We've had two great festivals so far this school year! Michaelmas is a celebration of the beginning of Fall telling the story of George and the dragon. This story is symbolic of the way we overcome our inner darkness with great light such as overcoming bullying with kindness, fear with courage, or lies with truth. Our Grades and home school hybrid classes worked hard to illustrate this important story and put on a beautiful performance. Students created a dragon using felt, and paper mache. Silks were dyed with tumeric, and swords made to represent the hero George. During a short performance for our younger classes, our Grades students recited the following verse:
"Brave and true, I will be,
Each good deed, sets me free,
Each kind word, makes me strong,
I will fight for the right,
I will conquer the wrong."
Our younger classes celebrated by making dragon bread using pumpkin seeds, almonds, and other nutritional embellishments. The feasting of the dragon bread is then another way to symbolize overcoming the darkness. And it's delicious, to boot!
We also had our Fall Festival on October 28th. This is definitely one of the school's favorite festivals, celebrating the beginning of Fall, and of course, dressing up in costumes is so much fun! The outdoor area was transformed into an obstacle course which took the children on a journey! First, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick! Children went over our bridge, jumped over Jack's candlestick, and after weaving a piece of ribbon through our giant loom, they earned a jewel from the banker. With this jewel, they were able to purchase wheat from the miller, after hurdling over some hay bails. The journey continued by bringing the wheat to the baker and exchanging it for a piece of delicious bread. After searching for a treasure in our pool of hay, they retrieved an apple from our farmer and ended their journey by painting a pumpkin in our craft area! Such hard work deserved a good meal, and luckily we had a variety of delicious items brought in by our families for our pot luck! We already can't wait for Fall Festival next year!
What a wonderful start to the school year we've had! And what a lot of changes! After opening up our brand new infant/toddler program, we've almost doubled our family here at Bayou Village School! The summer was full of renovations and a very successful community work day, where staff and families came to lend a hand to our growing property. In addition to the added classes we doubled our outdoor space as last year we purchased the property adjacent to the school. Thank you to all the donors who made this purchase possible! It's a treat for our children to have this new space to explore. It's going to be another magical year full of adventure and wonder. We can feel it!
Our new facade of the school.
Our new and renovated Sweet Peas infant and Rosebuds toddler, and Sunflower 2's class.
Our Bluebonnets and Morning Glories Preschool and Kindergarten classes.
Our 1st and 2nd Grade classes, as well as the Homeschool Hybrid Class.
Our children are really enjoying our expanded outdoor space! The rain hasn't stopped the students from exploring our new space as they've used it as a source of inspiration to dig out their own water system. Watching the progress of their play over the last month has been fascinating!
On May 1st we came together for our final community celebration of the 2014-2015 school year to celebrate May Day. The children had been practicing their dance and song for weeks. Families brought fresh flowers in and together we built flower wreaths for our heads. The children beautifully sang their songs and skipped around the May Pole, while the ribbons wove an intricate pattern up the pole. Our Grades children, along with their teacher, serenaded us on violin.
Afterwards we shared food, drink, and best of all, each others company. Learn more about the origins of the maypole here.
Our entire school collectively took a field trip last week to Blackwood Educational Land Institute, a 23 acre track of land transformed into a living classroom. The children got up close and personal with chickens and turkeys, and planted squash seeds for a future harvest. They spent the day running through sunflowers and wildflowers and lounging together on hammocks.
Experiences like these add to our students reverence for nature, organic farming and spending time in the elements in the great outdoors.
Art plays an important part of the daily rhythm at Bayou Village School. Rather than a segmented class that happens once a week, art is seen throughout each lesson whether in movement, song, hand work, bees wax modeling, or watercolor painting.
Children explore color through watercolor painting by using what is called the wet-on-wet method. High quality watercolor paper is used, an important part of the process in using quality materials. A peaceful and meditative process, it is incredible to see what these young artist create with these few, simple materials.
These works of art are by our Sweet Peas Preschool Nursery class, children aged 3 - 4.
Our Morning Glory Kindergarten class shares a beautiful blessing before each meal. Here's how it goes:
In front of our heart.
Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good.
Sun above and Earth below,
Our love and thanks to you we show.
Blessings on our meal,
Our family, our friends,
And far away
The community of Bayou Village School and beyond was so fortunate to hear Janet Allison's lecture Boys Alive! a few weeks ago on our campus. This is the second year in a row that Janet has visited Bayou Village and we couldn't be more honored.
Organized by the Education Committee from the Parent Teacher Community Council, many of us were excited to hear Janet's lecture for the first time. It came recommended by multiple parents who attended last year and said "I wish I had heard this lecture before my son was born." And wow, was it worth it.
For those of us with or without boys, we each took something away. We are, after all, surrounded by boys (men) and what applies to boys also applies to men! Mother's gained clarity on their boys behavior - they are wired this way. Let them compete. Let them wrestle! This is a natural and normal activity that boys (must) do.
From the Boys Alive! website:
Boys Alive! advocates for boys by educating and motivating the parents and teachers that love them. We start by celebrating what is working. Then we change what isn’t working.
We know you want to be a great parent.
We know it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the day-to-day.
We’re here to remind you to relax and enjoy being a parent.
Are you teaching? We’re here to remind you to relax and enjoy that, too!
Boys Alive! gives you the information, strategies, and support to help you foster a deeper connection with your son (and all the boys and men in your life).
One of the best quotes to come out of the day was "Remember, we are not raising boys, we are raising men." Janet has authored a wonderful guide that we recommend as well as a CD. Learn more from Janet by visiting her website at www.boysalive.com
This week we begin a new series on the blog called "A Window In." They say that a photograph is worth a thousand words, and these images are just that. A window into a day of vibrant learning, happening at our sweet little school inspired by Waldorf Education.
We see color, movement, exploration, collaboration, play, building and growing. We see our younger children learning from our older children during a woodworking class and our Sunflower Nursery children learning to garden. From dress ups to a circle time where a tale of the three bears is told, here is a look into Bayou Village School from this past week.
Our Grades Classes have been studying farming over the last month as one of their academic blocks. Blocks last three to four weeks to provide time for students to fully digest and assimilate the material. They have been studying the workings of a farm, where food comes from and behaviors and patterns of the animals on the farm.
In addition to their classroom studies they have had the great opportunity to visit the Last Organic Outpost each Friday during the school day to experience their academics first hand. The Last Organic Outpost, located in Houston's Fifth Ward, generates healthy communities and establishes a local food economy in Houston's under-served neighborhoods through urban farming and farm-based art & education. They empower communities through sustainable agriculture that teaches residents to produce safe, healthy and accessible food for all.
The children spend their mornings sifting mulch to extract dirt to create a new "kale mountain," a form that rises up in the center of the farm what will soon be covered with fresh growing kale. They feed the horses and harvest cilantro, mesclun and other winter greens. And along the way find small surprises like frogs! This hands on outdoor experience with their peers builds comradery and an understanding of the importance of building sustainability and where our food really comes from.
We would like to thank Farmer Joe for working with our children.
Every Tuesday at Bayou Village School our children in the Sweet Peas Kindergarten class, Morning Glory Kindergarten class and Grades classes attend eurythmy. This is a form of creative movement unlike any other and is traditionally taught in Waldorf schools.
Founded in 1912 by Rudolph Steiner and Marie Von Sivers it is taught as both a performance art as well as for its therapeutic purposes. The word eurythmy branches from Greek meaning 'beautiful' or 'harmonious rhythm'. Its founder described eurythmy as "art of the soul."
Children gather with warmth and excitement for their eurythmy class each week. The gestures have become familiar to them as they begin their class sitting in a circle gentle passing copper balls between each other and warming up for the lesson to come. The movements in eurythmy coincide with the sounds of vowels as children explore the sounds of speech, rhythms and grammar with the movement of their bodies. Watching the children move through the motions is like visual poetry. They are rooted in their practice although from the perspective of an onlooker, it appears that they are performing with improvised movements. We are so fortunate at Bayou Village School to offer this unique form of creative movement to our children.
A Lecture on Eurythmy by Rudolph Steiner is available to read online here.
Thomas Poplowski is a staff writer for Renewal magazine, is a psychotherapist and is a trained eurythmist. He has written a beautiful essay describing the unique qualities of eurythmy. Read below to learn more about this creative movement offered in your child's weekly rhythm at school.
Eurythmy Unveiled – Understanding a Subject Unique to Waldorf Education
Waldorf eighth-graders typically go through a “Question Authority!” stage. They berate their teachers with questions such as: “Why do we have to study German? I am never going to Germany.” and “What’s the use of algebra? It is never going to help me in real life.”
The strongest reaction, however, is often reserved for the subject of eurythmy. This is not surprising. The eighth-grader, entering adolescence, is going through a growth spurt and the process of sexual maturation. These often result in physical awkwardness, even clumsiness, as well as extreme self-consciousness and emotional vulnerability. At this point, eurythmy asks the student to move in a graceful and controlled way and to express sensitively the often tender feelings of a poem or piece of music in front of critical peers. The resulting howls of protest often lead Waldorf schools to reduce eurythmy in grade eight to occasional blocks or to abandon it entirely for the year.
Problems with eurythmy also occur in earlier grades. Younger students also can find it discomfiting and their parents may find this very distinct art of movement mystifying. Hence a closer look at eurythmy, its history, its place within the Waldorf curriculum is in order.
Origin of Eurythmy
In the early part of the last century, Rudolf Steiner, was active as a spiritual teacher. Leader of the German branch of the Theosophical Society, Steiner was interested in developing the arts as a means of personal and spiritual develop- ment. He wrote and directed plays and also commented on the drama and dance of the day. Steiner wanted to bring a new impulse to the art of movement, an alternative to “modern dance” in Europe developing at that time, with its emphasis on personal self-expression. Steiner’s wanted to connect dance with its original impulse as a sacred art form inspired by the Muses. However, rather than looking back and recreating the temple dances of ancient times, as Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis strove to do, Steiner wanted to bring an art of movement suited to the needs and mentality of modern humanity.
In 1912, Steiner was approached by a woman whose teenage daughter was interested in dance. The woman asked Steiner if there were a type of dance which had a true spiritual dimension. Steiner replied in the affirmative and soon, working with Marie von Sievers, an actress who later became his wife, began to instruct young Lori Schmidt in the art of eurythmy.
Eurythmy was at first a stage art used to enhance the performances of the “mystery plays” which Steiner had written. When the first Waldorf school was founded in 1919, Steiner felt strongly that eurythmy, in a modified version, should be part of the curriculum. He once said that eurythmy and gardening are two absolute essentials in a true Waldorf school.
As an art of movement, eurythmy is perhaps unique in that it accompanies speech as well as music. Eurythmy seeks to make speech visible. Primarily with gestures of the arm and hands movements—though also with the feet and the entire body—the eurythmist manifests the individual sounds of speech.
The movements in ballet and other forms of dance are the inventions of human beings. According to Steiner, the eurythmic gestures for the vowel and consonant sounds are not arbitrary nor accidental but inherent in nature. They reflect the way the larynx moves in shaping the current of breath so that one or another sound is produced. There are remarkable stop-action photos which show the larynx doing exactly this. Eurythmy thus shows in three- dimensional movement the key expressive sounds of a verse or poem. This is done in an artistic fashion, so that the beat, the meter, the stresses, and the pauses are also made visible.
In modern dance the movements accompany the music and the dancer seeks to portray his own response to and particular interpretation of the piece. Eurythmy done to music—tone eurythmy—seeks to make the music manifest in a more objective way. It makes visible the several elements of the music according to certain fixed principles set forth by Steiner and von Sievers. Particular movements of the arms and hands show the pitch, the intervals between the notes, and major and minor modes, and even individual chords and notes. The meandering of the melody and its stresses are usually expressed in the form being moved. The feet can emphasize staccato notes or other aspects of rhythm. Individual eurythmists will present the same piece in different ways, but each will aim to manifest the intrinsic elements of the music rather than his or her own feelings about or reaction to it.
An Elevated Art
Eurythmy as an art of movement seeks to develop the higher and refined aspects of the human being rather than to express more instinctual impulses. One can consider eurythmy in terms of the hierarchy of the seven chakras or energy centers in the human body. Ballet and other forms of modern dance are centered in the solar plexus or third chakra. The martial arts including tai chi use a lower center, three inches below the navel termed the tan tien (meaning the cinnabar or red field). The focus of some forms of popular contemporary dance is the bottom or sexual chakra. The center of movement for Eurythmy is at the level of the collarbone. This elevated center along with Eurythmy’s emphasis on upper body and arm movements draws the focus upward and away from the physical and mundane and from the usual realm of everyday consciousness. The eurythmist seems to float across the stage with grace and dignity without the acrobatic movements typical of other forms of dance.
In modern dance, the performers wear tight-fitting costumes that accentuate and draw attention to physical and even the sexual aspect of the human being. In contrast, eurythmists wear loose fitting, flowing gowns that that emphasize the higher, soul-spiritual dimension of the human being. This is appropriate for an art of movement that is an experiment in rediscovering the sacred in artistic movement.
An Art of the Etheric
All forms of movement work to some extent with the life-forces of the human being. Rudolf Steiner termed these “etheric” or “life-formative” forces, invisible energies that give form and function to the physical body. In the Asian martial and healing arts, the term “chi” or “ki” refers to these same forces. Traditional Asian dance and drama have been based on an understanding of these etheric forces for millennia. Eurythmy is perhaps the only modern Western approach to dance that works with the etheric forces in a conscious and systematic way. This connection to the invisible dimension of reality gives to eurythmy its beauty as a performing art. It also allows eurythmy to be used as a healing or therapeutic modality. In so called “therapeutic eurythmy” the art is using to treat physical, psychological, and other disorders.
Eurythmy takes a spoken work and amplifies it, making its images and insights more clear and more deeply experienced. It does the same with a musical piece. As a performance art, it seeks to elevate and refine both the performer and the onlooker. Psychologists have discovered an interesting phenomenon that occurs strongly in children but in adults as well. When we observe another person moving, engaged in a sport, or dancing, or even just skipping along, we replicate that movement within ourselves. Neurologists have recently attributed this phenomenon to what they have termed “mirror neurons” in which we inwardly mirror intentional movement outside of us. In Waldorf circles we speak of how our own etheric body copies the movements of those we are watching. Thus if we see someone fall or move in a discomfited way we inwardly, empathetically, have the same experience. When a eurythmist artistically makes a poem visible, the onlooker is replicating those movements and feelings within himself. By manifesting the sound and meaning of the poem, the eurythmist allows the viewer to experience the work of art deeply in body and soul.
Eurythmy and the Child
Rhythm lies at the core of eurythmy and the study of eurythmy helps the child understand and experience in a positive way this basic component of life. Rhythm is not just an insistent musical beat, rhythm is a predictable harmonious recurring pattern that is a signature of life and health. Harmonious rhythm plays an important role in both the growth of the child and the development of good health. It is a key factor in Waldorf education. Rhythm is used to support learning and emotional balance, especially in the hands-on or “will” classes such as handwork, sculpture, form-drawing, and also eurythmy. These classes all involve physical movement and in them the child learns to work and move in a balanced and rhythmic way.
In eurythmy class, the children work with the rhythms present in great poetry and music. The children step according to the meter of a poem, perhaps the anapest of the trotting horse (short – short – long) or the sad trochee of the wounded warrior (long-short – short). When doing eurythmy to a musical piece they will take a strong step on the stressed note, even if it be only an eighth note, to accentuate it. Meanwhile, the movement of the arms may reflect the movement of the pitches of the melody. The form or pattern that one moves in Eurythmy reflects the rhythm of the line of verse or the beat of the musical piece.
Working with rhythm in eurythmy and in the other subject, helps the child fully and properly incarnate into his physical body. The ability to move gracefully and with a good sense of rhythm indicates that there is a resonance between the soul-spiritual being of the child and the physical body. Doing eurythmy allows the child to experience with her entire body the building blocks of language and of music. The children learn the physical and etheric gestures for all the consonants and vowel, for the notes of the musical octave, and for other musical elements. The intense experience of speech and music through eurythmy also refines the child in body and soul. Playing a musical instrument has a similar effect but in Eurythmy, the child’s body is the instrument, and thus the experience is much more powerful. Through eurythmy, the child can experience a poem of Keats or Robert Frost with her whole physical and soul spiritual being not only her intellectual understanding. She can internalize the music of Mozart, imprinting its harmony and beauty into her character and soul. Thus the student can move toward that goal, central to Waldorf Education, the realization of her humanity in its highest form.
Neurology might speak of eurythmy creating a rich network of synaptic connections and psychology might praise the engagement and development of the multiple intelligences. Eurythmy can also be described as allowing the child to deeply experience the greatest impulses of our civilization, though this experience is completed only if the child continues eurythmy through the Waldorf high school years.
Pedagogical or school Eurythmy is also used to develop specific mental abilities. In eurythmy class the children walk to counting “concentration exercises”. In one such exercise the child may step four beats but take a backward step on one of those beats. In each series, the backward step is on a different beat, i.e. on beat 1 the first series, then beat 2 the next series, then 3 and then 4 and then back to 1. After learning the sequence, it can be sped up, then groups of children next to
each other can do it in tandem and so on with variations. Mastering these exercises requires tremendous focus so as not to be distracted by others.
An important part of eurythmy in the schools is the visualization and the movement of geometric forms. This is a spiritual practice known from ancient times in many different cultures around the world. In Eurythmy, the children move in invisible, inwardly visualized circles, squares, triangles, and five-, six-, and seven-pointed stars. Moving these shapes not only helps the children in their study of geometry, but also serves with centering and mental concentration. When done together with copper rod exercises, these exercises develop the child physical and emotional posture or “uprightness.”
Eurythmy as a Social Art
From kindergarten on, children in a Waldorf school learn through eurythmy to move together with others. Because most of the eurythmy work takes place in a circle, the child learns that she can only move right or left if she waits for her neighbor to move. She learns to move into the circle together with her neighbors and to take them with her as she moves outward again. As the eurythmy curriculum becomes more complex through the years, she learns to move around seven-pointed stars and other complicated patterns, always with “the other” in mind, progressively more in harmony with the movements of her fellow students. The students develop a sense of where they are in space and how they relate to others. And they learn to move as part of a group. Many Waldorf schools, despite their relatively small number of students, field surprisingly successful basketball teams. This success may be attributable to the students ability to move the harmoniously in a group, an ability that the girls and boys have developed in Eurythmy class.
Each of the arts helps the children develop in various ways. Eurythmy deepens the children’s experience of great poetry and music. It helps them acquire an inner and outer grace, an aesthetic sensibility, and a feeling for social harmony. Eurythmy’s work with rhythm and geometry can aid the children in their study of mathematics and in developing good focus and improved concentration. An eighth-grader may find this all hard to grasp, but perhaps they will when they are older.
Thomas Poplawski, staff writer for Renewal, is a psychotherapist, trained eurythmist and father of two sons who attend Hartsbrook School in Hadley, Massachusetts. His wife, Valerie, is a kindergarten teacher at the school. Thomas is the author of Eurythmy, Rhythm, Dance and Soul and Completing the Circle, a collection of articles on parenting and education.
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