The Waldorf Curriculum offers a number of rich cultural festivals primarily based around the seasons. The children will participate in these festivals mostly during school hours and on occasion after school. For many of these, parents are welcome to come to support and participate. What follows is a description of the common reoccurring festivals and special events in the school calendar.
Michaelmas, The Festival of Strength and Courage
This festival falls on September 29th, and schools celebrate it around that time. It is a harvest festival, and yet encompasses so much more. It derives its name from the legend of the earthly battle of Michael (in other traditions, George) with the dragon. Students delight in hearing the classic clash of the knight against the fire-breathing beast. As the children grow older, they begin to see behind the story, behind the metaphor, and recognize the truth of the battle each one of us wages against the shadows (the dragons) in our lives. For some of us it is the battle against bad habits, against differing degrees of addiction, against overwhelming odds in our personal life brought about, for example, by relationships, job, or financial challenges. The lesson of the story for the children (and perhaps for us as adults as well) is that we can overcome the challenges, but we must first muster the courage to face them. The knight in the story exemplifies the human frailty we feel when standing before overwhelming odds. What a terror to face a wild, fire-breathing beast with claws the length of my arm and teeth the length of my leg! However, the knight discovers that his biggest challenge to overcome is his own fear. Once he has mastered fear, the battle is not quite as daunting. This is an essential lesson for the children. It is fear alone that often keeps them from stepping forward to try something new—or to reach for their dreams.
To honor this event, we hold a special day of celebrations at Juniper Ridge. We gather at an assembly and share stories with one another of strength and courage. We admire our own hoarded dragon-treasure (see Food Drive below). We sing songs together and some classes may perform for the whole. We even get to hear a story! Then we witness the enactment of the battle with the dragon (not to be missed!). We end the day with games of strength and courage. Parents are welcome to attend. We cannot pull this off without parental planning and help. This event is only possible with parent volunteers. Please sign onto the volunteer page.
One of the nasty distinguishing traits of a dragon is that it is driven to hoard. It collects coin, precious gems and food, with no greater goal than to sit on it and keep anyone else from using it (I know some two-legged dragons like that!). At this time of year, we want to use the dragon’s methods against him. We call for a Food Drive over the two weeks before our Michaelmas festival. Just like a dragon, we collect, gather and hoard…and then we give away every bit of it to those less fortunate than ourselves. Please support this venture. We are not asking parents to go out and buy anything. Take a couple items from your pantry. Whatever you can manage. We are collecting only non-perishable items. Send these items with your students to the classroom. Then come and see what we have amassed at our festival.
Juniper’s Halloween Journey
We want to provide families an imaginatively-rich alternative to going from door-to-door trick or treating. It is not meant to replace this practice, which every child loves, but to offer a more fantasy-rich alternative for the evening. For the space of an hour, between walking neighborhoods or visiting parties, we invite Juniper Ridge families to come to our enchanted campus for a stroll along the Pumpkin Path. We offer you the chance to be presented (in your costumes, of course) to the King and Queen of the Pumpkin Path. There might be a visit with mermaids, or some exotic Arabian belly-dancing, and it would not be Halloween without meeting up with some witches and having to brave passing by a haunted cemetery before arriving at the safety of a bonfire where you can stay as long as you like and enjoy cider, popcorn and s’mores. Come and enjoy the fun. Entrance fee (to cover our costs) is $5 per family. We look forward to seeing you (of course, since it’s Halloween, we won’t have a clue who you are—nor you us, for that matter. Whoo-hoo! What fun!).
Halloween is a children’s favorite. In addition to our evening Halloween Journey, we offer the children the opportunity to show off their costumes in a school-wide Halloween Parade. This takes place at the end of the school day on October 31, or the nearest last day of school before Halloween. Children who do not wish to participate are welcome to stand on the sidelines and enjoy the display of costumes. Since we are a school, we have guidelines on what is appropriate for walking in the daytime parade.
Here are the Juniper Ridge Halloween Costume Guidelines:
- No scantily dressed girls
- No blood or gore makeup (save that for your evening outings)
- We request archetypal images rather than media-driven ones. That means, if the costume character comes from a movie, comic or computer game, we encourage you to keep looking. Images may be taken from any stories told in our rich curriculum.
- Toy weapons as part of your child’s costume are permitted. However, they are allowed with the understanding that the weapon may not be drawn while in school. Children who cannot respect this, will have their weapons confiscated until it is time to go home.
We reserve the right to not allow costumes that we deem to be inappropriate or gratuitously violent in nature.
These guidelines only apply to our Halloween parade at school. Children may not arrive to school in their costumes. We will have a normal school day (well, as normal as the spooks allow), reserving the last period of the day for changing into costumes and parading. Kindergarten children will have their chance to parade through the classrooms before the end of their regular school day at 12 noon.
If you have any questions, please contact the Administrative Assistant at our front desk.
Down with Darkness, Up with Light!
As autumn progresses nature no longer provides us with the gift of long days and abundant sunshine. To keep our spirits raised, we have entered the season of a succession of light festivals, stemming from various cultures. This is a time when we bundle up against the cold, yet find opportunities to let the warmth in our hearts shine forth in acts of kindness and good cheer.
Fall is a busy time in a Waldorf School! No less so at Juniper Ridge! On November 11 we hold our annual Lantern Walk. Traditionally, this event is reserved for the Kindergarten and first and second graders. Students make lanterns in the classroom. Then on the evening of November 11 (or the closest school day), we gather just before dark, light our lanterns and sing lantern songs as we process around the property. We will end with a bonfire, warm drinks and popcorn.
As in the words of one of the lantern songs: Each of us is one small light, but together we shine bright!
Sharing the Light
This is the season of growing darkness. Juniper Ridge offers numerous opportunities for the children to experience how different cultures maintain the inner light and keep it kindled. Halloween, with its lit Jack o’ Lanterns in the evening darkness, starts this season off. Our Lantern Walk is another such event. December, as the darkest month of the year, offers several more. It is an essential part of our curriculum to share with the children the way different cultures have approached guarding the light in the season of short days and long, long nights. This is part of our charter and what sets us apart from traditional public schools. We do not promote any religious beliefs nor any single religious practice. These customs lie deep within our human psyche and predate organized religions. It is our generic reaction to winter and the loss of daylight. Religions recognize the human struggle of light against darkness, and we teach the children various songs and poems coming from different traditions around this theme.
A unique custom in our school in December is to display a Solstice Wreath. It is a wreath of evergreens, to signify that nature has forces within itself that can resist the drying, withering forces of winter, just as there is a force within each one of us that strives against the death forces in nature. The wreath is set up with four candles. Each of the weeks of school following Thanksgiving is given to highlighting one of the four “kingdoms” or “worlds” of nature, without which this planet would be like any of the other lifeless rocks that circle the sun. These kingdoms are the mineral, the plant, the animal and the human.
Another custom specific to third graders, in accordance with their Old Testament studies, brings a unique custom coming from followers of the Jewish faith: the Chanukah Candles. This is an observance that unfolds over eight days during the month of December (it can occur any time from the end of November through the latter days of December—the fluctuation of date from year to year is due to the Hebrew calendar following moon cycles, rather than sun cycles, which is part of the secret behind the fluctuating date for Easter—all of which makes for fascinating lessons in the sixth grade astronomy block). Beginning with one candle, every day, an additional one is lit, until the Chanukah candelabra (called a Menorah) sports nine flames. There is a legend attached to the kindling of light over eight nights, which the children hear. Children also learn to play the dreidel, a spinning top. The dreidel is a fun game for this season to help children while away the long nights. We want to raise our children in a culture of tolerance and understanding, and we have found this happens quickest when they learn the customs, poetry and music of other cultures and how they mark the seasons. As an experiential curriculum, we take this beyond intellectually learning about the customs. We experience them together.
The Spiral Garden
There is a custom in Waldorf schools to give the younger children in the school (K-3) an opportunity to walk the Spiral Garden. At Juniper Ridge it will be offered outside of school hours and participation is by interest only. It is a unique activity carried out in silence. This silence is required from parents as well as children from the time they arrive until they leave. Gentle music is played in the background by live performers. The Spiral Garden is a Waldorf tradition practiced around the world. Some sources trace its origin to Scotland. One account is that it was begun in the 1920s by Dr. Karl Schubert, a remedial teacher in the Stuttgart Waldorf School. He was struck with how supportive the spiral movement was as a curative form for the rhythmic and sensory system. He was also inspired by folk customs where people created moss gardens with fir twigs and lit them with candles mounted on apples. The practice begun by Dr. Schubert at his school has continued to evolve to this day. Using evergreens and moss, teachers build a large spiral as a meditative labyrinth walk. The child walks out of the darkness of the room toward the light at the center of the spiral in order to kindle the candle s/he is carrying. This speaks to the soul of every child, who faces the daunting task growing up and finding his and her own guiding light and place in the world. Meditatively walking the spiral sets a different mood for the holiday season, filling it with more stillness, reverence, contemplation and beauty. This can work as an antidote to the prevalent hustle and bustle of shopping, parties and market-driven commercialism that clouds our experience of the season of darkness.
St. Patrick’s Day Pet Parade
On Monday, March 17, in connection with St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrate our annual St. Patrick’s Day Pet Parade! Children are always talking about their pets, and this is an opportunity to finally show them off to their classmates.
Guidelines: Pets may not come to school with children in the morning. We ask parents to come with the family pet at 2:45 pm. Only non-aggressive pets are welcome. Pets must be restrained (no free-running dogs, please). Your pet has to be relatively comfortable around other animals (so if you have a cat that bolts at the sight of a dog, perhaps it will be best to leave it at home, or to bring it in a caged carrier). Once gathered, we parade around our field so we can admire everyone else’s pets. I expect some of the school rabbits and guinea pigs will make an appearance as well. If a pet is too strong to be restrained by the child, we ask parents to take the leash. We hope to have some Irish Dancing as a prelude to our parade. It is a great gathering! Leave at home pets that can turn aggressive or panic in crowds of kids or in the presence of other animals. We want everyone, pets included, to enjoy this spring event.
Maypole and Mayfair
With the coming of warm weather in May, it is a tradition in Waldorf schools to dance the maypole. The maypole as a way of marking the arrival of spring was a common practice throughout northern Europe since Medieval times. There are still many towns in Germany, Scandinavia, and Great Britain where the maypole is yearly lifted and woven. The children in grades three and four are taught three traditional maypole dances. Ribbons are hung from the top of the maypole, and accompanied by music that the fifth and sixth graders have prepared, the children learn both simple and complex forms. The dances teach the children sequencing, cooperation, working as a group, coordination, focus and trust. Not to mention, in the end, that it is downright fun to do and to see the woven maypole. The children come away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It is one of those activities that the children have to work at to get right, and once they manage to do that, they have the satisfaction that goes along with learning a new skill, this one only possible by working together.
Parents are welcome to attend our in-house celebration, which will happen before noon.
To gain an experience of what we hope to develop in coming years, we encourage families to attend either of our regional schools for their traditional Mayfaire. River Canyon School here in Grand Junction holds its Mayfaire in the first weekend of May, and has crafts, dancing, singing, a puppet play, food, and a huge silent auction of gift baskets. The Waldorf School of the Roaring Forks in Carbondale also hold their Mayfaire that weekend. They have craft activities for all ages, and their 7th grade presents a marionette play with marionettes they have made themselves. It is a rich experience worth the long trek!