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Southern Oregon University

782 Park Street, Ashland, OR

The Secret Garden Playschool and Kindergarten provides holistic, sensory rich, play and nature based programs for children from 3 to 6 years old built upon the studies of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education, Sensory Integration and the wonder of childhood. 

There is a specific rhythm to our day, week, and year as there is a rhythm to one’s breathing and the cycles of nature.  The gentle rhythm of each day provides the container for the children, in order that they may sink into being children.  It is the work of the adults to create the space for the children to unfold, each in their individual way and time.  There will be plenty of time for intellectual development, after the loss of their first tooth, but for now, it is our work, as teachers to ensure that we maintain a healthy rhythm, attend to the details, model appropriate language and behaviors, and permeate the environment with respect, joy and warmth while working in love and integrity.   

Our families agree to “no media” or significantly limit the media their children are exposed to, in order to protect the magic of childhood.  The first 7 years being the time of imitation, it is vital that we pay attention to the examples we provide; and consider if we really do want our children to be imitating characters from their favorite show or movie?  Yes, children love TV; they also love candy!

The curriculum at The Secret Garden is formed around the stages of development and the seasons.  The children paint using the colors we see outside, changing as they do.  Much thought goes into the selection of the story as it is the base for the seasonal curriculum upon which the circle is formed.  The teacher tells the story from memory for a week; the next week the same story is told through puppets then the third and final week, the children act the story out. In addition to language development, the circle, with songs, finger-plays, circle games, rhymes and story are of great significance in supporting the children to develop their own inner picturing and imagination – the foundation of the intellect.  It is important that the children are surrounded by models of speech worthy of imitation and great care is taken to maintain a sense of reverence, innocence and wonder.  A substantial part of our morning is set aside for free imaginative play, which is where we see the children play out scenarios from life with the silks, hand crafted dolls, and natural play things.  Our transitions are kept simple by singing specific songs and finger-plays which help the children keep track of their day, without the use of clocks.

As the children arrive in the morning they are warmly greeted by teachers and other children, they find friends and play in the fort, climb into the “nest” atop a large bush, dig in the sand or just swing to help themselves “arrive”.  Some children may have made fairy houses the previous day, and eagerly check to see if the fairies ate the honey left for them.  Of course, there is the tireless search for roly-polies and lady bugs!  The teachers are actively involved in the environment by weeding, sweeping or attending to our school in other ways; singing songs, and being present with the children while they engage in meaningful activity.  The play garden provides the children with abundant opportunities to learn through their physical body and sensory experiences with imitation as their guide.

 “The essential task of the kindergarten teacher is to create the proper physical environment around the children.  “Physical environment” includes not just what happens around children in the material sense, but everything that can be perceived by their senses that can work on the inner powers of children from the surrounding physical space.  This includes all the meaningful and meaningless behaviors that children witness” (Rudolf Steiner, The Education of the Child)