On Friday the 13th of May, 135 children convened on our Shining Mountain high school field to hold the 2016 Pentathlon. The children came from six schools and traveled to Boulder from all parts of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. Zeus, the God of gods and the controller of weather, graced us with a sunny, crisp day like they must have known on Mount Olympus.
Craig Rubens, the Games/P.E. teacher asked me two weeks prior if I would mind playing the part of the Goddess Athena for the Pentathlon. Having never attended a Pentathlon, I had no idea what I was agreeing to do, but I’d never actually worn a toga for a whole day, nor released doves, nor carried a lit torch at the head of a parade of athletes. I was game.
The children had been practicing their Pentathlon skills since September: javelin, sprint, long run, Greek wrestling, long jump and discus. My daughter spoke so often at the dinner table about the adventures and misadventures of her class’ nine-month progress. And leading up to the event, she had that knot in her stomach, a mixture of excitement, nervousness and the intense desire to do her best. It’s that powerfully, instructive kind of knot that a 5th grader can use for self-discovery.
The day began with opening ceremonies (this is Waldorf after all): group eurythmy dances, odes read to the gods, real fire, a release of live doves and the running of the torch. Students were then organized into their city-states to start their rotation of the Pentathlon events. After the sprint, the children came to the tent to chat and check in with the gods.
I was amazed at the earnestness of the children. As the day progressed they relaxed and walked over to the tent with giggles and sillies, but when we asked them to come close, sit and tried to hold the space, they were wide-eyed and reverent. Even the children I knew well were more mesmerized than I thought possible. They really are still more child than adolescent. Many kids their age have gone numb with media or have rushed ahead of childhood, but our schools have got something really incredible going on here. As Zeus and Athena, we spoke with them about the qualities of the athlete, about striving and digging deep. We chatted with them about how to win and how to lose and name dropped our other god-friends and their qualities: Hermes, Artemis, Heracles and others.
After lunch, when the children made their offerings, I really felt like they were making the offering to me. These offerings were made by each school group directly in front of Zeus and me with their backs to the crowd. There were poems recited in Greek, dances, songs and drama. Instead of feeling incredibly awkward and unworthy, I tried to summon the notion that they were offering their best efforts toward the goddess of wisdom. And that made it easier for me—someone who can be quite shy. What an incredible gift—to have over one hundred children offering their hearts and souls to me personally. What an honor to witness their sacred, beautiful, whole-hearted efforts. I will hold those moments for the rest of my life.
I would have thought that these 5th graders were too old to live in the imaginary world, that they were too old to want the magic. But it’s a good reminder that even the child who stopped imaginary play more than a year ago is still just a javelin throw away from a world of wonder. How easily adults, myself included, assume that they have outgrown all that. Maybe this Waldorf education has instilled a sense of magic that will never be usurped by the humdrum of the adult world. And so for a day, I was reminded how important it is to continue to hold sacred the child in all of us.
So as my last act of Athena, I make a wish for these children on the edge of adolescence. I wish they move forward from the sacred cocoon of childhood with the unwavering torch of wonder and the perpetual lens of magic.
Photos by Mark Steele
On an epically beautiful Colorado day in September, the 5th grade at SMWS loaded into parent’s cars for 3 days and 2 nights stay in Estes Park at YMCA of the Rockies. Our trip began in the Rocky Mountain National Park where we completed about a 5-mile hike. It was a trek for some—the phlegmatics! But for others it seemed a breeze up and a sprint down. We stopped for a snack at Alberta waterfall on the way up and ate lunch at beautiful Mills Lake at the end of our ascent! Some children braved the alpine water temps with accidental slips into the edge of the lake. OOPS! After lunch we descended back down the trail and loaded into our cars to caravan to the YMCA, where we would stay for the following two nights.
During the course of our stay, the children participated in team building exercises designed to create a little group frustration, in order to engage the children in problem solving skills and encourage working together. Adults were instructed to remain totally neutral. What a role to be in as a parent! After years of helping our children out of tough situations, it was fascinating to watch them work it out themselves! They really can do it!! By working together through these tasks, group characteristics such as communication, cooperation, trust and leadership were clearly enhanced.
Another highlight was our ecology hike. Rocky Mountain National Park is within the Montane Bioregion, which is approximately 8,000 to 9,500 feet above sea level. Within this belt thrive many different ecosystems, such as the Ponderosa Pine Forests, the Douglas Fir Forests, Mountain Grasslands and Meadows, Quaking Aspen Forests, and Lodgepole Pine Forests. The YMCA, where we stayed, is in the Montane Zone and lent itself to a very educational on site hike, where we encountered bugling Elk!
If you have not experienced Elk at a close distance bugling, put it on your bucket list… It’s a must. We even heard them at night on our enchanting night hike.
In addition to the many highlights during our time together was the amazing food prepared by our in house class chef, Deanna Waldron—one of the parents in our class.
All in all, we experienced breathtaking views, good laughs, moments of challenge, and moments of sweet kindness, all accompanied by the soundtrack of bugling Elk. Not sure it gets better then that! Oh except, I guess it does~
We also roasted marshmallows, went swimming, played mini golf, and enjoyed just “hanging out” together, while creating magical memories.
Photo Credit Jennifer Towle, 5th Grade Parent
by Laurel Mulholland, 5th Grade Parent
The 2015/2016 school year opened with the traditional Rose ceremony held in the lower school courtyard on a sparkling clear day. This year’s senior speaker Téa Speek reminded us all of what brought us to Shining Mountain. Click the link to hear her entire speech, or read the speech text below.
ROSE CEREMONY SPEECH | September 2, 2015 | Téa Speek
Hello everyone. Good morning. My name is Téa Speek and I am a senior here at SMWS. I have been going to this school since kindergarten, but I actually missed my first grade year to go spend a year in a Waldorf school in Mexico. Luckily I came back for second grade and have been here ever since, but I wanted to let the first graders know, before I really started talking, that this is also my first rose ceremony, so you are not alone in first time experiences today. With that being said, I want to give a special welcome to the first graders, and their parents of course, and to just let them know that we are extremely happy that they are here today, and that I, along with my classmates, am so excited to officially welcome you to first grade.
Today I would like to talk to you about magic moments.
When going through any experience in life there’s something I like to call the magic moment. What makes these moments so special is that they often come completely unexpectedly, right in the midst of life, but suddenly you’re there. You’re in the moment. And you’re alive and breathing and it all adds up: the magic.
This is a magical moment.
I will remember this moment for the rest of my life. And to me there is nothing more magic.
Beyond the magic of today I will share with you another magic moment that I experienced here at this school. It was the day of Santa Lucia in second grade and nothing had made me more excited then to wear my beautiful white dress. I can still remember being an angel on that day and walking from class to class and staring into the eyes of the older kids. The singing and candles and the smell of wonderful winter pine are still strong in my memory. It was an experience where I can specifically remember the magic living and breathing as if through my classmates and me. It is just one of the many magic moments that I’ve had here, and it is a memory that will live within me forever.
This school is magic. And yet again I use that word ‘magic’, but to me it seems to also be a very fitting word for all I’ve been taught here.
At this school you are dared to embark on a journey, to not only understand yourself but to understand the world around you. You’re encouraged not to merely stumble through the tasks of growing up but to revel in them, to experience, to search for answers, to ask questions, and to answer questions.
We’re taught more than just information. We’re taught life lessons through stories and poems of saints, heroes, animals, queens and kings. We’re taught that sometimes adventures are the best way to learn. That sometimes experience is the greatest teacher of all. We’re taught to be creative in the way we live and see our lives. We’re taught to always be ourselves, and even more importantly to be happy with who we are.
I’ve fallen in love with the idea that each and everyone of us has some kind of gift to give and that the world is holding its breath and waiting to see what we will give it. Well I can tell you that at this school you will be given the gift of adventures, of having your own opinions, of feeling understood, of owning the courage to speak out, of occasional math classes outside, and of immersing yourself in the pure love of learning. You will be given the tools you need in order to go out and find your own gift.
Your class will become like family. You will find joy not only in being around your classmates but also sometimes in the simple fact that you know exactly how to annoy them.
For me some of the best experiences of my education have been the small, nameless, yet magic, moments spent learning about something purely unique or sharing a laugh with my classmates around a campfire. My time here at this school has been made rich with these special moments. The best part about making all these memories is that I will never forget them. They will always be apart of who I am.
Some people look back unfavorably on their years of elementary, middle, and high school. When I look back, I will see my years of school as one big, marvelous magic adventure. And even when I recall the hard parts going to school and getting older, because growing up is definitely not an easy task, I can see the blessings hidden amongst all difficulties I faced, and while thinking about this speech I came to the realization that I would not know how to recognize the blessings during the bad times, nor the magic moments during the good times, without my Waldorf education.
So first graders, my final message to you is to dare each and every one of you to go out there and find your own magic moments in life. Capture them and hold them because time does go fast, but you are at a school where that time will be truly magic. You are at a school where magic moments are possible.
By Téa Speek
3rd Grade Shelter Project on display at the Boulder Public Library. The students have been learning about the different forms that human shelters take on and how they reflect the environment in which the people live.
Shining Mountain’s Outdoor Education program is featured in a Denver Post article by our own Joshua Berman, Spanish teacher and travel writer.