The Otto Specht School Blog

The latest news and more!

A New Endeavor

A New Endeavor

Sunflowers don’t grow in the deep shaded forest; they grow where conditions meet their needs, where they can become, with all the potential that once was locked inside the hard shell of a seed. We do not expect of the sunflower that it will thrive in the same environment as a fern or primrose. This fundamental truth of the natural world, also alive in the multitude of differences found within humanity, demands that we move away from standardization and create opportunities for each individual to become, with all the potential of his or her own unique being. 

It is with this premise and a deep understanding of human development, that Otto Specht School continues to reach beyond the conventional classroom, offering diverse, individualized educational opportunities. Year after year at Otto Specht School, students who, for a variety of reasons, were previously unsuccessful by most schools’ measures, would begin to thrive. They would learn to learn, begin to interact and relate more to others, and become more actively engaged in and out of the classroom.

100 Years of Waldorf Education: Moving Towards the Future

100 Years of Waldorf Education: Moving Towards the Future

This year marks 100 years of Waldorf Education. Worldwide, Waldorf Schools and related institutions are being asked to come together in celebration of the first 100 years and to look towards the next 100 years of Waldorf Education and beyond. Core projects have been chosen that celebrate the global reach of Waldorf Education, unite students and schools locally and globally, address environmental sustainability, and bring social renewal. 

On September 21st, as part of the “Marathon Around the World” sport project of Waldorf 100, Otto Specht School will be hosting a 5K run. The theme of the run is “Sport Inspires and Unites.” Other regional Waldorf Schools that have signed on as participating schools include Green Meadow Waldorf School, Rudolf Steiner School NYC, Waldorf School of Garden City, and Brooklyn Waldorf School. The race course encompasses the unique community campus our school is set in. The scenic route winds through the farms, forests, and fields of the Threefold and Fellowship Communities, and highlights the many affiliated organizations and businesses the community holds, including Green Meadow Waldorf School, Sunbridge Institute, Eurythmy Spring Valley, and many more. Our small community hosts more anthroposophical initiatives per acre than anywhere else in the world, and there is no better time to show this to the world than in this momentous celebration.

More Than Cookies

More Than Cookies

Some of the students in the Garden House High School program are approaching graduation from High School and  are ready to transition into programs that will prepare them for adult life, with more focus on independent living and job skills. Whether it is cooking a simple meal, account balancing, gaining and maintaining employment, house-keeping, or fixing a button in a shirt, this slow progression to independence starts with caring guidance toward the repeated experience of accomplishing tasks, and getting to trust one’s own abilities. 

One of our classes towards this end is Culinary Arts. We found that one major challenge was making the experience in the kitchen meaningful while meeting different dietary restrictions. As we tried various approaches, we found that, while the students worked hard and learned the skills, they showed very little connection to the food we were making. After exploring many options, we turned to baking, and to the development of our business, Garden House Creations. 

Voices of Us

Voices of Us

In the nearly 10 years that I have worked at Otto Specht School, I have grown quite accustomed to speaking and writing about the unique approach of the Otto Specht School,  the benefits of Waldorf Education, and the incredible unfolding we see in our students year after year. It is easy enough to intellectualize my experiences, validating our programming and various modalities with research articles on the benefits of being outdoors, the importance of movement in human development and learning, the positive outcomes from adding music and art to school curriculums, and more. It is also easy to get swept up in sharing anecdotes - telling and retelling those gratifying moments when the seeds you have sewn with your students suddenly burst forth and that student’s entire countenance beams in his or her knowing. I speak to parents, to organizations, to other schools, to educators, and to perfect strangers. I tell the stories of Otto Specht School, but they are really my stories, through my lens. So this time I decided to get to the heart of the matter, each child’s experience.

Where the Heart Is: Charles Rose and a Design for our Future

Where the Heart Is: Charles Rose and a Design for our Future

Geometry, natural light, and a seamless interplay with the landscape, provide viewers of Charles Rose’s architecture with the aesthetic satisfaction and feeling of awe one might experience, walking through the redwoods or a desert canyon. Mr. Rose’s interest in spatiality and attention to the surrounding environment results in buildings that are never out of place, and allow the natural elements to flow through. A number of times throughout our brief interview, Mr. Rose began his sentences, saying “By the time we get to form,” highlighting the depth and integrity of the firm’s design process. By the the time the team at Charles Rose Architects begins the actual building’s design, they have immersed themselves in intensive background work, understanding the mission and the purpose of the building, and the social fabric of the institutions and individuals who will use it. They consider the whole environment, the easy exchange between interior and exterior, the contours of the land, and how people move through the space. “ I guess I get that from eurythmy!” Charles proclaims. “Eurythmy is all about how we move within a space,” he says, adding, “I was the world’s worst eurythmy student. I had to stay many extra hours for bad behaviour.” Charles views his Waldorf Education as a significant component of his architectural work and the overall worldview that helps to inform his artistic and practical choices.

Doris Sacks: A Life Well-Loved

Doris Sacks: A Life Well-Loved

Lord, thank you for this loving place…

Doris Sacks moved to the Fellowship Community in the Spring of 2001, at the age of 86, when her husband was in need of care. He passed in the summer of 2002, but Doris remained in the community, where she could live an active, independent life, surrounded by people of all ages. She passed away this year, on November 26th, at the age of 104.

For the hands that help,

For the hearts that care,

As often as she could, Doris came to the Otto Specht School to attend Friday morning assemblies, particularly in the last several weeks of her life. One day, after the assembly, she requested that her caregiver wheel her chair over to Jeanette. “Otto Specht is such a blessing for us all” Doris told Jeanette. “To see these children surrounded by such love, and to see them smiling and happy is such a miracle to me. I want to thank you so much for bringing all this light into the lives of us older people.” Jeanette, humbled, thanked her. Doris went on to say, “These children bring the future to us, and I so look forward to seeing them every Friday. It is a time to be thankful - every Friday. I hope the school grows and never leaves the Fellowship. It is the way to the future.”

#Giving Tuesday OSS 2018

#Giving Tuesday OSS 2018

Otto Specht School has joined #GivingTuesday, a pioneering effort to harness the collective power of partners charities, families, businesses, and individuals. The movement is transforming how people think, talk about, and participate in the giving season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have become recognized days of holiday shopping. #GivingTuesday brings attention to philanthropy, donations, and kind actions - a movement we can really get behind!

The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

This year, the winner for Best Short Film at the Nyack Film Festival was “Writing on the Wall” by filmmaker Rob Barrett and singer/songwriter Sam Leopold. The film features footage of refugees crossing deserts, mountains, and seas, children clinging to their parents or to a few precious belongings. The topic is painfully current, and yet, as Sam will tell you – the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. His song, written nearly twenty years ago was prescient. At the time, few saw the problem of refugees coming on as hard and fast as is now happening.

Fifteen years after the release of the song, filmmaker Rob Barrett heard it and proposed the making of a short film based on the song. Sam agreed and they launched into the project without waiting to find investors. Over the next two years, local artists, activists, and inspired individuals from far and wide, participated in the project. A local documentarian and activist, Hassan Oswald, who traveled to Lesvos, Greece, to witness, help, and document the travails of the Syrian refugees coming ashore provided footage that became the basis for the film. Gaining rights to other footage was not without adventure. Most notably, a Brazilian professor of geography living in Malaga, Spain, inspired by the video’s message, got on a boat and travelled to Cueta, a Spanish region located on the northern coast of Africa across from Gibraltar. Upon landing, she took a taxi to the headquarters of Faro TV, where she spoke to the manager, and received written permission for Sam and Rob to use video footage owned by the station.

Parent Spotlight: Shannon Young

Parent Spotlight: Shannon Young

One of the things that really helped me about living in Costa Rica was the peaceful acceptance of the vicissitudes of life so contrary to the New York high speed, high intensity attitude, where everything seems focused on achievement and beating the competition. Costa Ricans have a saying: “Pura Vida” which roughly means, relax and live life joyfully. In Costa Rica I was able to let go of much of my anxiety about all the developmental milestones that my son was not reaching, to practice more patience and acceptance of my son - and of myself with all of my hang ups.

Welcome Home Otis

Zachary waited at the farm, hours after school had ended, excited to be the first student to meet our newest companion. As late afternoon cast long shadows across the pastures and the cows were in their yard after evening milking, a blue Jeep, pulling a trailer, turned into the red farm-gate. Otis! The appaloosa mustang looked around cautiously as he descended the ramp, assessing the pastures, taking note of the cows across the fence. “That’s a fine looking animal!” Will, the dairy farmer, said, nodding in approval.  Zach stood near Otis’ head and offered a hand, allowing Otis to breathe him in – a horse’s equivalent of asking your name.

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The next morning, Otis spent some time at the fence, eyeing his bovine neighbors, flaring his nostrils as he accustomed himself to their scent and all the other scents of the new air. The cows, equally curious, approached their side of the shared fence and watched Otis as he took graceful laps around the ring. Every few laps, Otis would halt right in front of the fence, and the cows, his awestruck spectators, would back off momentarily, startled by the unfamiliar creature. Later, all of the Otto Specht students gathered together to meet this new creature, who they would soon be learning and working with. A sign, painted by the students, hung from the railing of the corral, decorated with the students’ handprints and the words “Welcome Home Otis.”

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Otis quickly settled into his new home, thrilled to have fresh grass, and becoming accustomed to, and even, it would seem, fond of the cows across the fence. The children gladly worked to care for the horse, mucking stalls, carrying water, and clearing undesired plants from the riding ring and debris from the paddock. Students found a sense of purpose working with Otis, which helped them brush aside other concerns and social anxieties and delve into the work. The fifth grade girls exclaimed that Mr. Bosch always knew the right jobs to give them when working with Otis. He knew who could stand mucking the stalls, and who could carry the heavy water buckets. Life lessons were also readily learned with Otis. The students could reflect upon themselves through what they learned about the horse. For example, they all learned that we do not feed Otis from our hands since he would get spoiled and then he would expect treats from us whenever he saw us and be disappointed when we didn’t have them. “What does that remind you of?” Mr. Bosch asked the third graders. “The red truck!” Ori quickly replied. “Exactly!” Mr. Bosch confirmed. “Ever since I gave you one ride in the red truck, you have asked for it every gardening class.” The third graders nodded. They understood this lesson, and look forward to many more.