We were contacted by Byron Shire Council recently and offered the opportunity to feature the artworks of our some of our amazingly talented High School students as part of a street art project. The theme was people and places of the Shire. The current COVID lockdown has prevented the opening celebration from going ahead. But the artwork is up and it looks great. So next time you're in town, stop and have a look. You will see these masterpieces, created by students from Years 7, 8 and 9. Congratulations to Zen Giannoni, Maya Chaffer, Sol Bailey, Macushla Bere, Aimee Green, Zoe Newell, Ella Bowen Piercy, Zemmer Arbiv and the Year 8 collective, and thank you for sharing your creative work!
Why can’t children vote?
Why does the government have so much power over us?
Why do people without jobs get paid when that’s not the case in other countries?
Why does the government allow people to cut down so many trees?
Why don’t refugees have the right to get citizenship and vote in Australia?
Why is Adani allowed to destroy the Great Barrier Reef?
Why can’t everyone have the right to citizenship?
Why can’t teenagers vote if it is their future? Shouldn’t they decide for themselves?
Do you trillionaires feel responsibility or the need to do something good for the world with all that money?
Who was the King of England?
What happens in Parliament?
Can the government make laws whenever they want?
What would happen if we didn’t have a government?
Why are some Australians so foolish to vote for a bad prime minister?
Why can’t kids drive cars?
Who was the first Governor General?
When was the first law made in Australia and who made it?
What is it about the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the US?
Who was the first Queen of England?
How much power does the government have?
How does the voting system work to elect the Prime Minister?
Who made school days?
Why do Prime Ministers always seem to be so rich?
Who invented the idea of a government?
Why are there so few women in government?
These are the questions that occupy our young people's minds in Class 6. Their desire to connect the dots from what they overhear adults talking about, and to deepen the quest, is a wonderful step beyond the small world of interest in clothes, screen time and peer groups for the 12-year-old child. We emerged from this Main Lesson with sense of belonging to Australia and its living democracy, along with a profound understanding of privilege, especially when applied to the Australian Citizenship test — I am happy to report that everyone "passed" it!
To bring the topic to a close, the students were asked to design a new flag for Australia based on similar endeavours in New Zealand not so long ago. Their designs represent a deep reflection about the symbolism contained in national flags, which is in our case arises out of the children's desire to be inclusive, to show a sense of place and belonging. I imagine they would like to wave their own flags at the next Olympics!
Class 6 Teacher
One of the most important aspects of Early Childhood is to instill in our children that the world is good. This deep inner sense is essential for the young child, as it will lead to the feeling of gratitude.
Gratitude becomes especially visible in our love for nature. The very young child observes us with their whole being — how we care for each other, ourselves, for the animals around us and our gardens. If we as parents and educators display this care and gratitude, we will instill this in our children. This wonderful wisdom inspired by Rudolf Steiner is so simple but it can so easily get lost in this fast world of ours, more so than ever in this time of fear and uncertainty.
The children at Playgroup have been most helpful in the garden and some children have taken it upon themselves to rake leaves for our compost bin, in preparation for spring. We have been finding magical treasures in our garden, like little Dandelion Puff.
We also have been over to the Farm, where Farmer Andrew helped us shovel some compost into our wheelbarrow to plant our climbing beans. Some children are putting the little bean seeds into the warm mixture of soil we had prepared. To the delight of most children we discovered some earthworms and the children experienced holding them gently. Some children wanted to know what the worms do, prompting a lively discussion, before we put them back into the soil, so they could do their busy work.
The children are also very eager to help care for our hungry silkworms, who need a lot of cleaning and feeding.
This week, I finished setting up our bean teepee and hopefully by the time our beans are breaking through the earth to greet the sun, the children will be there to witness it.
We feel so grateful to have had our Class 7 Dance main lesson at the start of this term. There's something special about dancing together that can't be easily replicated on Zoom! Hopefully our Class 7s are taking the skills they learnt and teaching their families some new moves during this latest lockdown.
The lesson was divided into three parts — theory, choreographed dance and fitness. Clare looked at various forms of dance from a theoretical perspective, focusing on Hip Hop. William took the fitness, stretching and strength-building component, and Renee helped the students choreograph a dance in small groups. She was ably assisted by India Grant, a former Shearwater student and dance teacher who has recently returned from working in London.
The highlight of the lesson was a performance of choreographed pieces in small groups. According to Renee, “The Year 7 group had an outstanding dance performance. We were blown away with their enthusiasm, attitude and group camaraderie. Each group choreographed their own expression of dance, which highlighted their strengths of creative thinking and working so well together. A massive congratulations to all of those who gave it a go, and in turn, realised they have got the groove inside of them”.
Many thanks to Renee and India, and to all the students who dared to bare their souls and dance with such grace, beauty and courage. As we reflect on the year during this challenging period, this surely has been a highlight for many.
Class 7 Teacher
Our Year 10 students have recently spent a term investigating some of the chemical and physical properties of alcohol. At Shearwater, Year 10 chemistry is about demystifying this substance that many teenagers are rightfully intrigued by.
We began with grapes! The students spent a morning feeling what it might have been like in a rural village at grape harvest time. How many of us have the opportunity to feel grapes between our toes? The strong inner structure of the grape demands a lot of force to crush it. How much sugar do you think is in a litre of grape juice and how can you tell? To find out the students measured the density of the juice with a hydrometer and were surprised to find that their juice contained as much as 250g of sugar per litre. That’s a lot of sugar!
They added the fungus that we know as yeast and waited patiently for the fermentation to happen. Those little dry granules of yeast really didn’t look like mushrooms but they certainly transformed the sugar into alcohol.
No one was particularly impressed with the wine but then we weren’t stopping there, that was just a means to obtain a much purer sample. After understanding that alcohol and water have different boiling points they were able to fractionally distil a much purer alcohol sample. How pure? Well, to determine this they went back to density – that had worked for sugar. This time though they first needed to make an instrument that could float in the alcohol and calibrate it with solutions of known percentages.
Glass blowing the hydrometer was a challenge but fun regardless and they soon recognised their samples were between 80% and 90%.
What to do with this precious material? Burn a little of course! It burns with a beautiful ghostly blue flame – hard to see in the light. It was way too precious to waste it all like this though the thought of that did appeal to some students. We used the remainder to extract the essence from calendula flowers, exploiting the solvent and preservative properties of the material we were now calling ethanol, to make a tincture.
A project was beginning to take shape. What else do plants have to offer besides sugars? A walk around the farm took us to the herb and fragrance gardens and we came back with lavender, lemon myrtle and tea tree.
Using a steam distillation method we were now able to extract fragrant essential oils and hydrosols from the plants that might be useful in making a product.
Using some of the remaining ethanol and butyric acid (found in breast milk, parmesan cheese, body odour and vomit) we synthetically produced a chemical that smells like pineapple but in a ‘fake pineapple lolly kind of way’, according to one student. This really brought home why those little bottles of essential oils cost so much – ‘so many leaves distilled and so few drops of oil gained’ according to another. It also reinforced why cheap food and cosmetics used artificial flavours and fragrances. It was so easy and cheap to make so much.
After purifying some bees wax and learning about emulsions, we combined a high quality carrier oil with our wax, hydrosol, essential oils and calendula tincture to make a hand cream of the finest quality ingredients.
As for me, I love teaching this unit. It’s fun and it really looks like you imagine chemistry to look – lots of glass tubes with exotic liquids dripping from them. The students thought so too. We are slowly perfecting the hand cream, perhaps you’ll be the lucky recipient of a bottle sometime.
Dance has existed as a vital part of every known culture throughout time. It is a distinct form of nonverbal communication that uses the body as an instrument of expression, articulating the culture and society from which it emerges. In Year 9's recent Dance unit, we focused on Latin American Salsa and contemporary Hip Hop. We studied the different cultures these dances developed out of and linked the two through a growing understanding of the need for dance in oppressed societies, specifically Cuba and the Bronx in New York.
Learning to dance and learning through dance allows students to apply their own experiences through a different language. Students learn to express ideas creatively as they choreograph, perform, and analyse dance as works of art.
At Shearwater, we focus on three main strands through our schooling: beauty, truth, and goodness. Between the ages of 14 to 21 the focus of our education is truth. At this stage of development, we see in our young people a righteous indignation for the wrongs in the world, specifically when faced with injustice, unfairness, and hardships that they themselves may not have previously understood. Through the study of oppression in Cuba and African-American communities in the US over the the past 100 years, Year 9 have come to understand the power of dance and the freedom that it brings.
High School PDHPE
Our Class 4 children have begun their journey of being 10, seeing the world through different eyes and taking an interest in the details of life around them. With this in mind, we have extended their horizons through mapping and local Bundjalung stories. Viking myths and legends support their adventurous new selves, where acts of cunning, bravery, trickery and loyalty appeal to the 10-year-old child.
Fractions were introduced with cooking and mathematics have become a new interest within the class, as the children begin to see the logic of number and take on new processes, carefully assessing whether there is a trick or if the facts still add up!
A view of the history of writing, stretching back to cave art, cuneiform, hieroglyphics and into modern written language, culminated in the gift of a calligraphy pen. Received with joy, the children are now exploring their writing styles.
We have also begun the study of Japanese language and the children have been working with Katsuko, building a basic knowledge bank of greetings, counting and some traditional writing and stories.
The class is currently working on a clay construction - each building a Viking ship with care and determination. The children’s independence with their work grows exponentially as they listen to the directions of their wonderful clay teacher, Ben, moving forward with confidence.
Amidst all of this learning the class has also enjoyed plenty of healthy physical fun. This year, Class 4 joined the upper Primary School at the sports carnival for a day of vibrant interaction, where they raced, hurled and leapt, cheering each other on regardless of ability or skill. Off the field, Spaghetti Circus has had the children tumbling, balancing and turning, with plenty of laughter.
Watching them achieve physical dynamic demands, and seeing the surprise and pride on their faces when they manage the challenges, is wonderful to observe.
Class 4 Teacher
Here at Preschool, we have been enjoying the amazing weather - lapping up as many sun forces as we can. We have been out and about on the Farm, meeting our beloved farmers, who often feature in our stories at Preschool - our new friend Farmer Spike; our trusted old friend Farmer Andrew; and don't forget our much-loved gardener Renate, who the children flock to like bees to honey, wanting to help with any busy jobs she may have.
Also in our stories is Nic Nac Gnome who lives in the very big trunk of Grandfather Fig Tree. He uses a special curly key to unlock his door. So, when we went past the grapevines on the Farm, each child found their very own curly key before we headed over to Grandfather Fig, where the the children searched and searched, all over Grandfather Fig's big roots; in tight little corners; and way up high into those ever-reaching arms, until they finally called out "we found the door!".
After all of our adventures under the sun, we sat underneath the shady branches of Grandfather Fig and enjoyed a delicious picnic while we watched the High School children practice their high jumps.
How blessed we are to be part of such a special school, with so much to do and see.
We are looking forward to seeing what the farmers are doing next week!
Preschool Group Leader
© Shearwater The Mullumbimby Steiner School