Mission Building conscious community by inspiring individuals to meet the world with purpose.
Vision To support the development of the individual through secure attachment, rhythm and opportunities for expression.
To support the development of healthy relationships through consistent guidance and community involvement. To support the development of conscience and potential through deeply engaging academic experience.
Our school was located in the eclectic and artistic neighbourhood of ‘Tin Town’ in Courtenay. The Early Childhood building at 2311 Rosewall Crescent houses our Parent and Child, Preschool and Kindergarten programs. It had a small play yard and a growing garden in raised beds. A second building, at 2398 Rosewall Crescent, housed our Grades programs.
The Comox Valley Waldorf School’s curriculum was based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The first ‘Waldorf’ school opened in Germany in 1919. Though many practices have evolved over time, the philosophy remains strong in Waldorf schools today. These principles are upheld through the relationship between the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) for the grades programs and the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) for the early childhood education programs. As these governing bodies are responsible for ensuring the highest standards for Waldorf Schools in North America, they require that schools who want to offer Waldorf Education go through a period of self-study, creating development plans and working with a representative who guides the school through the process. It’s not unlike becoming certified as ‘organic’ in the food production world!
The Comox Valley Waldorf School's teachers had a wealth of knowledge and experience which they brought to the classroom. Through practicing development-centered education our teachers opened their students’ eyes to the world around them with ever-deepening levels of sophistication. Such pride was taken in attending to the health of each child – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually – so they continued to flourish long after their school days were finished. Art, music and movement were integrated into the teaching of academics. The children created their own lesson books reflecting their learning through art as well as writing. Our school sought to inspire a life-long love of learning and to produce adults who would be able, by themselves, to impart meaning to their lives.
There was also a strong sense of community where parents found the support that is often lacking for them in today’s society. Festivals, seasonal celebrations, parent group activities, volunteer opportunities and continued education regarding Waldorf education and anthroposophy provided natural pathways to connection and community.
Comox Valley Waldorf School met the learning outcomes set out by the BC Ministry of Education and the program was enriched with arts, languages and experiences in nature. There was an active outdoor program that included biking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing for the older grades and paddle sports. There are over 1000 independent Waldorf schools located in sixty countries throughout the world. Waldorf Education, with over 90 years of proven experience, is the fastest growing educational movement in the world. We were grateful to be part of this international community!
A Final Goodbye
June 26, 2020
In this final Newsletter I will accept one final opportunity to express my gratitude to all the parents, drivers, neighbours, lunch makers, volunteers, and huggers of the CVWS community as well as all the teachers, staff and board members both past and present. What a ride it has been! Without the dedication of all of you we would not have had the incredible community we have been able to create for all the 150+ children that have spent time with us over the years. For myself personally the past 10 years have been a time of great loves and growing. It was through my time at CVWS that I discovered my love of policy:), who knew? If ever there was an effort to create a way for children to develop the skills they need for meeting the world with purpose, that is needed now. If ever there was an effort to build conscious community, that is needed now. If ever there was a wish to develop in the children a sense of responsibility, compassion, and innovation, that is needed now. Our mission at CVWS was to walk side by side with you in support of these important things, we dedicated our time to holding this vision, and inspiring it in you. We believe that you can continue to carry that vision and light as you go forward on the educational journey with your children. May you forever light the path with hope, love and faith. Thank you for all the hugs and smiles over the years. Although it was a unique ending to the year I am happy that each child and parent was able to close the year with something solid, in the form of a rock. Please continue to add rocks to the Gratitude and Rememberance Rock Garden as you are inspired to do so. All the best to you and your children. Rebecca Director of Education
It is with heartfelt gratitude that I write this final letter to our Comox Valley Waldorf School Community. The past month has been filled with packing and closing up our programs and our buildings, and officially saying goodbye to students and colleagues. The overriding feeling I had, throughout this whole time, has been of gratitude. There is nothing like a Waldorf Community to put into practice, in real time, all of the values that are taught and illustrated through lesson and curriculum. Each day, throughout the years, we all showed up, whether it was to bring your child to our little school in the valley, or to help clear snow in the winter, support a fundraiser, or attend a meeting, we all showed up, and became better and more conscious within ourselves, and towards each other, every time. The world is crying for conscious community, and I know that we have practiced this together since our school began. And now that we have established what it means to work and communicate together clearly and consciously, with respect, compassion and humility, then we can continue to do this in the next phase of our lives together. And we can inspire others around us, near and far, to pick up the torch, and to participate in this same work.
These last months of isolation have brought humanity incredible experiences, challenges and hurdles to overcome. Adversity is what challenges us to take a step further in our consciousness, wake up, and expand more fully into our possibilities. What I know is that the world needs to get to the point where a Waldorf Community, is just called a community, and Waldorf education is simply called....education. From our time together, we know that our students received the foundation for living healthy, connected, meaningful, purposeful, compassionate, conscience lives on earth, and that this positively affected parents and even grandparents in our community. This inner knowing of what is truly possible, we must each carry out into the world, because I cannot think of a better hope for humanity's next phase of evolution. The time is now.
Blessings to all of you, Jennifer Faculty Director
What crazy and challenging times! Had someone told me last fall that the school would need to close for the following year, I wouldn’t have believed them. With all the hard work the board has done over the past few years to help the school gain momentum, it feels all to surreal that this is what it has come to. It just goes to show how precious and fragile an education as incredible as a Waldorf education is, and something not to be taken for granted. With so many critical and delicate moving pieces to run and maintain a school such as this, just one broken piece can bring it all to a halt. It was truly an honour to work with such a great board of directors, each offering their individual gifts. This board was a dynamic and committed group of people who worked collaboratively and with the best of intentions for the school. In the end, we had to make the most incredibly difficult decision of closing the school, which really didn’t even feel like a choice at all. I want to thank each one of them for their countless hours of voluntary and passionate work. It is my hope that this flame will once again be ignited in our valley. In my honest and biased opinion, there’s no better education out there and one that is needed more than ever. I thank every family for being a part of our school, no matter how long or short it was, and I hope you all find the path best for you and your children next year. Sincerely, Christine Board Chair
Comox Valley Waldorf School Now Closed
June 12, 2020
There reigned here spirit-strength in love; There worked here spirit-light in goodness: born from certainty of heart, and from steadfastness of soul, so that we could bring to young human beings bodily strength for work; inward-ness of soul, and clarity of spirit.
This place was consecrated to such a task; and young minds and hearts here found servers of the light, endowed with strength, who guarded and cherished them.
- Adapted from Rudolf Steiner
The Comox Valley Waldorf School officially closed its doors as the school year came to an end on June 12. The school opened in Tin Town in September of 2011, which was the beginning of a beautiful journey to bring Waldorf education to the communities of the Comox Valley. Waldorf schools offer a deeply engaging academic experience where emphasis is placed on creative and critical thinking and conscious community building. By exploring the world of ideas and participating in the arts, music, movement and engaged hands on learning, children develop healthy bodies, flexible thinking, practical skills, and strong executive-functioning. BC Waldorf schools meet BC provincial curriculum criteria while adhering to Waldorf principles and BC Waldorf teachers are BC certified teachers. There are seven Waldorf schools across BC and thousands of Waldorf schools across the globe. The school made the difficult decision to close its doors in February, due to a lack of available trained Waldorf teachers.
To commemorate its time in the valley the school found a way to honour its community members despite the obstacles presented by Covid-19 responses. The children, parents, alumni, teachers, staff, and board members of the school were invited to participate in a Gratitude and Remembrance Rock Garden project. Each member of the school community painted a rock as a show of gratitude and remembrance of their time at CVWS. Rocks were placed below the school mural that was erected on the wall of Lacasse Construction next to the field near the school. The mural was painted over many months during this school year by teachers and students. This mural will remain in the Comox Valley long after the school closes, to commemorate its journey as a school community and celebrate 100 years of Waldorf education globally. Principal Rebecca Watkin said “we anticipate and accept that the rocks will shift over time just as our community has over the years....some rocks will move, some rocks will be joined by siblings, some rocks will go off to high school. We hope that you can take it upon yourselves to add to the rock garden anytime you are struck by a feeling of gratitude, love or remembrance for CVWS”.
During the school’s final months, the Board of Directors of CVWS provided an invitation for any Waldorf initiatives to apply for access to the school’s resources. Out of this process two initiatives have taken shape so far: Hummingbird Homeschool will serve children aged 3-6 in a home-like, Waldorf inspired setting, contact Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook Page for more information. Daily Wonder Home Learning is an online hub that will serve parents of home learners in Grades 1-7 with curriculum guides and support, see www.Daily WonderHomeLearning.com for more information.
The Teachers and Staff at the Comox Valley Waldorf School would like to express a wholehearted thank you to parents for bringing their children to CVWS, for having the courage to step outside the stream, and for prioritizing character and community. A special thank you to Lacasse Construction for graciously taking on the task of hanging and hosting the school mural.
Comox Valley Waldorf School Closing
February 22, 2020
The Comox Valley Waldorf School (CVWS) is familiar with change. We have been in operation since 2009 (2011 in a building) and each year has brought its gifts and challenges. Each year the board and faculty work to ensure that what they do, and what they offer, is in line with the vision and mission of the school. Sometimes this realignment has meant shrinking, sometimes growing, and sometimes other significant changes such as combining or separating groupings of students. One thing that has always remained when the dust settles is the love of Waldorf education and the desire to see it flourish. This love continues today even as the school has made a difficult decision regarding its future in the Comox Valley. Nine years ago, the school began as a dream. A few parents in the Valley were looking for a school that did not yet exist, and so they created it. Before moving to its current location, it was in the hearts of a few parents who began a parent group and organized gatherings. This energy grew to include a few more parents and then led them to start a non-profit Board to begin to get a school off the ground. In 2011 we were gifted the use of a building including renovation costs to turn it from a health practitioner’s space into a school. The school opened in Tin Town in September of 2011, which was the beginning of a beautiful journey to bring Waldorf education to the communities of the Comox Valley. Waldorf schools offer a deeply engaging academic experience where emphasis is placed on creative and critical thinking and conscious community building. By exploring the world of ideas and participating in the arts, music, movement and engaged hands on learning, children develop healthy bodies, flexible thinking, practical skills and strong executive-functioning. BC Waldorf schools meet BC provincial criteria while adhering to Waldorf principles. Hiring trained Waldorf teachers has always been a challenge. In fact, aside from the founding teachers, our school has never hired a Waldorf trained teacher. Instead we have hired people with university degrees (BC teaching credentials) and a deep interest in Waldorf Education who begin their Waldorf training once they begin teaching. At the end of the 2019-20 school year three of our Waldorf trained teachers, and one mid-training teacher, are moving on from the school for a variety of reasons. Postings for these positions have been up for a while and we have received only a couple of applications, none of which reflect the training necessary for the jobs. Across North America there is a severe shortage of Waldorf trained teachers, the struggle to find teachers is not unique. A lack of trained teachers has placed the school in an impossible situation. We have come to see, after endless searching and meeting, that the school is no longer viable, and the Board and society members voted to dissolve the school at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The board would like to acknowledge what a privilege it has been to work alongside such devoted teachers and admin staff over the years. Without their tireless dedication, love and support, CVWS could not have been possible. Because of its thorough contemplation of child development and human connection, Waldorf schools offer a supportive, unique space for families and teachers to work alongside each other. The Comox Valley Waldorf School would like to thank all the families that have provided the opportunity to bring Waldorf education to them over the past 9 years. Our sympathies go to our colleagues, children & parents who will be losing a school that has provided a distinctive curriculum, opportunity for creative learning and a consciously built community since it was first established in 2011.
It is the school’s intention to maintain the running of the Board, with a view to re-kindling the school when the time comes again as we know that there is an interest to keep the spark alive. Focus will be on building a healthy community of dedicated parents and through that energy draw trained Waldorf teachers to the valley. The last remaining months of this current school model will be spent celebrating the life of the school as well as supporting the community through their grief and loss, helping everyone move toward acceptance and gratitude.
Nurturing Young Minds
Saltwater School brings a joy of learning and an appreciation of nature to its students. By Kendra Faye, April 2014
Walking into the foyer of Saltwater School feels a little like walking into a fairy tale. Rainbow hues greet a visitor at the door, and cubbies full of children’s gear at their height have a Miniature Land-like quality. Heading down the hallway the colors shift from pale red through the hues of the rainbow, ending with purple at the Kindergarten door. Felted pictures hang on the walls, and everything seems to reflect the dreamlike quality of childhood.
This independent, Waldorf-inspired curriculum based school has been operating out of Tin Town in Courtenay since September of 2011, and is strongly upheld by a community of devoted parents, teachers, board members and volunteers. Dedicated to nurturing the whole child, the school’s developmentally based curriculum is rich in the arts, music, movement and contact with nature.
Five years ago, Saltwater itself began as a dream. A few parents in the Valley were looking for a school that did not exist—and so they created it. Rebecca Watkin, Michelle Nagle, Kendra Quince and Michael Vincent began as a board of four who worked together to bring the school to fruition.
A first attempt began with Watkin and Quince and a handful of other people who met in 2006, but their children were only a few months old at the time, so plans for a school fell to the wayside as parenting young ones took precedence. Then, in the spring of 2009, Watkin started to blog about bringing Waldorf to the Valley.
“Just reaching out and meeting a few people began the process,” she says. Watkin, who had taught at the Vancouver Waldorf School for three years, was at that point commuting to teach at the Morning Glory Waldorf School in Qualicum Beach. She was interested in creating a Waldorf initiative in the Comox Valley for her own family, and for those who she knew were out there wanting the same thing.
She connected with Michelle Nagle, a young mother who had attended the Vancouver Waldorf School for nine years from Grade 4 through to high school. Nagle had recently moved to the Comox Valley and knew she wanted to pass on the gifts she received in Waldorf education to her own children.
Watkin and Nagle began to meet, and Quince, who was also seeking an alternative education for her children, joined them. Quince began her Waldorf Kindergarten teacher training at the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy in the summer of 2009.
“My older child was three and a half,” she says. “I knew I didn’t want public school, and home-schooling suddenly seemed like too much when my second child came along. I was really good friends with Rebecca [Watkin]. When I started to learn about Waldorf something resonated so strongly within me that I knew it was what I wanted for my children.”
Both Watkin and Nagle felt the same, and Saltwater School was created as these three mothers began to build a dream for their children.
“Our first outreach program was called ‘Play in the Park’” says Nagle. “We shared information about Waldorf, we gathered people together to connect, and then we started having information nights. Through all of this we were clarifying what the vision would be.”
Adds Watkin: “In those first meetings we were flushing out what was Waldorf and what wasn’t. For me, Waldorf was really important, and having a clear distinction of what that was.”
As the process continued, Quince began a small preschool program in her home for a few children. “I was able to implement what I was learning about teaching with my friends’ children. I added things as I learned them, slowly building the foundation of what became Dewdrop Kindercottage.”
Michael Vincent, who came across the movement at one of their outreach events, quickly joined the board, bringing with him a knowledge of business and a passion for helping that added a solid dynamic to the creation of Saltwater. He also had a child whom he hoped to build such a school for, and things unfolded from there. “I certainly remember signing the first paperwork to become a corporation,” says Nagle “and the jitters, because what we had to do was all new. It was certainly one step at a time. Sometimes it felt overwhelming because there were 10 steps ahead, but we just had to slow down to take the one step in front of us.”
Saltwater School, a nonprofit organization, unofficially began in 2010 in the homes of Quince and Watkin. While a benefactor had expressed interest in purchasing a space for the school to operate in, nothing that seemed to fit the budding school had been found, so Class One started with four students in Watkin’s home and Quince expanded her Preschool Program to include a separate Kindergarten Program, with 10 students between the two.
“In our first year we had 14 families, and now we have over 55 students,” says Watkin. “Saltwater is about to become an official developing Waldorf School, which makes us different from any other independent school in the Valley. Now we can assure parents that we meet both the BC Ministry outcomes [as well as] fulfilling the standards of Waldorf pedagogy.”
Saltwater School moved to its current Tin Town location in 2011, and officially opened its doors in September of that year. What began as a board of four people has very quickly become a community.
The programs at Saltwater School have also expanded, and currently include a Parent and Tot Program, an afternoon Preschool, a Mixed-Age Kindergarten and Grades 1-5. This fall the school will also include Grade 6, as each year a new grade is added. The plan is to go up to Grade 8.
A second building in Tin Town has also recently been purchased, as the school is bursting in its one location. “The second building will be ready for the fall,” says Watkin.
“The plan is to keep the current building for the ECE [Early Childhood Education] programs, and move the Grades to the new building.” The new building also has a yard.
“With our expansion there has emerged a vibrant community who is involved in a variety of ways, who is dedicated to growing the school, and to keeping Waldorf in the Valley,” says Watkin, who reflects on how parents have taken up the tasks of bake sales, becoming board members, and carrying the parent group. “The community has been really responsive.”
“We have a cohesive school community,” says Nagle, who sees how social relationships in the school stretch beyond the grades. “There is a social literacy we are fostering here,” she says. Grade 4 students recently wrote and illustrated stories about when they were in Grade 1, and presented them to the Grade 1 class to read. Last year the school teamed up with Tin Town artists to create a chalk mandala, and Saltwater reaches into the larger community of the Comox Valley through festivals such as the Maypole dance and other activities.
What exactly is “Waldorf in the Valley”, as the bumper sticker on all the cars in the school’s small parking lot proclaim?
“It’s a really unique experience” says Quince. “Waldorf delves into the unfolding of the individual child, trying to meet them where they are developmentally. In Kindergarten, playing is the work that they do. I think most programs are rushing the child—we need to slow down and let them have a childhood.”
A typical Kindergarten day includes outdoor time, singing, a warm snack prepared in the classroom such as soup or rice, and the daily activity, which ranges from painting to baking, and every day includes free play.
Other activities that can be part of a day, especially in the grades, include music, languages, woodworking, theatre, cooking, handwork, outdoor pursuits, main lesson (which presents the BC curriculum through an artistic approach,) yoga, and/or spacial dynamics, a movement class that helps to bring children into their bodies, and thus into balance.
“It’s always a question of how this is different from other programs, and how it meets the child,” says Nagle. “What it brings to the child is a joy of learning. My children are actually upset when they can’t go to school!” Waldorf is also unique in the materials is uses, focusing on natural over synthetic supplies and toys. Silk, wood, and wool are common in each classroom. “Natural and real life materials provide us with a sensory experience that is both beautiful and tactile,” says Quince. “There is no pretense in these materials. They connect us to nature.”
Nature and the seasons play a large role in Waldorf schools, where a portion of every day is spent outside. Each classroom also reflects the seasons in some way. Whether it is a ‘nature table’ where the children can bring in things from the outdoors, a display created by the teacher, chalk board drawings, or seasonal crafts being presented, there is always something that reflects the rhythm of the outdoors.
“One of the things that has consistently inspired me is bringing nature into the classroom and using nature as the classroom,” says Nagle, who would like to expand the Outdoor Pursuits program at the school to include such things as sailing, camping excursions, and kayaking. The program currently includes snowshoeing, cross country skiing, caving, dragon boating, and biking. This connection with nature “helps each of us to respond to our daily life by connecting us to the bigger picture… nature holds the truth of life that we are,” she says.
While classes at the school are almost full, Watkin says that “each year we look forward to meeting new families in the Early Childhood Programs.” Applications for enrollment in all the programs are currently being accepted. While Waldorf is new to the Comox Valley, it is not a new concept. Originating in Austria in 1919, and created by a man named Rudolf Steiner, more than 600 Waldorf Schools can now be found worldwide. These schools foster a love of learning from an early age by connecting with the individual child as part of the whole. “That to me is probably one of the biggest gifts it brings, because we know what happens in the world when we focus on the individual, or if we only see the larger context,” says Nagle. “By seeing both of these at the same time we allow the child to be connected in society while also following their individual path.”
The Waldorf-inspired programs at Courtenay’s Saltwater School bring a “joy of learning” to the students, says Michelle Nagle (left), outside the school with fellow co-founder Rebecca Watkin. “My children are actually upset when they can’t go to school!” Photo by Boomer Jerritt