Holistic education opportunities are growing in Pagosa

A group of Pagosan educators, parents and community leaders, called the Pagosa Waldorf Initiative (PWI), has been working for several years to bring local students education that helps them “develop into free, moral and integrated individuals; and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny,” as the overarching goal of Waldorf education has been described. Each year, the efforts of the PWI have expanded, and next year they hope to offer Waldorf schooling to more Pagosa young people than ever before.

The Pagosa Waldorf Initiative invites parents and their children to attend a number of upcoming events that, in addition to being fun outings for the whole family, will showcase what a Waldorf style education has to offer.

The Waldorf educational way of life is based on the ideas of the 20th century philosopher Rudolph Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Waldorf schools take a holistic approach to education that emphasizes not only intellectual development, but that also develops students’ emotional, physiological and social growth.

“Often people will talk about the head, heart and hands when they talk about a Waldorf education,” said Blue Lindner, a member of the Waldorf Initiative’s board of advisors, and the mother of two children who have flourished in Waldorf education. In Waldorf, said Lindner, “all parts of the child are treated with equal importance. There are academics, but there is also the development of an understanding of emotions, love for each other, love and reverence for the Earth. Helping children cultivate a sense of community and community service is important as well. Teaching good communication is also key in being able to articulate and express feelings and help each other. That is the heart side of things.

“When we talk about ‘hands’ we mean the development of the physical body — fine motor skills, gross motor skills, agility endurance, coordination in young children — increase the capacity of a child to reach their full human potential. Physical development relates directly to the development of the brain. Once children have developed skills in their bodies, they have a foundation for learning to read and write and it comes very easily, because they have built up strong and fast connections in the brain. And so the ‘head’ part of the ‘heart, hands and head’ model for education ties directly to the other two. You hear a lot about holistic education,” said Lindner, “but when you look at what that really means, you discover that it is all about looking at the body, the emotions and the intellect at once.”

The Pagosa Waldorf Initiative is made up of parents and other community leaders seeking to bring some of the Waldorf culture, philosophy, community activities and educational opportunities to our town. The Initiative has helped build a small kindergarten, which in the Waldorf system includes children from around 3-6 years of age. Known as the “Pagosa Kinderhaus,” this small school has been operating for a couple of years in Pagosa.

Additionally, Paulie Cole, a local Waldorf teacher, currently offers a small program for first and second graders at the Treasure Mountain Education Cooperative, a farmhouse off U.S. 160, just west of Pagosa.

This small movement has been gaining ground, and the Initiative is ready to offer Waldorf education to a greater number of students beginning next year. During the months of April and May, board members, teachers, parents and students of the local Waldorf Initiative would like to share a taste of Waldorf with the community, and encourage families to get involved in creating more opportunities here in Pagosa to celebrate and educate the whole child.

On April 18 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., in conjunction with community Earth Day celebrations sponsored by the Southwest Organization for Sustainability (SOS), the Waldorf Initiative will host a native fruit planting day.

“Local permaculture expert Alex Burrows will be there to talk about the soil and what goes into soil to make it fertile for the bushes we’ll be planting,” said Lindner. “Chrissy Karas, a gardening teacher with knowledge about our local climate is also is going to come help teach and plant. The idea is to plant a fedge (or a hedge of edible bushes).

“The Waldorf Initiative has ordered dozens of buffalo berries, wax currants, native plums and Nanking cherry bushes to plant on the site of the Treasure Mountain Education Cooperative. Everyone is invited to attend, and in addition to getting to help plant the fedge on site, children will be invited to take home a free bush to plant in their own yard. To get to the Treasure Mountain Education Cooperative, drive three miles west of the stoplight at North Pagosa Boulevard on U.S. 160, then turn left on CR 139. Follow 139 for one mile (past Astraddle-a-Saddle). Look for a green farmhouse on the right.

The following week, on April 25, the Treasure Mountain Education Cooperative will host an open house from 2-4 p.m. According to members of the Pagosa Waldorf Initiative, this will be a great opportunity to experience what a Waldorf lesson is like.

“If parents are curious about what exactly it means to send their child to a Waldorf school, this will familiarize them with the educational style,” said Lindner.

The daily rhythm at the school includes a main lesson, followed by a wide array of other learning modalities, including painting, sculpting, music lessons, language lessons, outdoor activities, and presentations from community members about things like Nonviolent Communication, gardening and other skills.

Currently, a small number of places remain to be filled for the first and second grade school that will be offered again next year at the Treasure Mountain Education Cooperative. The Waldorf Initiative intends to firm up registration before May 15 for all 12 spaces available in the school next year.

Finally, on May 9, the Waldorf Initiative will host their annual May Fair. The celebration is an important tradition in the Waldorf lifestyle that celebrates the coming of spring, the local community and, especially, children. The event promises to be fun for the whole family. According to Lindner, there will be a May pole dance, just as in past years. Volunteers will also be there to help children make flower crowns. There will be lots of live music, provided by Brooks Lindner (Brooks-I) and other bands. And families can play old-fashioned games like the bean-bag toss, three-legged races, egg races and more. The event is free, but if you like, bring along some money for the delicious food that is always for sale at May Fair as part of fund-raising efforts for the Waldorf Initiative. The entire community is invited to attend.

For more information about any of the events listed above, or for information about Waldorf education opportunities here in Pagosa, contact Blue Lindner at 946-1877, or via e-mail at blue@sonrisasspanishschool.com.

Photo courtesy Waldorf Initiative
A group of Waldorf students and other children weave ribbons around the May pole at last year’s May Fair. This year’s May Fair will be held on May 9, and everybody is welcome.