Waldorf School of Cape Cod Alumni Update

by Nancy Garvey, M.Ed.

Waldorf education is about to turn 100 years old, and Waldorf schools all over the world will be celebrating, including our school.  In order to get ready for Waldorf’s 100th birthday, I have had the pleasure of researching our alumni for the school’s database and thought I would share some of what I learned.

Some of our own alumni have their children at our school!  We are very grateful to these former students who learned first hand how incredible a Waldorf education is, and chose to have their own children here.  It takes commitment, and often sacrifice to have your sons and daughters at a Waldorf school. We appreciate the effort they make to provide their children with similar experiences they themselves have had.

As one might imagine, some of our alumni are in the performing arts.  One young woman lives in Spain and is a musician. Her gigs are held at large venues, and she is famous in Spain.  One of our alumni family is an actor and two are actresses, one of whom was in an episode of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service).  One of the stars of NCIS, Mark Harmon, commented on her lack of addiction to her cell phone. He was impressed that she did not run to check messages like many of the other young women did during breaks while shooting the episode.

Some Waldorf School of Cape Cod graduates are involved in or employed in the political arena.  One graduate worked on the National Presidential Election in 2016. His candidate lost the election, but he gained valuable experience. Despite the disappointment for his candidate, he is being sought after to return to Washington, DC to work once again in the political arena.

There are also a few scientists and engineers in our alumni family.  One former student is still attending college and majoring in engineering.  One of her Junior-year projects was a building design that was approved and will be utilized to construct a building at Logan Airport in Boston and at Laguardia Airport in New York.

Not surprisingly, many of our students are attracted to work in the area of community and national service.  A few alumni work at Camphill communities in Ireland and in California. Camphill is an international movement of intentional communities designed to meet the needs of children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities through a combination of community life, the arts and work on the land. The Waldorf School of Cape Cod is also credited with having an alumnus who will be beginning his teaching career this September at the Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachusetts.

A former student of ours is a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Founder and School Leader.  KIPP is a nationwide network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States and are usually established under state charter school laws.  KIPP is America's largest network of charter schools. A few of our former students are also public school teachers.

We are keenly aware of two former students who have joined the military.  September 11, 2001 was a pivotal moment for our country; these two young men said that they wanted to give back and be part of something that was greater than themselves.  

One of our alumni is a fiber artist who worked in NY City and is currently located on the West Coast.  We also know of former students who have “white-collar day jobs” but have either hobbies or second jobs in the arts.  For example, one of these students enjoys photography in his free time and one is a videographer and photographer.

A few of our graduates are print journalists and one is a commentator on a local public radio station.  And the list goes on...

It would be remiss to not mention those alumni who have sadly passed on at too young an age.  The Waldorf School of Cape Cod strives to keep their memory alive by thinking about them and meditating on their all-too-short lives and how blessed we are to have had them at our school and in our community.  

We are extremely proud of all of our former students and would like to stay in contact.  Alumni students and parents are invited to visit our website and fill out the Contact form to tell us about yourselves and each other. It has been an honor to hear back from so many alumni parents telling us about their children.  

I will be leaving the school in June but hope to read about WSCC alumni in Watermarks, the WSCC’s weekly newsletter.  It has been an absolute pleasure to update the alumni database and to be a part of this school community. I will truly miss my colleagues, parents and especially the students.

Nancy Garvey

Nancy Garvey has worked at our school since 1999.  She assisted in the kindergarten for one year, became the three-day nursery teacher for one year, then taught kindergarten in the Morning Glory Room for close to two decades.  She has served on the Board of Trustees, on the College of Teachers and on the Leadership Council and also worked briefly in Administration at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod.

The Benefits of Outdoor Free Play

IMG_0871 (1).JPG

by Nancy Garvey, M.Ed

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Waldorf students spend a great deal of time outdoors.  While this is especially true of Waldorf nursery and kindergarten programs, all the classes at Waldorf schools through the grades are outside each day as part of the curriculum.  

There are many reasons to bring children out into nature including to give them an opportunity to play with “natural toys” such as sticks, pine cones, sea shells and tree bark, an opportunity to breathe fresh air, witness the marvels of the natural world, increase the child’s power of observation and to calm them and to work out extra energy.

Waldorf teachers in early childhood and elementary grades offer both indoor and outdoor free play time. Free play is play that is not directly lead or organized by an adult or caregiver. When children spend time outdoors, without toys or electronic gadgets, they find creative things to do utilizing the natural “toys” around them.  This fosters creative imagination. When children are left free to create, it is remarkable to witness the elaborate macro-structures they build, such as debris shelters, teepees, and boats using fallen tree branches and tree limbs found in the woods. These creations are large enough for whole classes to be inside and explore. When they build with fallen trees or limbs, the children are using gross-motor movements and muscles, are working hard and are generally in collaboration with classmates, which fosters communication, flexibility in thinking, teamwork and problem solving.  One of the benefits of this type of hard work is that it build “will-forces”, the ability to “stick with it” when faced with challenges, a skill that serves our students for the rest of their lives.

Many students have also built tiny gnome homes or gnome villages at the base of trees. Building small structures utilizes fine motor skills and provides opportunities for children to imagine more intently by pretending that they are entering a fairy world and a magical realm.

Breathing fresh air, especially in a forest or by a beach, has health benefits. In the article entitled “Here's Why a Walk in The Woods or a Dip in The Ocean Is So Great For Your Health”, authors Jeffrey Craig and Susan L.Prescott explain that we breathe in beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions, ions which may influence mental outlook in beneficial ways, whenever we are in forests or by bodies of water, which increases our physical and mental well-being.  They even went so far as to say, “There is increasing evidence that we can help shape our children’s mental and physical health by exposing them to more green environments as they work, rest and play.” Any teacher who has spent time with their students in the woods will tell you that there is something healing about being in nature and that aggressive, anxious children are calmed after even a brief time in a forest or at the beach, or on a long walk.

We want to help our children become observers because seeing is one way people learn. Being in nature provides children, (and adults), wonderful opportunities to pay attention and to notice.  When children discover something for themselves, it is amazing and memorable. Once, in the woods across the street from our school, a five year old girl noticed, for the first time ever, that leaves have veins.  She was very much pleasantly astonished and in awe. Witnessing her pleasure and amazement was also a gift for me that I will never forget. When children often spend time in nature, they begin to notice changes in their surrounds that happen with the change of seasons, for example, or the change in light depending on the time of day or angle of the sun.  It is truly a magical experience to observe a child who spies a dew-covered spider web catching the early rays of the sun or who is so moved upon finding a tiny, young salamander, they weep.

Natural environments offer us a chance to relax and recover from noise and to witness the awe of nature and witness beauty.  When my boys were young, we went for a walk in the woods everyday, partly for their benefit and partly for mine (to use some of their exuberant energy in a positive way), because if they did not have the opportunity to move and work their bodies, they were very rambunctious and got into trouble.  We never knew what gift we would come upon in the forest, but we discovered something every time. My sons are grown men now. However, they still remember the day we found wild cranberries growing along the bank of the river near our house, the time we were in the woods when it started to snow and, because we were quiet, we actually heard the snow flakes landing on the ground.  Another fond memory is the day we were hiking on a path, turned the corner and saw two young fox kits frolicking in the sunshine. These are truly memorable parts of their lives and would not have been possible had we not spent time outside in nature everyday.

Many Waldorf early childhood classes begin the day with time outside, and some schools have added a “Nature Kindergarten” or “Forest Kindergarten”.  Starting the day outside allows the children, especially the boys who are more often diagnosed as hyperactive, to use up some of their excess energy and to feel settled within their bodies.  When these classes then go inside, the children seem more comfortable focusing on the tasks at hand.

There are many benefits to being in nature.  Rachel Carlson, in Silent Spring stated, "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ... There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."  My advice is to spend time in nature with children. It will do them, and you, some good. So go for a walk, take a hike or swim in a river, pond or ocean and notice the benefits of being outdoors.

If you are interested in learning more about our school and would like to schedule a visit please contact Roxanne King at rking@waldorfcapecod.org