Developing the Sense of Touch with Natural Materials


By Kristan Stephens, Lark Song Kindergarten Teacher

Often one of the favorite elements of the kindergarten experience is the attention to providing a beautiful and natural aesthetic. At first glance, the beauty of the classroom may just seem to be a surface experience, but it goes much deeper than that. While Waldorf kindergarten classrooms are created with beauty and serenity in mind, each item in the room serves a unique purpose to help support the healthy development of the child. Natural elements are more than just a beautiful choice, they are an essential component of a child’s experience because they help to build the sense of touch. In the kindergarten, children are given many opportunities to touch and manipulate objects so they can gain a greater understanding of their own physicality and body boundaries. The sense of touch feeds their inner life experience and helps them understand and connect with the physical world. What children touch and what touches them is very important between the ages of birth to seven because these experiences literally help share their developing form. In The Kingdom of Childhood Rudolf Steiner states, “The joy of children in and with their environment must therefore be counted among the forces that build and shape the physical organs.” This is why we use natural materials within the kindergarten including cotton, silk, wood, and stone. Consider the difference you feel when you pick up a plastic bucket versus working with a metal or wooden one. Objects made from natural components bring a sense of warmth and vitality to the touch, which helps the child develop a loving connection to their environment and enhances their own sense of self.

Another way children develop a strong sense of touch within the kindergarten is through handwork. Throughout the year, the children are given opportunities to work with materials such as wool, felt, wood, pinecones, stones, and more as they learn to create beautiful things that enhance their play, work, and festival life. Whether the children are wet-felting small balls to play with, sewing herbal sachets or doll clothing from felt, or weaving with wool, they find joy and pride in creating something beautiful and meaningful. Best of all, children often learn to create tools and treasures simply from objects gathered in nature, such as a small fairy from a pinecone and maple pods or little boats to sail in the creek from leaves and twigs. As the children are given the opportunity to work creatively with simple natural materials their imaginations are stimulated. They become more confident and capable working with their hands and bringing ideas to life. These skills support them as they grow and the experiences foster greater creativity and ingenuity throughout their lives.

SHARE THIS
Marian Munkvold-Saunders
Interim High School Administrator

Marian was born and raised in Norway, before moving to Houston, Texas in 1998. After graduating high school there, she attended EM Strasbourg Business School in Strasbourg, France, and the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas where she received a BBA and MBA in Finance. After college she moved to Carlsbad, California where she continued working in the business and investment field. Once she became a mom, she and her husband moved to Santa Barbara, California where she stayed home full time, raising two children. In 2010 their young family returned to Texas and settled in Austin. At this time she discovered Waldorf education. Both children have attended Austin Waldorf School since kindergarten, and Marian was actively involved in the parent volunteer community there. In 2017 she joined the administrative staff at the Austin Waldorf School where she worked as Administrative Support and then Office Manager. She and her family are thrilled to call Boulder their new home and to become part of the Shining Mountain Waldorf School community. Marian loves to read, cook, do handwork, travel, and spend time outside with her family skiing, biking, and hiking.

Monica Maldonado

Grade 6 Assistant

Monica Maldonado began their professional teaching career in 2014 after receiving a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from The Master’s University School of Music. Monica has experience in teaching music and art in one-on-one, small group, and public school settings, as well as one year of teaching music, art, and history in the elementary school setting as a student-teacher. Thanks to their teaching experiences, Monica strongly believes that every child can become a musician and artist and that all learners deserve a well-planned, differentiated arts education. They are very excited to be working at Shining Mountain and supporting their class in any way they can. Monica is also passionate about traveling, performing shows with their band and creating abstract mixed media artwork.

Ashley Marsico
Registrar

Ashley grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and has traveled to many different places all over the world including: Mexico, Portugal, France, UK, Morocco, Spain, and the British Overseas territory of Gibraltar. In 2014, after studying and living abroad for two years in Granada, Spain, she moved back to the city of Chicago where she met her fiance Tom. She first learned about Waldorf education from Tom as he attended the Chicago Waldorf School from PreK-8th grade. In an effort to learn more about this education, she attended a CWS holiday fair where she was immediately inspired, and in 2015 started Waldorf Teacher Training in Chicago. Ashley is a Fiber Artist and has been perfecting her craft since she started to crochet at 7 years old, so when learning that the Waldorf curriculum included crochet, she was hooked! Ashley brings over 7 years of teaching experience including a year as an Early Childhood and Handwork Assistant at CWS, as well as 4 years of administrative experience at CWS working as their High School Office Manager and Registrar & Database Manager. She is very excited to join SMWS and is grateful to take on this new position remotely as Registrar.

Lee Griffith

Class Teacher Grade 6

As an accomplished cellist and music teacher, Lee has broadened his teaching capacities to become a Waldorf middle school class teacher. After completing his music degree at the prestigious University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music, Lee discovered his love of teaching extended beyond cello lessons, and that he was inspired by the art of teaching encompassed in the rich array of subject matter brought through the grades 6-8 journey. Waldorf philosophy and pedagogy, specifically the picture of child development, aligns with his approach to being an educator. Lee has been a class teacher in the grades and a cello teacher at the Cincinnati Waldorf School. He looks forward to continuing his Waldorf teacher certification for the grades school cycle. Lee enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, meaningful conversations, thrifting, rock climbing, teaching private cello lessons and, of course, performing.

Mike Terborg

Athletic & Auxiliary Programming Director

Mike Terborg first served as the SMWS Athletic Program Director from 2006 to 2010 while also coaching the High School Boys Basketball Team. In 2010, Mike moved to Seattle with his wife where he began his career as a Strength Coach and Injury Rehabilitation Specialist, and since 2018, has also been writing educational content for health, fitness, and wellness companies. During his time at Shining Mountain, Mike led an athletic program that fostered a healthy balance of physical, social, emotional, and psychological development. During his first tenure, Mike also served as the 5280 League President for two years, was three-time 5280 League Coach of the Year, and received recognition from the Positive Coaching Alliance for his dedication to teaching life lessons through participation in school sports. While program director, SMWS was also awarded the 5280 League Sportsmanship Award for the 2009-2010 school year. Mike has a B.A. in Global Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Gunbarrel with his wife and three children. 

Soni Albright

Admissions Director

Soni Albright has spent the last 10 years working in Waldorf School Admissions, previously at East Bay Waldorf School in Northern California, and currently at City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, MN. She has all the while, also been in the classroom, as a Cyber Civics teacher for 6-8th graders. Before that, she spent a decade in a variety of school settings (Public, Montessori, Charter, etc.) as a classroom teacher, and has taught a wide variety of subjects such as visual arts, study skills, social studies, and language arts.