Guiding Principles & Curriculum:
Protecting and nourishing childhood as the foundation for the future.
Our purposefully pre-academic curriculum is carefully planned to meet the needs of the young child, providing a healthy foundation for the rest of life, in academic, social, emotional and creative realms. Our approach to education works from wisdom steeped in research: the young child learns best through play, exploration and imitation.
Children are met with balance of activities that entice and challenge their emerging skills and capacities. In warm, home-like classrooms, and in nature’s bountiful wooded play spaces and gardens, children at Harbor Waldorf School are welcomed into learning environments that nourish their senses, invite their innate desire for self-initiated exploration and movement, and inspire their budding imaginations. These are the seeds for a lifelong love of learning, and they provide the foundation that every young child needs for self-confidence, resilience, and future academic excellence.
"Play is the highest form of research" -Albert Einstein. At the heart of our early childhood program is our understanding that self-initiated play is critical to the healthy development of all young children. The classrooms at Harbor Waldorf School provide an environment that encourages children to initiate play and learn by freely exploring the world around them, which in turn nurtures self-education and self-regulation skills. Open-ended toys made from natural materials nourish the child’s developing senses, flex their creative muscles and imaginative capacities, and further develop their emerging fine motor skills. In addition, structures that they can move and explore with their whole bodies, combined with environments that invite movement, help to develop their gross motor coordination. We believe that creative play is the child’s most important developmental tool: through the activity of imaginative play, children develop physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.
Artistic & Practical Activity
Children engage in a broad range of of activities that work to strengthen the primary senses, allow them to expand their attention and focus, improve their dexterity and develop an appreciation for aesthetics. Painting, coloring, beeswax modeling, wet wool felting, sewing, and finger knitting are a few examples of the artistic opportunities in our program. Practical activities include snack preparation, washing and chopping vegetables, baking bread, caring for the environment, watering plants, mending, and repairing and making toys. These practical experiences are often connected to the seasons, and carried out with as much independence by the children as possible. Working with their hands provides a foundation for focused attention, critical thinking and problem solving, and provides children with the irreplaceable ability to create objects of beauty and function.
Story time and puppetry play important roles in our curriculum. When children listen to stories they develop an ability to listen, to remember, to sequence the elements of a story, pick up the subtleties of characterization, and perhaps most important of all, to imagine. Countering the artificial noise of electronic stories and digital media, our teachers practice the arts of storytelling and puppetry. Creative adults inspire the same qualities in the children around them, as they invite the listener into a world of “once upon a time”. The teller’s pacing, intonation, gestures and expression all support the children’s growing vocabulary, listening comprehension, and attention span. We encourage them to begin to “think the pictures” and create a strong foundation for their emerging literacy skills.
Young children come to know and understand the world around them though movement. Our circle time lets the children live freely and naturally into their joy of movement, while simultaneously stimulating their imagination. Woven out of archetypal activities of life and experiences of nature, the rhymes and songs in our circles nourish the child’s language development, stimulate their natural delight in singing and invite them to participate in a flowing rhythm imbued with beauty and order.
Time in Nature
Our children benefit from a rich variety of outdoor play spaces. In addition to our beautiful playground, they experience the natural wonders of our “fairy woods". Rain or shine, ample outdoor opportunities exist for developing strong, healthy bodies and fostering a life long respect for the earth and a deep appreciation for nature’s bounty in our children.
Joy, Reverence & Gratitude
Our teachers work to create classrooms that are warm, beautiful and loving home-like environments, which are protective and secure, and where things happen in a predictable, rhythmic manner. Joy is at the heart of our early childhood program, where teachers model passionate engagement in the activities of each day and a deep interest in each of their students. In our classes, children are encouraged to share, to work together, to care for each other and to respect the needs of others. The behavior of children is molded by what surrounds them. Kindness is practiced by teachers and encouraged in the children, who in turn learn to trust the adults and other children.
Through regular exposure to the natural world, reverence for life in all forms is gently nurtured. From sledding down a hill, climbing through a tunnel or balancing on a fallen tree limb, opportunities abound for healthy fun. Experiences like foraging for wild edibles connect students to the earth in a personal and meaningful way.
Gratitude is cultivated as children learn to work together in the service of the class community. They are actively engaged in the preparation of snacks by washing and chopping vegetables, baking bread; they take turns setting the table with place mats, cutlery and a vase of flowers. When snack is done, children take turns washing, rinsing and drying dishes, bowls and cups for the entire class. Children in our program are “helpers” and see themselves and what they do as important to others—thereby enabling them to notice and appreciate how what others do affects them.