.
Hands-On And Fine Motor Skills Projects
When I first visited Greenwood, the third grade classroom had finished a project where they had gone to a sheep farm, acquired wool, collected plants in the fields, and brought them back to their classroom to create dye, dye the wool, spin it into yarn, and then knit scarves. While this may seem like an antiquated skill, it actually entailed understanding the care of animals, the science of dyes, the way fibers work, and intricate, mathematics-based hand-work. Going back to artisan crafted goods is a rising solution to the waste that has been produced, and will be an important way forward. As the children get older, the field trips become more involved. My seventh grader is going to the Spaulding boat works each month to sometimes sail, sometimes work with wood. In two weeks they are taking a week long trip to a nature camp in where they will need to create their own shelters. This wide range of experiences creates a sense of confidence and teamwork that will last for the rest of their lives.
And The Food!
Since this is my food blog, then let me talk a bit about Greenwood, Waldorf, and food. I have to admit now here that one of the major benefits of attending a private school is that they serve wine at the functions! I mean, not just occasionally, but every…single…one. Having an earth-centric focus means that the food served at these functions is beautiful and incredible! The dishes are real, the wine glasses are real, and it feels for just an hour or two like we have been transported to the countryside in Sonoma County.
The founding Waldorf philosophy about how children develop is based on ensuring that the child has nourishment that sustains them. The earliest traditions children experience at a Waldorf school revolve around food. When we were in Minneapolis, all three of my kids attended a Waldorf inspired school, and from toddlers all through elementary school, one day per week the children made vegetable soup one. Walking through the vegetable aisle with my little ones so that they could select a vegetable from all of the beautiful colors on display is one of my favorite memories from that time. Children each brought a an organic vegetable, helped peel the vegetables, chopped them with kid-safe choppers, and the soup was cooked in a big pot right in the classroom, filling the room with wonderful aromas. Soup is served as a mid-morning snack, and the children sit around a beautifully set table, sharing a meal with their teacher. In preschool and kindergarten and sometimes even first grade, the other weekly activity is the making of bread. The kneading of bread, learning to fold it, rolling out, and forming it is more than just play, their brains are being activated in very particular ways that involve folding, counting, texture, material, moisture, and the bending and forming of a malleable substance. The bread is baked, and they sit together and eat the bread that they just made, often with a locally made butter, and local honey.
These hands-on experiences of preparing food nourishes not only their bodies, but creates a beautiful, positive relationship with food and cooking. At every turn, the children are experiencing the possibilities of living in concert with our eco-system. Lunches at Greenwood are prepared by Good Earth Grocery, and are entirely organic and waste-free. What a gift to be able to give our children this healthy break from in their day!
The Greenwood Families
Like many parents who send their children to a Waldorf (inspired or fully) schools around the world, we are engineers. The parent community at many Waldorf schools include tech folks, artisans, craftspersons, musicians, and of course those in the natural or environmental sciences. There are single parents, mixed families, mixed cultures, and families who heard about the school and it just struck them as the right place for their child. There is also financial aid available for those who need it.
The entrance to Greenwood begins with a two-day visit, and the children get to meet their classmates, and see how they feel. It is a wonderful experience, and it is amazing how kids seem to just settle in and feel at home. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to reach out to Greenwood or if you are in another area, find your local Waldorf school. You may just find a beautiful path that alters your child’s future forever.
About The Author:
Wendy Louise Nog is the mother of three, and the owner of Future Bright, a digital agency in Mill Valley California. Her children have attended Waldorf inspired toddler, pre-school and elementary schools since they were small. Wendy has a highly technical job, but recognizes the importance of creativity in finding solutions for technical challenges, and wants her children to have access to those creative pathways in their brains.