Sustainability and Expansion at WSP

The following article discusses topics that were introduced during the All Community Meeting held last Friday, February 1, 2013. The meeting explored the ways that the school is working on its expansion efforts in ways that are sustainable both ecologically and socially. With the help of Christine Mondor and Steve Hockley from EvolveEA, meeting attendees practiced thinking about sustainability efforts in the school by imagining our goals for the school in the next year, 3 years, 10 years, and 3,000 years. Mondor asked us to meditate on what efforts are needed to make the school sustainable for its people (both the children and greater community), its place (the buildings and grounds), and its processes (to fulfill our goals and lead a good example to others). Continue reading for information on how we’ve begun answering these questions.

 “As modern human beings we have an opportunity – maybe even a responsibility – to find sustainable ways to exist in and be in relationship with our environment.  This is just as true in the social realm as it is in relationship to our physical environment, and we need to invent, discover and utilize socially responsible forms.  In fact, creating new effective forms of leadership and management that honor the relationship of the human beings and that also respect the living nature of an organization could possibly provide a model for social health in all organizations and in society in general.”
Rea Taylor Gill

The philosophy of Waldorf education is rooted in sustainability and this quote captures our striving as a school at this time.  In 2009, the school formed an Expansion Committee charged with completing a feasibility study to determine if the school could support the expansion of growing to eighth grade.  By 2010, this committee demonstrated to the community that the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh was indeed ready and able to accommodate this growth.

Beginning in 2011, a newly formed Expansion Committee began the work of understanding a more comprehensive picture of the requirements necessary for supporting an upper grades curriculum.  This work involved a deeper investigation into our resources and programming needs.  Out of this work, came the acknowledgement that creating sustainable systems and relationships would be a key to our success moving forward as a school.  Next year, we will have our first eighth grade.

What an exciting time this is for the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh!  Not only are we moving toward eighth grade, we will celebrate our twentieth anniversary as a school next year.  We are at a place in our development that takes us out of adolescence, a time when one is more inwardly focused, and into the early stages of adulthood, where we are able to lift our gaze to a broader vision for ourselves and our future as a school.  We have a number of meaningful projects we have embarked upon with partners who are inspiring us to create new forms of working together.  Each day, we grow in our understanding of sustainability as an organization.  This work requires faculty, administration, board, parents and children to be open to working together in new ways.

 Expansion Committee

Last year, the Expansion Committee continued the visioning work started in 2009 for reaching 8th grade.  Plans of the committee came to fruition through the help of many with the addition of:  sinks in all early childhood classrooms, the renovation of the second floor bathroom in the south wing, and the expansion of our school library (this effort continues, so look for more opportunities in this newsletter), the conversion of the school store and walk through kitchen into a second nursery classroom and the transformation of the chapel into the seventh grade classroom.  Over the summer, the faculty participated in a curriculum development workshop led by Laura Birdsall, Middle School Coordinator at River Valley Waldorf School.

 Currently, our Expansion Committee meets weekly and in connection with the other initiatives mentioned in this article, we are now planning for the expansion of eighth grade next year.  Current projects include:  meeting with our contractor to walk through potential summer projects and provide us with cost estimates, approving a proposal for installation of lighting in the seventh grade classroom, creating a document that details the eighth grade curriculum and budget, reviewing enrollment projections that inform the need to expand classrooms next year, and keeping in mind the Faculty’s vision for Little Friends program to one day become a Family Center.

We are grateful to the many parent volunteers who have helped us accomplish our goals thus far by providing contacts, expertise and hours of volunteer time.

 Green Schools Academy

At the start of this school year, WSP was invited to become a founding member of the Green Schools Academy (an initiative through the Green Building Alliance).  This opportunity has engaged us in working with eight other schools as well as our broader community. Our Green Team members include Julia Sawyer (Development Coordinator), Brendan Froeschl (Facilities), Robyn Thomas (Second Grade Teacher), Kirsten Christopherson-Clark (Administrator), and Molly Mehling (Parent and Professor of Ecology).  Indigo Raffel of CCI (Conservation Consultants, INC) and  Janice Donatelli, former owner the store Artemis and local entrepreneur, serve as our advisers.  We began our work in September and will continue to meet through July.  We are learning the value of systems thinking in our daily and long-term planning work, thereby creating a framework for work guided by a purpose but connected to a larger vision.  One goal our team has committed to is to inventory our science curriculum in a way that demonstrates our environmentally conscious curriculum.  This material will be used by enrollment and will be useful for our eventual accreditation.  Additionally, Molly Mehling, WSP parent and Asst. Professor of Ecology and Sustainability at Chatham University, will work alongside one of her students who will use our school as a case study to examine how/if remediation and regeneration of the soil on our site can be applied.  Lastly, we were introduced to Springboard Kitchens through our work with the Green Schools Academy.  Thanks to efforts of the PA, our school will collaborate with Springboard Kitchens beginning this month by offering hot lunch twice a week.  While not yet able to compost all of the waste on-site, we have committed to organizing a new and improved recycling/composting program which will be kicked off this spring.

 EvolvEA

Supported by the Heinz Endowments, EvolvEA, a multidisciplinary design and consulting firm, is currently facilitating a sustainability planning project for the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh which informs and inspires our strategic thinking.  Led by Christine Mondor and Steve Hockley of EvolvEA, our team is further comprised of faculty, administration and board members with sessions involving our broader community throughout the coming months. Often, the first thing one thinks about with regard to sustainability is the building.  That is just part of our work!

We are in the process of examining the sustainability awareness in our school and its relationship to our school structure.  We hope to build community in this effort, in thinking strategically and identifying how sustainability can be integrated into the operations of WSP. This Tuesday, with help from students, we completed an inventory of garbage compiled over one week’s time at school.

Finally, we will complete a facility review of energy and water use, examine existing plans, complete an energy audit, identify opportunities relating to sustainability, and prepare a plan that would inform the organizational strategic plan.

 AdminService

AdminService is a company familiar with Waldorf Schools as well as AWSNA who provides a variety of business functions that support and strengthen administrative staffs.  They have provided valuable resources to us already by managing our business office during Laura Baker’s maternity leave.  In addition, they have expanded our connection to other Waldorf schools and offered support in our school’s team building efforts.  In the next month, AdminService will engage with our board members through consultation and workshops to guide us through board capacity building and training.  Finally, we have requested their expertise in conducting a systems audit with support for implementation as we expand and strive to work toward sustainable practices throughout our school.

 AWSNA (The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America)

AWSNA was founded in 1968 to assist Waldorf schools in working together to nurture Waldorf education.  Today there are more than 900 Waldorf schools in 83 countries.  As previously mentioned, Waldorf philosophy is rooted in sustainability.  In Waldorf education, we teach about the importance of compassion and what it means to feel the thoughts, feelings, joys and sufferings of others, and of the things of the world as if they were our own. Compassion is extended beyond a relationship with other human beings and includes the animal world, the plant world, and even the physical world.

Each year, we receive a visit from an AWSNA representative.  This year, Catherine Daugherty, Development Director of the Toronto Waldorf School, served as our AWSNA representative, visiting in October, 2012.  We have just received our draft School Mentoring Visit Report with commendations and recommendations that we will be examining over the course of the rest of the year.  As a developing Waldorf school, we will submit our 5 Year Strategic Plan in June, 2013 for review.  This strategic plan will be informed by all of the aforementioned work!

We see our children as unfolding human beings, so too is our school unfolding as a growing and dynamic community of learning for us all.

Author: Kirsten Christopherson-Clark, Administrator


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