Words of Waldorf Wisdom
The Morning Circle
“One of the greatest gifts we receive as teachers in the Waldorf Kindergarten is a deepening and enriching of the experience of the course of the year. For busy adults, it is all to easy to become caught up in the pressures of “clock time.” Through singing and moving with the children in the seasonal circle, we nurture their natural, heartfelt participation in all that lives in nature. At the same time, we rediscover our own connection with the world and the spirit that weaves in and through it. With the children, we enter the realm of natural cycles of time, as experienced in music and movement. This experience is nourishing in both children and adults, and helps to create the mood of joyful serenity which we seek in the Kindergarten.”
Nancy Foster (1999) Dancing as We Sing: An Acorn Hill Anthology, 2 (5)
In the Sungarden and Stargarden Kindergartens, the morning circle or circle time is apart of the daily rhythm for the children. Circle time brings the whole group together to begin the day and provides time and space to connect with each other, greet one another and move together as one social collective. It nurtures a sense of wonder and joy in learning, supports physical development, social-emotional awareness and strengthens the child’s relationship with the seasons.
The Kindergarten Teachers create and guide the morning circle working with the principle of imitation (social modelling) and strive to be worthy of imitation in their movement, speech gestures and social interactions with the children. Being mindful of this principle and working with the age and stage of development of the children in our Kindergartens, music, language, math, physical exercises and social games are woven into each circle to help develop and nurture individual and collective capacities of the whole social group.
Seasonal songs, nursery rhymes, rhyming songs, counting songs, finger plays and movement activities are shared with the class in an imaginative and pictorial manner incorporating soft, beautiful gestures and poetic language. Songs, poems, verses and speech exercises are shared with the class over a period of time until the class has internalized the material and incorporates the themes and language into their imaginative explorations during self-directed play. Language content shared during circle time focuses on seasonal themes, natural phenomenon and the four kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal and human) to help strengthen and nurture a deep relationship and connection with the natural world and local ecology.
Traditional folk songs and social ring games are integrated into the morning circle and help cultivate social emotional awareness, develop social skills and strengthen co-operation skills. “Five Current Buns in the Bakery Shop” and “Star Bunnies” are examples of social movement games that support and develop social skills, listening skills and self-regulation skills for the class. Cultivating the sense of well being, social awareness of the other and inter- connectedness to the whole social organism is another important principle guiding our seasonal circles.
Every morning circle is rhythmical and repetitious in nature to help build a sense of security and predictability for each child and for the class as a whole. Children learn through movement and play and developmentally appropriate gross motor activities and fine motor activities (based on the age and stage of development) are incorporated in each morning circle to support and develop the four lower senses (sense of touch, sense of life, sense of movement and sense of balance). The blanket wrap, drawing a shape on a child’s back, rolling on the ground and exploring an obstacle course are examples of exercises and games to help support the development of the four lower senses. The four lower senses are important to cultivate and develop in the early childhood years to create a strong sensory-motor foundation for each growing child to help prepare them for later academic learning.
At the end of each circle time, the Sungarden and Stargarden Kindergarten children have an opportunity to rest and pause in silence before moving to the daily activity of the day and self-directed play. The brief pause gives time and space for the children to integrate their experience and process the songs, verses, poems and movement exercises and games experienced during circle time. The following day the children will re-experience the circle with one or two new pieces and have an opportunity to practice what they have learned and live into the seasonal imagination again. Rhythm and repetition is the key to support the development of capacities and skills as well as meets the social emotional need of each child to live into the joyful, imaginative moment together again.