“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.”
– Rudolf Steiner
Wellspring School is an educational community committed to the development of the emotional, practical, intellectual and spiritual qualities of the child through the Waldorf model of education. Wellspring strives to build a thriving school community through providing:
• A high-quality Waldorf education for children preschool through grade eight;
• A relationship with parents to build harmony between the school and home. The School strives to establish a common understanding of child development, the tasks of parenting and teaching, and the Waldorf curriculum;
• A contribution to the social, cultural, civic and educational life of our local communities by sponsoring workshops, lectures and concerts as well as actively contributing to local activities in our sending towns;
• Support for the growth of the Waldorf educational movement by our membership and participation in the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) as a Developing Waldorf School.
Environmental clubs are a mainstay in schools and colleges. They reflect the school’s commitment to the community and the students’ eagerness to create positive change in the world. By establishing an environmental club, students acquire skills to identify problems, investigate alternatives, and propose solutions that will contribute to a better school environment and tread lighter on the earth. Whether you are just starting an environmental club or are looking for ideas to ramp up your activities in time for Earth Day, here are 3 questions to give your team focus and impact.
- Who is missing from the discussion?
Clearly, too many members in a club will hinder its ability to create a unified vision, make decisions, and carry out tasks. But a strategic sampling of students and teachers, who have strong ties to other groups of students, administrative staff, custodians and the school community, is necessary. Diversity of student participants will spread enthusiasm throughout the student body and avoid the stigma of an environmental clique. Encourage specific individuals to join the club. They may just need a little nudge.
Consider inviting special guests to participate during key discussions. If the custodians have not been consulted on the energy conservation efforts, or if the purchasing officer is not included in the investigation into green school and cleaning supplies, chances are high that your club will be seen as pushing an agenda, instead of creating momentum.
- Do the activities have meaning to those outside the club?
If the parents are told the school will start boomerang lunches and discover that means the lunchboxes will come home smothered in yogurt and half-eaten food scraps, will they understand the issue being addressed (i.e. to increase awareness of food and packaging waste, and not to transfer trash disposal responsibilities from the school to home)? Will they understand the impact of the activity? (The average school-age child generates 67 pounds of waste per school year, the equivalent of 13,000 pounds of waste per year for a school with 200 students.)
Of course, communication is key to creating understanding and ownership among everyone involved beyond the club membership. Regular communication will help teachers, students and parents keep the environmental issues on their minds. But rather than simply repeating your club’s message over and over, try sharing best practices, testimonials, where the school is at in meeting its goal, and any lessons learned.
- Have you gone beyond the cliche?
Think of ways to inspire your club beyond planting a tree and picking up litter in the park on Earth Day. Evidence of an inspired environmental club is when environmentally-responsible practices have permeated different aspects of the school, from daily operations to school ground greening to student learning. How about a green prom, field trips to the local landfill, or fundraisers to purchase eco-friendly school supplies? The Teens Turning Green chapter at San Rafael high school in California recently carried out a series of fundraisers, including hike-a-thons and bake sales to purchase 9 sets of Austen refillable and non-toxic dry-erase markers. Those 9 kits mean that the environmental club has saved 2,215 markers from going to the local landfill. There’s nothing like original ideas to inspire a school community into action.
Including the right people in your club’s discussions, generating a true appreciation for your activities, and thinking outside the box for original club activities should mobilize your club to take green to the next level.
I am horrified to share what I recently witnessed at a high school junior varsity soccer game. Within the first few minutes of the game, a member of my son’s team caused a penalty and the ref awarded the opposing team an indirect kick. Despite getting that call, that coach felt his team should have received a penalty kick, not merely an indirect kick. He loudly voiced his displeasure.
Not surprisingly, the ref gave the coach a yellow card. Undeterred, the coach continued to berate the ref and then began making his comments personal. He was loud, obnoxious, and completely out of control. Like the energizer bunny, he was on an unstoppable roll.
Again, not surprisingly, the ref gave him a red card, which meant he had to leave the game. With that, he pulled his team off the field and forfeited the game. Though he had no assistant coach, I believe the ref told him he could get a parent to fill in, though I’m not positive about that. I’m not sure it mattered. It seemed he chose to make this his personal stand and took his players with him.
There are so many things wrong with this incident, that I can barely decide where to begin. This was a junior varsity high school soccer game. While that is clearly important to the kids who play and to their parents who drove the half-hour to the hosting school, in the scheme of life it is pretty insignificant. It wasn’t brain surgery. The coach clearly needs some anger management, and it’s hard for me to imagine how his school’s Athletic Director will allow him to continue coaching. My understanding is that he pulled a similar stunt last year.
Coaches, like teachers, are there to help instill values in our kids. Athletic events provide a wonderful opportunity to teach kids the value of competition and sportsmanship. Maybe the coach had a legitimate gripe and should have gotten the call he sought. But his utter disrespect for the refs, his team, the opposing team and all the parents who witnessed his outrageous behavior, certainly wasn’t the appropriate way to handle disappointment with a call.
What made the situation even more depressing was the support a couple of the parents gave the coach. They applauded his actions and were proud of the coach stuck up for his team. That certainly wasn’t the way I saw it. To me, standing up for your team means teaching these young men that you don’t always get the call you seek in life. Sometimes things don’t go your way, fairly or unfairly. It would have been a far greater lesson to pull the team together and encourage them to prove their point through strong play. It is likely that they would have scored the goal on the penalty, which meant they’d have been in the lead. Instead, everyone ended up as losers.
I urge parents to teach your children good sportsmanship. They will have many knocks in life when things don’t go their way, and it will likely be about something way more important than a soccer game. It is your job to teach them to handle these disappointments appropriately, so they can work through them in the most positive way possible.
I am not sure how this coach can look at himself in the mirror. What did he gain by his brutish behavior? Certainly not respect from his players. These athletes worked hard to make this team and they deserved far better. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children good sportsmanship. Sadly, we can’t always depend on their coaches to provide this important life lesson.
Technology in academia does not need to be as expensive as many think. Many school districts rely on a consulting firm to design a custom solution for their needs. Unfortunately, they often get a cookie-cutter solution that has been copied and pasted from the last 10 designs, does not meet their specific needs, and often wastes 10 – 20% of the total cost.
I highly recommend a school district hire a talented IT manager that is very diverse. This manager should be able to get their feet wet in a database, networking, security systems, CATV, VoIP, and more. However, it’s not necessary for them to master everything. This is where it’s a good idea to have a specialist in software and networking. Once this foundation is in place, your team can work together to decide what they need, want, and don’t want.
When the IT team has a pretty good idea about what upgrades are required, it’s time to contact a company that not only designs the systems but also has actual experience installing the systems. Many school districts make the mistake of hiring an “engineer” that specializes in voice, data, and fiber cabling to design the audio/video, networking, and security systems. This is NOT their field of expertise. This is like going to a chiropractor to perform surgery on your foot. Don’t get me wrong; they are very good at cable design. However, the school district deserves more experience. Let’s be honest; technology grants are not awarded every year. It’s very important to spend them wisely.
When you are contacting companies to provide a solution, it’s a good idea to limit the contractors to about three. One contractor should be able to install the audio/video, CATV, paging, and security systems. Another can handle phones and networking. Lastly, you need a good cabling company. Although the networking and phone contractors can offer to cable, it’s possible their price will be a little higher than a company that only specializes in cabling. The benefit of giving the network contractor the cabling work is it’s probably going to get done with fewer problems. If you manage to find a company in your area that is talented enough and cost-effective to provide a turn-key solution for the entire project, then you have it made. There will be much less management and coordination problems on your part. It’s OK if that contractor needs to sub-contract out a few simple things such as commissioning of the security system. This is completely understandable so long as they are not sub-contracting the majority of the project.
My final recommendation is to make sure you can support what you are installing. If you decide to spend extra money on specialized options like a fully integrated security system with active mapping and automatic camera pop-ups, are you going to pay for someone to watch a monitor all day long? If you pay for a digital signage system, do you have someone that will program and update it on a regular basis? Many schools that have spent money on wonderful features simply forget about them because they do not have the budget to continue to utilize those features. Technology is great and can make your school district much brighter and more efficient. Just try to make it a point to coordinate as much as possible with your IT department. They are the ones behind the curtain keeping everything working.