Otto Specht school in the community and beyond
At Otto Specht School, we are forging a path for a drastic and necessary change in education. Throughout the United States and around the world, more and more children are not finding a home within traditional school settings. Autism, attention disorders, sensory imbalances, anxiety and other social difficulties, developmental delays, and many other learning challenges are on the rise. We need new approaches to understanding and meeting these children. At Otto Specht School, we are committed to remaining an active presence in shaping the global conversation surrounding the evolution of education. Here, you will find links to affiliated organizations, information about events and educational seminars we will be hosting or participating in, and educational fairs and conferences we will be represented at.
Events, Workshops and seminars
In our efforts to continue building our community and sharing our knowledge, we will host and participate in various events throughout the year. These events are for everyone, not just parents and educators of children with learning challenges!
Where You Will Find Us
At Otto Specht School we are working to reach out to the larger community of educators and parents to build relationships, to educate, and to add our presence and our voice to the global conversation regarding education. Here's where you will find us!
We are grateful for other organizations working towards our common goals. We believe that our work is made stronger and better through collaboration with these organizations.
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." --Helen Keller
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.