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.
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.
Tonight families of Bayou Village School and their children will gather on the playground for our Advent Spiral. An inwardly spiraling path of evergreens will be laid out. The center will hold a lit candle. Each child will walk the spiral slowly, reverently. Upon arriving at the center, she will light her candle. The child then goes back, placing her light carefully somewhere along the path. Once every child has gone, the entire spiral will be lit with candles!
The gift of light we thankfully take
But not shall it be alone for our sake
The more we give light
The one to the other
It shines and it spreads and it glows still further
Until every spark by friends set aflame
Until every heart with joy to proclaim
In the depths of our souls a shining sun glows.
In the classroom, we are celebrating Advent by honoring each kingdom of nature. Last week, the classes attention was directed towards the mineral kingdom. This week, our focus will be on plants. In the third week, appreciation will be given to the animal kingdom. The fourth week will culminate with respect for the human being.
During each week leading up to Christmas, the children will craft special items related to the kingdom being honored. This week, we are making felted stones and will begin sewing little gnomes and pouches as well.
Read below to learn more about Advent and what is in store for tonight's Advent Spiral.
Re-published from the Austin Waldorf School website :
Advent is a time for quiet contemplation for what is to come during the winter festival, the revelation of a deep mystery. Advent, from the Latin "to come," is the period including the four Sundays just before Christmas. In the tradition of the Christian Churches, one candle is lit each Sunday until the light of four candles heralds the birth of Christ. Yet Advent and even the feast day we now celebrate as Christmas have a far wider traditional context. For thousands of years before Christianity, the Egyptians celebrated the Festival of Osiris, the Celts and Druids held great festivals of fire and light, and the Jewish people celebrated Hanukkah. This holiday has had festival connotations of light and the sun, of the time when winter draws to its close and spring begins. Nearly all cultures have acknowledged the mystery of this moment. At the time of the winter festival, we can recognize that we too will ultimately triumph over the darkness in our lives. The celebration of Advent can honor and revere the kingdoms of nature. In the first week attention may be directed to the mineral kingdom. In the second week respect may be focused on the plants. In the third week appreciation may be given to the animal kingdom. Respect for the human being is then the culmination of the fourth week.
The Advent Spiral, a kindergarten and lower grades festival, is one of light, movement, and symbolic change. A spiral of greens or ribbons of cloth is laid out on the floor and decorated with crystals, shells, plants, and carved animals representing the kingdoms of nature. Each child walks to the center, carrying an unlit candle, which is lighted from the tall brightly-burning candle there. Moving outward, the child places the candle somewhere along the spiral pathway, bringing it to light. This passage reflects winter's dark growing to a close and the renewed promise that spring light and life will begin again.
The Advent Spiral is also perhaps the most deeply moving community festival of the year. As part of the Adult Education program, opportunity is provided for adults to walk the spiral and experience its beautiful and powerful symbolism. Children are also welcome if they can honor the mood of quiet contemplation.
Last week in the spirit of Thanksgiving and all its autumn-vegetable and pumpkin-spice-flavored love, our Sweet Peas Kindergarten Class built a fire and roasted their own sweet potatoes on it. The children loved gathering kindling and watching the fire as it grew large enough to roast their potatoes. Sweet potatoes were enjoyed by both the Sweet Peas Kindergarten and Sunflower Garden Nursery classes. It was an exciting morning!
The following day they took a fresh pumpkin which had been the centerpiece of their nature table and peeled it, cooked it and turned it into a delicious pumpkin pie. They did not use the grain free crust but otherwise followed this recipe below from Wellness Mama. To top it off the children whipped cream and then added in a tiny amount of maple syrup with a hint of vanilla. Delicious!
In time for Thanksgiving, gather your children into the kitchen to make this wonderful recipe below. We are thankful to all of those who make Bayou Village School a unique and magical place to send our children to school each day. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Grain Free Pumpkin Pie
Author: Wellness Mama
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Martinmas Lantern Walks are celebrated by children throughout Europe and in Waldorf Schools worldwide. This is one of Bayou Village School's most treasured celebrations of the year. November 11th is Martinmas, a very old European festival of Christian origin.
We hope you and your friends and families will join us this year on Martinmas as we gather at Milroy Park to enjoy hot soup and bread together as a community. Everyone is welcome! The children have been diligently working on their lanterns for the occasion. As a time of reverence, the children will sing their songs and light their candles as the light of the lantern carries us into the darkness of winter.
Bayou Village School's Martinmas Lantern Walk
Milroy Park, 1205 Yale Street, Houston Heights
November 11th, 2014 @ 6:00pm
In our efforts to be environmentally conscious, please bring your own spoons and bowls.
Learn more about Martinmas from the City of Lakes Waldorf School:
From France comes the story of St. Martin, who as a young man passed under an archway of the city of Amiens and discovered a poor beggar huddled there. The man was nearly naked, shivering with cold. On seeing him, the young Martin took his cape from his own shoulders, tore the garment in half and covered the poor man to warm him. The following night Martin had a dream in which he saw an angel wearing this same piece of his cape. The experience confirmed in him his devotion to all mankind regardless of their station in life.
Martin went on to become patron saint of beggars and outcasts. He was known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature and his ability to bring warmth and light to those in need.
As we journey into the darkest time of the year, it is increasingly important for each of us to kindle warmth and light in our hearts. Martin’s cloak can remind us to share with those in need. The gently glowing lanterns of Martinmas will give way to the candles of the advent spiral as we draw nearer to the Solstice, showing how our inner light must shine ever brighter against the cold. As nature sleeps, we must be wakeful!
This is a quiet, meditative celebration. Following the lighting of the lanterns, the children will walk through the park with their class, singing lantern songs.
The sunlight fast is dwindling.
My little lamp needs kindling.
Its beam shines far in darkest night,
Dear lantern guard me with your light.
Parents are asked to walk with their children and to help preserve the mood of the evening by joining in the singing and encouraging the children in reverence and calm. Upon our completion of the walk, children can make their way home with their parents .
As you leave this year’s Lantern Walk, we encourage you to take the mood of the festival home with you. A quiet ride home, followed by supper and bedtime is ideal. You may like to light your lanterns again at home to enjoy their light, or perhaps enjoy a lantern lit supper! Let the singing, the sight of the lanterns through the branches, and the joyous mood of the day follow you into your sleep.
Welcome to Bayou Village School's Blog! We wanted to kick off our blog with a post about healthy lunches and healthy eating. It's always great to get new ideas about what we can send our children off to school with.
At the forefront of Waldorf Education and here at Bayou Village School is our focus on health and nutrition. It comprises so much of our behavior and how we feel. The children in some of the classes prepare their snacks each day and we ask that foods sent from home are minimally processed. One of the biggest testaments to our community and its love of whole, nutritious food is seen during our community potlucks held on celebration days. There you see organic salads, quinoa dishes, beautiful homemade breads and delicious herbal teas made by families from our school.
Our Kindergarten teacher Ms. Tina recently sent an email with a few healthy school lunch options for inspiration. We thought we'd share them here, along with a sweet rhyme the children are learning!
When packing your child’s lunch, send a variety of foods but not too much. Children enjoy variety, but get overwhelmed if there are too many choices.
Main course item
- small bean and cheese burrito
- chicken and cheese sandwich
- almond butter sandwich with fruit spread or honey
- slices of cheese and salami with crackers
- leftover spaghetti/pasta salad
- hummus and pita bread
- hard boiled egg
- tuna salad with crackers or celery sticks
- carrot sticks
- cherry tomatoes
- sliced cucumber
- celery sticks
- sugar snap peas
- apple slices
- melon balls
- orange slices
- pineapple wedges
- dried apricots
Miscellaneous treat - put in sparingly
- fruit sweetened yogurt
- trail mix
- fruit leather
The following finger puppet story was a favorite this past week:
One little apple hanging on a tree,
It fell down and bumped my knee!
Another little apple as rosy as a rose,
It fell down and bumped my nose!
Another little apple, ripe and sweet,
It fell down and bumped my feet! I
t rolled and rolled nearly to my house,
Where it was spotted by a tiny little mouse.
“This yummy apple will make a fine meal,”
And he munch munch munched it, even the peel.
Finger puppets are wonderful for children and nimble fingers are indicators of clear speech. Finger movements are centered in the same part of the brain as speech. What a lovely support of early literacy and language development!
Happy healthy lunch packing and thanks Ms.Tina!
This is Bayou Village School's space to share stories, happenings, recipes, ideas, and garden and festival life, associated with our magical school.