Asheville’s first Waldorf School opens
Here's the press release:
Asheville’s first school based on Waldorf Education opened its doors this month. Azalea Mountain Cooperative School, located at Trinity United Methodist Church in West Asheville, offers kindergarten through fourth grade, with experienced, trained Waldorf teachers, and a curriculum based on experiential learning, arts and Nature to support academic excellence. Plans are to expand a grade a year to eighth grade.
As children arrived for the first day, each was warmly welcomed by the teacher with a handshake and a rose. The classroom walls are painted in soft blended colors of pink, orange, yellow and green. The chalkboards are filled with colorfully drawn pictures-- a tree and flowers in the combined 1st/2nd grade room, and a geometrical mandala in the combined 3rd/4th grade room.
The children find their desks and settle in. The 1st/2nd grade students balance on a “one legged stool” instead of a traditional chair in order to develop their postural muscles and to promote attention and focus. But they won’t be in their desks for long. After a brief welcome, the children move their desks and follow their teacher around the room in verses, songs and movement learning games.
It has been a long-awaited day for parents, teachers, and the school’s founders. Azalea Mountain began its first steps to this opening day over three years ago.
“We knew that building community had to be the first step, so we started with creating seasonal festivals where curious and like-minded families could come together,” said Amy Arrendell, member of the Azalea Mountain board. “And it was clear from the start that there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm for Waldorf Education here. At our first fall festival we thought we might get 20 children and parents. We were amazed and delighted when close to 100 people turned out. And each festival has continued to have large turnouts,” Arrendell explained.
Azalea Mountain’s board of directors looked for a location for over a year until Lauren Weninegar, youth minister at Trinity United Methodist Church, 587 Haywood Rd, offered classrooms in the church’s education building. “The church was ready to open the doors to more families and children,” Weninegar explained.
Waldorf Education has a 90-year track record of proven learning techniques now backed by research in brain development, kinesthetic learning and emotional intelligence. The techniques are specially tailored to integrate movement, storytelling, art, and academics to meet each stage of a child’s intellectual, physical, social and emotional development.
Children create their own school books, illustrating and writing out their own history, science, and math lesson books.
A relationship develops over time between the teachers, students and parents. Unlike most schools, Waldorf grades teachers stay with their class from the first through eighth grade. This provides an opportunity for teachers to gain a deep understanding of each child’s temperament and unique abilities as the child develops through the years.
Another unique aspect of the Azalea Mountain curriculum is the weekly Nature Learning Day, Each Friday, the grades children experience gardening, animals, structure building and natural science at Sacred Mountain Sanctuary, a 90-acre educational center in Candler.
While the grade students are busy with their creative academic lessons, the kindergarten children are busy at their own work-- play. The focus for the three and a half to six year olds is on pre-literacy skills gained through play. The classroom has a homey feel and is filled with beautiful toys made of natural materials. All of the activities in the classroom, from baking bread to beeswax modeling support learning through experience.
In addition to the K-4th grade program, Azalea Mountain also offers a Parent-Child class called the Morning Garden for families with children ages birth through three. The Morning Garden models age-appropriate play activities for young children and supports new parents with the Waldorf understanding of early childhood.
An open house is scheduled on October 2 from 3:30-5 for all who would like to learn more about Waldorf Education in Asheville.