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Tamarack Community School Offers Waldorf Education

by Robin Beard

Readers in the Brady Street area may be aware of a change happening at the old St. Hedwig’s school, located at 1150 E. Brady Street. St. Hedwig’s is being transformed into the new home of the Tamarack Community School, which specializes in Waldorf education for children K3 (preschool and kindergarten) through eighth grade. Tamarack is currently enrolling for the fall term but has the ability to accept children into the program after the school year starts. It already has 130 students enrolled, with an average class size of 15 students. The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands.” The curriculum balances academics with artistic and practical activities and is designed to respond to the various phases of a child’s development. School is approached in a non-competitive way — instead of grades, students are assessed and given detailed evaluations by their teachers. Some interesting components of the Waldorf experience include a strong emphasis on subjects that are not considered vital in many schools, including foreign languages, music, art, and handwork (both boys and girls learn knitting, crochet, sewing, cross stitch, toy making and wood working). There is also a difference in classroom structure and school hierarchy: one teacher teaches the same class through K–8 (this helps promotes a feeling of security and stability for the child) and there is no principal — the teachers all work together to resolve curriculum and other issues while a board of trustees takes care of the financial and legal issues that accompany running a school. According to the Tamarack literature, this means “the teachers will never go on strike, since they are the ones who determine policies and salary scales.” Waldorf School salaries are usually lower than those in public schools. Waldorf education was started by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, scientist, and artist. Steiner believed education should cater to the needs of kids — curriculum appropriate to their development stage that also nurtures the imagination. To keep students from becoming bound by the demands of government or economic forces, he developed schools that encouraged creativity and free thinking. This spirit is found in the Tamarack mission statement, which says “…Many schools emphasize only intellectual development, and end up ‘hurrying’ the child past critical developmental steps…at Tamarack, however, we provide an education that fosters confidence and imaginative thinking vital to success in any adult pursuit…” There are more than 125 Waldorf schools in North America. The school has just recently finished one phase of its interior renovation — painting each of the classrooms, administrative offices and stairwells using a technique called “Lazure.” Lazure painting uses transparent glazes of paint made of natural ingredients, including essential oils such as eucalyptus, thyme, lavender, and clove as well as beeswax and tree resins. The technique is used by Waldorf schools all over the world, and through the layers of transparent tone the surfaces “breath color and aesthetically affect the human senses of body, mind and spirit.” An internationally known master painter, John Stolfo, completed the project with a team of his own painters along with volunteers from the community, and the results are quite beautiful. Many events in August will give potential Tamarack parents and students the opportunity to tour and learn about the school. For more information call 227-0009. For more information on Waldorf education, see the Associate of Waldorf Schools in North America at www.awsna.org, and the Riversong Waldorf at www.fortnet.org. Also, Tamarack Community School provides curriculum descriptions in their own literature. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 7 – August 2002
by Robin Beard