Beverly, Mass. —Botany and environmental studies might not seem like typical subjects for kindergarten to eighth-grade students, but according to the staff at the Cape Ann Waldorf School in Beverly, these areas of study play a crucial role in child development.
“A major part of our curriculum is focused on connecting with nature and the elements,” said Waldorf School Board of Trustees President Robin Taliesin. “It’s important for children to be actively engaged with the world around them in order to develop into environmentally responsible adults.”
It makes sense then that the school would be situated in a natural setting, and Moraine Farm, located at 701 Cabot St., provides exactly that opportunity. On Monday, April 25, the Cape Ann Waldorf School welcomed students to their first day the new location. The school had previously been housed on Hale Street for more than 19 years.
The school’s new home consists of a building that was previously used as the administrative offices for Project Adventure, along with a newly constructed addition that houses the majority of academic classrooms for kindergarten through eighth-grade.
Taliesin explained that the woods and meadows surrounding the school provide the perfect opportunity to study nature while connecting on a personal level with the earth, adding that younger students will participate in nature-orientated programs such as science and botany, while the older students will learn about agriculture.
“Part of the reason Moraine Farm suits us so well is that we strive to connect children to nature,” Waldorf School Administrator Susan White said in a written statement. “Here we can do that by allowing the students to play in the woods and meadows and by giving the older students opportunities to work on the farm fields.”
“We love being in a natural setting surrounded by all the green trees,” said parent Gretchen MacKilligan, whose daughter is in kindergarten at the school. “Just having a space this is our own is great, and we know that anything we invest in this building will be ours and will ultimately benefit our children.”
The interior of the building also reflects the school’s connection with nature, with walls painted in soft earth tones and furniture made of natural wood.
Making the transition
White explained that the space was purchased in September 2010 from Project Adventure, with a sum of $600,000 being invested in building renovations as well as the addition of a new wing, which adds more than 4,000 square feet of classroom space to the existing building. White said construction was completed on time and on budget, despite working throughout an especially harsh winter.
“Our general contractor, Windover Construction, did an unbelievable job,” White said. “They worked closely with us during the final design to ensure we stayed on budget and then delivered an absolutely first-rate building.”
Taliesin explained that the entire Waldorf community couldn’t be happier with the new location.
“This space is so wonderful, and I think that the children are very excited,” she said. “Although this will be a change for them, a change in their routine, this will be a more beneficial space for them.”
Parent Giovanna Grinarml, whose son attends kindergarten at the Waldorf School, explained that the school helped children adjust to the move by allowing each child to take home one of the school’s toys while the building was gearing up for opening day.
“We were in charge of looking after three knitted kittens,” Grinarml said. “We went on vacation, and my son was like, ‘Ask Daddy to take care of the kittens while we’re gone.’”
A different approach
According to Taliesin, the Cape Ann Waldorf School takes a unique approach to student learning, with the belief that academics should invest in human development, not simply brain development. To accomplish this, Waldorf elementary classes have one class teacher who will accompany the children for multiple years, teaching them math, language arts, social studies and science.
The school also doesn’t use standardized textbooks. Instead, the class teacher will create presentations out of research he or she has conducted on a specific subject. During each lesson, students record the material through drawings in a main lesson book. According to the Waldorf School website, this process helps develop ownership and responsibility for each child’s learning, resulting in information that penetrates deeply into the imagination and memory of the child.
“Our fundamental goal is to ignite a passion for lifelong learning,” White said. “Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.”
For more information on the Cape Ann Waldorf School at Moraine Farm, visit capeannwaldorf.org, or call 978-927-8811.