One of the priorities for the Expansion Committee this year has been finding a space for seventh and eighth grades until the master plan can be refined. Options we have explored are: the chapel, a portable classroom (too expensive and too removed from the rest of the school), the south wing (a large project that could require more time than we have), the current handwork classroom (not large enough) and the carriage house (chimney would need to be removed for approx $100,000). The committee identified the chapel as the most ideal space for the seventh grade class next year (and quite possibly for several years). This idea has been discussed with the board, faculty, administration, and parents of the current fifth and sixth grades. Last night, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve this proposal. This may at first seem an unexpected choice for a classroom, but it is surprisingly well suited for our needs…
The chapel is well suited for the seventh grade according to our school’s architect, Ellis Schmiddlapp, given its physical space and the existing toilet and sink. (To meet Dept. of Ed. Regulations for Private Schools, we MUST have AT LEAST one more additional sink and toilet for the upper grades). Next year, the rising sixth grade will be combined with the rising seventh grade for portions of the day (much like they are now) in order to provide them with a larger peer group. Therefore, we need a classroom with a capacity of 18 students. The only current grades classrooms we have with this capacity are the first and second grade classrooms. However, moving an upper grades classroom next to the first grade is not pedagogically preferred.
The chapel is also well suited for a classroom from a curriculum standpoint because seventh grades in Waldorf schools study the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Age of Discovery. “The twelve year old takes on an inward interest in great historical connections. The study of historical impulses helps students to develop a keener appreciation of other cultures and a better understanding of the time in which they live.” (Rhythms of Learning, R.Trostli). The students’ study of biographies such as Queen Elizabeth I of England, Joan of Arc and Martin Luther make a deep impression on them at this time in their development when they are beginning to experience a heightened sense of their own individuality and identity.
Ideally, we strive to transform our classrooms to best reflect the curriculum of each year. In the grades program, we have had very little opportunity to do this given we often need to reassign classrooms on a yearly basis depending on their class sizes. We believe the chapel will be a wonderful reflection of the seventh grade curriculum. Back in 2003, one of our trusted Waldorf school advisers, Torin Finser, said upon walking into the chapel, “You should teach seventh grade in here!”
The Committee has plans to change the aesthetics and functioning of the chapel by cleaning it, improving the lighting, refurbishing the existing toilet and sink, and hanging curtains to enclose spaces to make them more appropriate for a classroom. The chapel will also become the upper grades library space.
We are excited about this wonderfully unique space for our pioneering seventh grade class. Please look for regular updates from the Expansion Coordinator from now until the end of the year regarding ways you can help us make the expansion happen!
Coming soon…PLANS FOR THE SECOND NURSERY!