8th Grade Canoe Trip

Photo by Craig Rubens
Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

By Samantha Collins, 8th Grader at Shining Mountain

On Tuesday, September 19th the 8th grade of Shining Mountain Waldorf School set out on an amazing trip. After a three-hour drive over the mountains to Lake Granby, we all had a delightful dinner at the Sagebrush Inn where we could throw peanut shells on the ground, before spending the night in an old school no longer used for teaching. The next morning, we were woken up extremely early so we could have a head start on our day. We had a quick, but delicious breakfast at a beautiful wooden lodge before heading down to the water. Once the boats were loaded into the water, and all our gear was stored on the pontoon boat, we were off.

Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

While canoeing to our camp, many of us became distracted by the beautiful scenery. We paddled past hills full of trees at all stages of color; from green to yellow and from orange to brown. After an hour-and-a-half of paddling, we made our way into an inlet. On either side of us were steep, green hills with very few trees. Behind us were the huge, beautiful mountains shooting up into the sky with trees of many colors and light green grass. We canoed for another half-hour before we reached our campsite.

At first glance, we couldn’t figure out how or where, we were going to camp. In front of us were steep cliff-like rocky hills that, from what we could see, only continued upwards. Too add to the challenge of moving our gear, the green hills were covered with prickly grasses and little plants that would stick to our socks, as well as poorly placed rocks.

Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

Finally, the pontoon boat arrived, we were all worrying about how we could lug all of our gear, heavy coolers, and kitchen appliances up a good 300-foot incline to where we were going to make camp. We figured the quickest way to move everything up was to create a relay line. We went through with this idea and by using teamwork, and we were incredibly successful!

After two-and-a-half hours of our team’s efforts, we set up everything and ate lunch. After clean up, we paddled across the channel to a beautiful sandy beach where we went swimming. The water was freezing, but we all went in anyway. A few of us even paddled out thirty feet and flipped our canoes for fun. After a couple hours of messing around in the water, we paddled back to camp, hungry for dinner.

Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

On Thursday we slept in, had breakfast and hot drinks before canoeing down to the mouth of the Colorado River to complete the day’s major event: the solo. The solo was a period of time ranging from one to two hours where an individual is challenged to live in the present. The solo experience is centered around the idea of what do you want to leave behind and what do you want to keep of yourself as you become older. When I asked my friend Elijah to share a bit about his experience, here’s what he said: “I had a great time on the solo. I thought it was nice to just relax in nature. Even though I know we weren’t supposed to think about the future I found my mind drifting there. Since I was sitting by the river I would put my hand in the water and it was incredibly nice to just feel it rushing past.” I asked him what he took away from this experience and here is his answer: “One thing I definitely took away from the solo was that, even if I was thinking about the future, I should live in the present and not worry too much about the future until it gets here and becomes the present.”

Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

After the solo, we paddled back to our camp, splashing each other along the way. We had lunch and then went cliff jumping! We would jump off a twenty-foot rock at the base of our campsite that stuck out over the ice-cold water. If you stood on the edge before you jumped, you could see the other side of the inlet where the sun was still shining brightly on the sandy beach and pine trees. We all jumped at least once, including the chaperones and teachers. Mr. Janzen even did a backflip! This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, leaping off a cliff and feeling like I could fly. Plus, it’s not everyday you get to see your teacher do a backflip off something higher than a high diving board.
On Friday, our final morning, we were once again woken up early in anticipation of the day, as well as to make sure we were prepared once the pontoon boat arrived. We cleaned up camp, reloaded the pontoon boat, and said goodbye to our campsite.

Overall, the trip was one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences I’ve had, and according to many of my classmates, it was for them too. Over the years we’ve been together, our class has bonded strongly, and camping trips have contributed greatly. When I first heard we were going on a canoeing trip at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure what to think, but after having been on it, I’ve realized how much closer it brought our class as a whole. I hope we continue to grow and become even closer for a very long time.

Photo by Craig Rubens

Photo by Craig Rubens

Middle School Math Workshops with Jamie York


BRIDGE THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH GAP with Summer 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Teacher and Parent Workshops with Jamie York.

Refresh, relearn, and enliven your understanding of Waldorf middle school math in Boulder, Colorado. The cost is an affordable $180 for 3 days (earlybird price before May 15).

Following on the popularity of our all-grades teacher and parent workshops on the Art of Teaching Math, we are responding to a demand for grades-focused math workshops.

Our summer 2016 6th, 7th, and 8th grade workshops are an opportunity for teachers to enter the next school year, confident in their own mastery of grade-specific math topics.

These workshops are especially relevant for teachers with past math anxiety, who need to build confidence in their ability to meet the needs of their students. We also encourage parents to attend who want to deepen their grasp of a developmentally based approach to math, so they can support their children during the school year.

Math can be the least penetrated and the most poorly understood aspect of the Waldorf curriculum. And yet it is key to developing our capacity to think both clearly and creatively.

Math allows us to stretch our thinking beyond the sense-perceptible world. Math should be an adventure. Math is an ART.

We emphasize a balance between skills work and exercises that lead to true mathematical thinking. We don’t simply want our students to follow procedures blindly with no depth of understanding.

6th Grade: June 23 – 25, 2016

Includes: Business Math; Intro to Percents; Mental Math; Developing Mathematical Thinking; Math Puzzles and Games; Geometric Drawing; Consolidating Essential Math Skills.

 7th Grade: August 7 – 9, 2016

Introducing Algebra; Proofs through Movement; The Pentagon and the Golden Ratio; Mental Math; Developing Thinking with Ratios; The Four Ratios of ð; Math Puzzles and Games; Geometric Drawing.

8th Grade: August 11 – 13, 2016

Loci; Stereometry (Platonic Solids); Number Bases; Developing Mathematical Thinking; Mensuration; Percents and Exponential Growth; Math Puzzles and Games.

Below is a video with clips from Jamie York’s 8th grade platonic solids main lesson presentation (visualizing geometric form in movement). Participants in our 8th grade workshop will have the opportunity to experience the wonders of the platonic solids main lesson.


Our goal is to eventually make all our in-person workshops available online while continuing to offer in-person workshops. But this is a monumental project, and it is going to take us a while!

Find out more about our summer middle school math workshops at http://www.jamieyorkpress.com/workshops/

“The Lorax” – 8th Grade Eurythmy Performance


Shining Mountain’s 8th grade class contributed to our Earth Week celebrations by developing a lovely, heartfelt eurythmy performance Dr. Seuss’ beloved story “The Lorax”. The students collaborated with Eurythmy Teacher, Cristina Geck, to explore the story and bring it to life in movement, word and music. What a wonderful gift to our school community to celebrate our beautiful earth! 

Vimeo:  https://vimeo.com/164028585

Middle School Climate Strike Day | by Meg Gardner, Seventh Grade Teacher


What is the most important issue of our time?  This was the question asked of our Shining Mountain Middle School students by a 15-year-old Earth Guardian named Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.  Xiuhtezcatl is the brother of Itzcuauhtli Martinez, a seventh grader at Shining Mountain Waldorf School.

Their answer: Climate Change.

Climate change is creating the most intense impact on plants, animals, and humans today.  Humans are the root cause of this change that is so rapidly altering our planet and yet, we also have the potential to be the most influential and transformative factor in this movement.  Each of us, even middle-school-aged students, hold the capacity for this change.

We are powerful.

We have a voice.

We have the ability to create change.

This was the message we heard from Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli.  This month, Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli joined leaders from 147 countries to meet in Paris for the Climate Change Summit.  Their goal is to create international pacts, extending the Kyoto Agreements, and limit every countries’ contribution to climate change.

On Monday November 30th, we joined our seventh grade student Itzcuauhtli, by voicing our hope and intention for sustaining our planet.  The Shining Mountain middle school students gathered to speak about our love for this earth and what we hoped to never lose through climate change.  We also brainstormed all the ways we could individually make a difference in our own lives to help the earth.

These messages, inked on ribbons, were displayed before the school.  These ribbons were then sent to Paris, where Itzcuauhtli and Xiuhtezcatl  joined them with the thousands of pledges from around the world on the Tree of Life. 

We are proud to share our voices of love, hope, and intention with the Paris Climate Change Summit.  We hope our voices are heard by the international leaders and can form the intentions to create a healthy and sustainable world for us and for our future generations. 

Sixth Grade at Cave of the Wind
by Linda Newlin & Kylie Booth, 6th Grade Parents


Early legends of the Jicarilla Apaches, who migrated through the Pikes Peak region around 1000 AD, told of a cave in the Manitou Springs area where the Great Spirit of the Wind resided.

The 6th Graders had a glorious day touring the Cave of the Winds which has been a place to explore the underground world for more than 130 years. The cave is millions of years old, but was discovered in 1869 and opened for tours in 1881. 

After touring the cave, they experienced The Wind Walker Challenge Course which is a three-story obstacle course balanced on the rim of a 600-foot drop into beautiful Williams Canyon. Each participant was placed in a full-body harness and securely attached using an overhead tracking system. Students, parents and the teacher all navigated the challenging maze of steel beams, swinging ropes and ladders. The truly brave of heart took the extra challenge up on level 3 and climbed out over the cliffs of the Canyon on a single tight rope. Way to go 6th graders!

Our experience ended with a phenomenal zip line out over the canyon and back!

Denver Post Features SMWS Outdoor Ed Program

Campers' snowshoes are propped up outside of a snow shelter at Brainard Lake, above Ward, Colorado. (One-time use for Joshua Berman's Around Colorado column on winter camping.)

Shining Mountain’s Outdoor Education program is featured in a Denver Post article by our own Joshua Berman, Spanish teacher and travel writer.