Woodland Star Charter School is an independent K-8 charter school in Sonoma, California, founded in 2000 by parents and teachers. Woodland Star addresses the whole child, framing rigorous academics in an artistic, creative and multi-sensory curriculum.
Our method follows a developmental model that respects the nature of children and how they best learn. A play-based, half-day Kindergarten resists the cultural imperative for “more-better-faster,” allowing young children to enjoy the wonder of childhood through imaginative play. In the grades, the Woodland Star curriculum covers an exceptional range. Core subjects are taught in three- to four-week-long Main Lesson blocks, immersing the students in language arts, math, science, geography and history.
Concepts are interwoven throughout the curriculum and are taught though oral presentations, writing, reading, recitation, drama, painting, drawing and movement. This multi-dimensional approach engages students in a powerful and concentrated experience and promotes active listening, memory, imagination and vocabulary. Enrichment subjects, often taught by specialty teachers, include Spanish, singing, flute, violin, painting, drawing, modeling, knitting, sewing, farming and gardening, woodworking and movement.
The Woodland Star faculty members are California credentialed, with extensive training in Waldorf education.
Woodland Star parents are encouraged to play an active role in the school as committed and involved partners in their children’s education.
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SEVEN REASONS TO CHOOSE WOODLAND STAR CHARTER SCHOOL
- Our tuition-free public school offers many programs that have been dropped from mainstream schools—including Spanish, art, movement and music.
- Our arts-integrated curriculum respects and addresses children’s natural development, multiple intelligences and various learning styles.
- Our play-based, half-day Kindergarten preserves the wonder of childhood and establishes the foundation for creative thinking.
- Our rigorous upper grades’ academic curriculum builds on students’ capabilities for imaginative thinking, deep feeling and self-confidence that have been nurtured in the early grades.
- Our on-site after school care program provides wholesome activities and recreation in a safe and nurturing environment.
- Our curriculum supports sustainable living, enabling children to gain respect, skills and knowledge appropriate for living consciously on the earth.
- We are a diverse community of families committed to all children, to child-centered education and to one another.
THE GOOD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
AN OVERVIEW OF THE WOODLAND STAR KINDERGARTEN
The Woodland Star Kindergarten is a play-based, half day, two-year program. In the Kindergarten, the teachers gently lead the child across the bridge from home to school, laying a strong, healthy foundation for the academic program that begins in First Grade.
In a homelike environment, the Kindergarten program is rich in singing, seasonal activities, circle, painting, puppetry and storytelling. The teachers believe it is profoundly important that the child have time to develop body, imagination and will in a secure setting. Free play with simple natural toys draws out the imagination. Shells, seeds and homemade dolls, wooden toys, beeswax crayons and modeling wax are familiar and loved playthings in the Woodland Star Kindergarten.
Because the Kindergarten child lives so deeply in the environment around him and imitates all he sees, the teacher strives to create an environment that mirrors back to the child the Good and the Beautiful. The teacher cultivates a reverence for nature and for caring relationships and good habits, laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning.
Within the framework of Public Waldorf Education, the Kindergarten is structured to provide a gradual transition from the life of the home to the life of the elementary classroom. It is based upon the simple, yet profound concepts of imitation, repetition, and creative play. Due to its unique two-year format, the Woodland Star Kindergarten is appropriate for a mixed age group of children from early five year olds to the pre-First Grade six year olds.
The Woodland Star Kindergarten child will gradually become accustomed to working within a group, listening to stories, interacting with the teacher, and following a daily routine, while at the same time being aided in his or her development as an individual through the encouragement of creative play, healthy movement indoors and out, practical life skills, and many artistic opportunities. All of these activities are carefully developed and guided by the teacher, who deeply understands the young child and his or her immersion in the world of movement, as well as the child’s devotion to learning about the world through imitating everything he or she experiences.
Here are some of the core activities of the Woodland Star Kindergarten and the significance of each in relationship to lifelong learning:
Creative Play Time
The children are encouraged to imagine and play with a wide variety of adaptive toys and natural materials, following their own initiative. During this period, the teacher is involved with preparing the snack, sewing or any number of practical activities with which the children are welcome to help. An atmosphere of work and play permeates the room.
(The ability to play creatively and use one’s imagination as a child becomes, in the elementary years, the ability to think abstractly, i.e.: solving complicated math problems. Also, extended focus on the task or play at hand, and the ability to create and follow an activity through to completion, are extremely important in the later schooling, and through life.)
The class is brought together to recite verse, sing songs, and play developmental games with the teacher. These are often connected with the season, a particular fairy tale, or are just part of the general lore of childhood.
(Repeating and remembering verses and song sets lay a strong foundation for the more intense memory work to come in the grades. Repetition is also known to be an important foundation for healthy brain development. In circle, we begin our oral approach to teaching reading and literacy, and we provide opportunity for healthy movement, spatial and body awareness, and social interaction.)
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, crayon drawing, as well as forms of handwork such as finger knitting, sewing, and wood working, are done as a group activity, although each child is absorbed in his or her own work. High quality materials are used for these activities.
(These activities encourage the child’s natural sense of beauty, color, and form, as well as laying the groundwork for the artistic techniques that will be required for all grade subjects to come. They also aid significantly in the development of fine motor skills.)
Music is woven throughout the day and is often used for transitioning from one activity to the next. Often, the teacher and children use simple instruments, such as chimes, harps, and wooden flutes.
(Music lays the foundation for future math and engineering skills, as well as the in-depth music curriculum to follow in the grades.)
Children help with all aspects of this shared mealtime, from preparing the food (always organic, including whole grains and homemade bread), and ironing napkins, to cleaning the dishes and tables.
(An emphasis on gratitude for the food and on table manners sets the stage for lifelong social skills.)
Similar to indoor creative play, the group is taken outdoors to experience the natural world in all of its different seasons. You will find the kindergarten outside in all but the most formidable weather.
(A child who has the experience of the yearly seasons can enter very deeply and comfortably into the later studies of plants and animals, the weather, geology, astronomy, and other natural sciences. Also, the opportunity for healthy movement offered in the outdoor setting is crucial to the healthy development of the young child.)
The children are gathered together to hear the teacher tell a special story. It may be a fairy or folk tale from around the world, a nature tale, or a puppet show. Stories are worked with over a long period of time so that the children may learn them well, and later act them out. In many cases, six-year-old children are allowed to assist the teacher with the puppet shows.
(The ability to listen to an adult for a sustained period of time is a skill that is gradually developed. The content of the stories also affords an opportunity for the children to experience human language in very pure and beautiful form. In story time, the language and reading skills of vocabulary and comprehension are strengthened.)
In addition to the daily activities described above, there is an ongoing celebration of the seasons. The mood of the season permeates all that we do in the Kindergarten. Annual celebrations and festivals become highlights of the year, for the Kindergarten and entire school community.
Directed academic activities are not emphasized in the Woodland Star Kindergarten, for the emphasis lies on the foundation skills and experiences mentioned above.
Woodland Star School is a tuition-free, public, charter school in Sonoma, California, inspired by Waldorf Education and serving families with children in Kindergarten through Grade Eight. As an alternative public school of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, we offer a rigorous academic curriculum fully integrated with art and a full complement of specialty subjects, including Spanish, handwork, violin, woodwinds, choral singing, movement, eurythmy, gardening and woodworking.
The Main Lesson
The Main Lesson is the cornerstone of the day at Woodland Star. It is the two-hour period in the morning when children are most awake and eager for academic work. The class teacher focuses on one subject over several weeks so students have an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with every subject studied.
In each main lesson block, the teacher incorporates storytelling, movement, music, poetry, drama, drawing, painting, modeling, reading and writing, presenting vivid descriptions and experiential opportunities each day that engage the student in a harmonious and joyful way. Students record and illustrate the lesson content in their Main Lesson books, which are treasured for years to come.
The ideal is for the Class Teacher to remain with the same class throughout the eight elementary years, enabling close, secure relationships with each child and a deep appreciation of individual needs. This allows a close partnership to develop between parents and teacher as well, which fosters a much deeper understanding of the ever-changing stages of child development.
After the morning Main Lesson, the students engage in practice periods that deepen the academic skills introduced in the main lesson and attend special subject classes including Spanish, handwork, games, violin and woodworking. Most special subject classes at Woodland Star begin in the First Grade, although Spanish is introduced in Kindergarten.
The Woodland Star curriculum is designed to give children meaningful experiences at every age. An approach is taken that strives to maintain the protective veil of childhood for students in the first four years of grade school. Through fairy tales, fables, legends, creation stories and Norse mythology, the teacher slowly builds a bridge that crosses from the innocent, imaginative world of childhood to the more conscious, empirical world of adolescent life.
In Grades Five through Eight, the developmental capacity for thinking radically shifts and the curriculum grows progressively more complex from year to year. The beginning of this transition is marked by the "nine year change," a time when the child's individuality becomes more pronounced and when a child first begins to view everything in his/her surroundings with a "critical eye." At this time, many children begin to question their place in the world, which was hitherto taken for granted.
With this "birth of individuality" comes a growing interest in the world around them. In their studies, the upper grades move from mythology to recorded history, the birth of logic and abstract thought. The curriculum weaves together the natural sciences, history and the arts in a much more sophisticated manner, and students begin to synthesize the application of skills learned in the early grades. Arithmetic leads to higher mathematics; form drawing leads to complex geometric and perspective drawings; poetry and singing lead to formal reading and writing with more concern for grammatical structure and composition in language and music.
Storytelling is a large part of the First Grade curriculum encompassing Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Nature Stories from around the world.
Explorations of nature, pictorial and phonetic introduction of the alphabet, word recognition, qualities of whole numbers, Roman numerals, introduction to the four processes in arithmetic, mental math games, lower multiplication tables, form drawing.
- Legends, Animal Fables and Native American Indian Legends and the multi-cultural studies of noble and heroic people.
- Small letters, reading, basic elements of grammar and sentence structure, form drawing.
- Broadening arithmetic processes, continue observations of natural phenomenon (i.e. weather, seasons, etc.)
- Ancient legends and creation stories from many cultures.
- Study of practical life: farming, housing, clothing. The children grow food, cook meals and build a simple housing structure like a garden shed or playhouse.
- Reading, spelling, cursive writing, original compositions, grammar, punctuation, parts of speech.
- Higher multiplication tables, weight, measuring, money, primary numbers, word problems.
- Stories from Norse mythology and Celtic sagas and legends.
- California and local history, geography and cartography.
- Study of animal kingdom.
- Fractions, long division, square roots, averages, factoring.
- Ancient Civilizations of India through classical Greece. Participation with Fifth Grades in a spring Pentathlon
- Composition and poetry, spelling, reading, grammar.
- U.S. Geography related to vegetation, agriculture and economics.
- Decimals, ratio and proportion, freehand geometry, decimals, metric system, mixed numbers.
- Study of plant kingdom.
- Roman and Medieval history, composition and poetry, reading, formal letter writing, grammar, spelling, North and South American geography.
- Mineralogy, physics (acoustics, electricity, magnetism, optics and heat), astronomy.
- Percentages, interest, profit and loss, ratios, proportions, geometric drawing with instruments.
- Renaissance, Reformation and Age of Discovery, literature and poetry (Chaucer and the crusades, Arthurian legends), biographies.
- Composition, complex grammar, spelling.
- World geography and ocean currents.
- Physics (mechanics and electricity), physiology, research, inorganic chemistry.
- Business math in depth, graphing and powers of numbers, pre-algebra.
- Shakespeare and Elizabethan Age to modern poetry, writing short stories, dramatic scripts and journalism, spelling, grammar.
- Continue world geography and climatology.
- Age of Revolution to Current Events.
- Physics (hydraulics), physiology, organic chemistry, meteorology. Applied mathematics (review of solids and measurements), set concepts, algebra, solid geometry.