Kindergarten at Camellia Waldorf School is pure joy! It is just what a kindergarten should be – warm, inviting, safe, cozy. It is the place you always wanted to go when you were five but perhaps didn’t know existed. The teachers are kind and have beautiful voices that sing liltingly to tell when it’s time to line up, to come inside, to circle up for story or puppet shows or sit down for snack. Transitions are gently managed so that the kindergarteners are barely aware that they are changing activities, and everyone can come along with the teacher to engage in the next fun thing.
At Camellia, we meet the children exactly where they are developmentally, at every age. Therefore, in the kindergarten, we call on the child’s natural inclination to imitate by offering lots of activities that are good to imitate and by putting the children with teachers who are good role models to imitate. The teacher sings throughout the day and the children have many opportunities to sing along. Circle time is the activity richest in this way: the teacher sings songs and tells little stories through singing and movements which the children imitate. After two or three days of the same songs, most of the kindergarteners are singing along with their teacher, who has never “taught” them a single word or note. Each day, the teacher tells a story, the same one for a few weeks, in just the same way. To do this, the teacher must memorize each story. In this way, the children’s memories are strengthened. How many times have you, as a parent, read a story to your child a number of times and then once make a small mistake or change even just in the tone of your voice only to have your child say indignantly, “But that’s not how you said it last time!”?
After a story has been told a few times, so that the children have the imaginations within them, the teacher will create a puppet show to tell the story with the help of beautiful dolls, cloths and toys from the classroom. The children may sometimes join in and move the puppets about to help tell the story. Finally, the children help to tell the story dramatically, wearing capes and hats, taking on different characters in the tale. The storytelling activities also come out in the children’s imaginative play. Children often put together their own puppet shows spontaneously and invite their friends to watch. Games from preschool continue, such as playing house and building forts, but take on a new flavor that matches the children’s new abilities of discernment and interests. Now they play at being firefighters and astronauts, as well as other heroes of their lives.
The power of storytelling is another way in which the children’s developmental needs are met. They naturally love stories, and they are able to take in the stories that the teacher brings to them in a joyful way, developing their memory capacity, their ability to create mental images of events related, and imbibing unconsciously the grammar of the story, providing an early preparation in language arts.
Other developmental needs are met by other activities in the kindergarten. Many tactile experiences make the day meaningful, such as baking bread with the teacher, rolling out the dough, and making little buns to be enjoyed with friends during snack or lunch. Outside play is also a time for learning, as children build things with boards and ropes, play in the sand, and swing on the swings, under the careful watch of the teacher. Important lessons begun in preschool continue on – how to play kindly with our friends, how to include someone new into a game that is already flowing, how to know when to call in help from the teacher.
The children in Camellia Waldorf School’s Kindergarten want to come to school. They know this is a place they will be seen, heard and accepted, for where they are in their development and for who they are as individuals.