Class 3 are seasoned gardeners, and returned from holidays to check and aerate the liquid fertiliser they prepared last Term. It is made from sorghum plants, which releases silica and other nutrients into the solution that is then sprinkled onto the plants. Here they are learning how to aerate the natural fertiliser in a hand-mixer that has been repurposed from the art and building department to the garden and will start a new life as a garden tool! Class 3 are also particularly fond of the chickens, and we are delighted to introduce the newest 3 hens Dot, Whitney and Olive. They get a LOT of cuddles when Class 3 are around!
What do you teach? I am the Playgroup Coordinator, and host three playgroups: one at the Preschool and two at Castlecrag. I am also a Gardening Teacher at the Preschool and Castlecrag campuses and I share the teaching role at Middle Ccove campus role with horticulturalist / teacher Kathy Thangathurai and we are assisted by Edgar Maier and Michelle Chambers. I therefore have the joy of bringing restorative agriculture practices to all three campuses!
How long have you been at Glenaeon and what is your background? I started teaching at Glenaeon at the beginning of 2018, coming from the north coast of NSW. I have taught biodynamic gardening extensively, and have also been an early childhood and gardening consultant for many years in Fiji, China, Vietnam and Canada. I have a Masters of Steiner Education from Columbia University, a Bachelor of Child Study Degree and I have my Biodynamic Farming gardening Certificate, having studied deeply with Gunther Hawk (a world leader of bee education with a Bee sanctuary in West Virginia). As an educator with commitment to community development, I have created and established relevant programs for children, teenagers and adults, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation and municipal government. Click to continue.
What is on the horizon for you this year? Being the Waldorf 100 year, I am focused also on supporting bees and the global movement towards protecting our species with bees – this is a world-wide initiative. I am also expanding our focus on SOIL – for example with the understanding that weeds can show there is a NEED in the soil that can be addressed through additions of elements to the compost such as calcium and lime etc. With Kathy, we share the vision that all classes can be exposed to natural science, having their hands in the earth, and to realise that they, too, are a part of the function of the garden itself. We support an unofficial ‘gardening club’ for the high school children who come to garden in their breaks and ‘optional or topic pertinent classes‘. High school use the garden for Agriculture and Food Technology, but gardening club is open to anyone, voluntary and in addition to anything they are learning in formal classes. Thirdly, I am passionate that the whole campus can compost a lot more (from all of our events as well as day-to day). I believe we as a school can help humanity to ‘save the world’ by a sharing the understanding that composting is for EVERYONE, not just gardeners and scientists. I want people to feel that the garden belongs to THEM – the planting and harvesting flowers and vegetables too!
What do you like about teaching at Glenaeon? I love welcoming the playgroup families, with their little children, eyes open wide – who are looking for communication, a safe, nurturing place to come with their family. With my colleagues, I am very enthusiastic about teaching children, and offering them an enlivened education. The families look around at our enchanted gardens, and see other parents engaging with their own children, seeking and building an extended family and community of people working together for healthy communal growth. They see the bush that holds and supports us in this urban life, and marvel at the beautiful interface between nature and the urban environments. Over time they realise that we are part of a small ‘hub’, which belongs to a greater one in Sydney and surrounds – and then Australia, and then the world. All over the world people can seek unique similarities in Steiner education, and experience the wondrous intensity of this inspired and dedicated, healthful, meaningful education.
What are your other interests? I love sourdough bread baking, sailing, skiing, (the YUKON Sandra comes out!) and exploring nature. I love teaching compost and celebrating life with children and all ages of family and friends.
Where is your favourite place on the campuses? I love all three gardens on all three campuses!
Extract from AEON Magazine:
This year we felt very fortunate to have Sandra Frain, with her vast knowledge of Biodynamic gardening and composting, helping in the Kindy garden.
As we prepared for the fair this year the children, along with the help of Sandra and a number of parents and teachers, have been busy distributing rich sweet compost around our gardens so that our mighty compost pit was ready to receive and recycle all the food waste from the fair. Sandra has helped us all at Castlecrag to become more conscious of our daily responsibility to life a more sustainable life.
As featured in AEON Magazine
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner employing what proponents describe as “a holistic understanding of agricultural processes”. One of the first sustainable agricultural movements, it treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasising spiritual, cosmological and mystical perspectives.
Underpinning the subject at Glenaeon is an attitude of respect for nature’s workings and cycles, eschewing the use of synthetic chemicals to either enhance or destroy any aspect of the garden.
2018 has seen the children at Preschool, Little Kindy, Kindergarten and Classes 1 and 2 receive weekly gardening direction from a gardening teacher. They help sow seeds, create and spread compost and apply specially prepared paste to trees in the playground. This has resulted in the children being more connected to the gardens and its fruits.
At the Middle Cove campus, the children learned to make and distribute various biodynamic fertilisers that create healthy growing conditions for the soil, the plants and the surrounding life.
At Middle Cove, the early years’ emphasis of gardening lessons is on practical activities that connect the child with the physical world in the garden. The children are slowly introduced to different aspects of the garden, allowing them plenty of time to absorb the plants and animals around them.
They learn to distinguish between root, seed, fruit and flower and vegetables, and as well as observing the life cycle of the plants, students also observe the habits of insects in the garden.
Children discover edible weeds, explore soil texture and make garden sculpture out of special knots.
Older children consolidate their skills in transplanting, seed sowing, weeding, feeding the soil and preparing the compost heap. The curriculum includes the effects of weather, sun and moon paths and seasons on the garden.
Although formal gardening lessons finish at the end of Year 6, high school students can often be found in the garden as it benefits the curriculum. They can be found harvesting ingredients for their food technology classes, writing inspiration for poetry, observing insects for biology, learning about sustainable biomes for geography and of course, maths in nature. Our high school building sits adjacent to the biodynamic garden and Year 7 have a number of students who enthusiastically flock to the garden at recess and lunchtime every day, voluntarily caring for the chooks and doing other pertinent tasks. They really appreciate being helpful.
We also offer Year 7 the opportunity to spend one class a week in the garden. They contribute to the necessary tasks such as moving mulch, building a hugel, restoring bushland adjoining the edible garden, making pest control remedies, performing chook care and propagating succulents for one of their environmental fundraisers.
Throughout the school, phenomenological Goethean observation skills are encouraged in our students, leading them to experiment with solutions and practically apply these learnings to the field which they are working. In the garden, this means they begin to notice what the plants, soil, animals and garden are telling them and find ways to support them.