“Of all the teachers we have had here in 8 years the student have learned most from you. In addition to teaching them of nature and children and teaching, you have taught them of their own Chinese land and culture.” (Li Yen- Founder of Phoenix Academy)

“Before your teaching I did not know how to play. Know I know how to play and how to play with children. I will practice a lot because I know how important it is. Thank you Sandra.” (Student, 27)

“You have taught us freedom to think and draw and tell stories. That what we do is important. This is a new way of education for us. Now we can share that way with the children. We did not know another way until now. You are the best teacher we have ever had because you help us care for ourselves.” (Student, 23)

“No one has ever listened to us before. They were not interested. Now I know what it feels like to be listened to and understood. Now I know how to do that for the children. Thank you Sandra.” (Student, 18)

“You treated us as equals, none of us better than the other. Each voice was as important as the other and through role playing a potential complex problem at camp I have learned what it feels like to be a different point of view to my own. This was really powerful for me. Thank you.” (Student, 20)

“I was afraid of communicating with other people before I came to this training. I am not afraid any more. I enjoyed sharing my stories and pictures. An outstanding memories for me of this week was when you said we are not just the teacher, we are the farmer and doctor and artist too. I am really excited to think of my work this way. Thank you.” (Counsellor, 30)

“I’ve been to a few nature training with children sessions. They are boring and just about the rules that children must follow. We don’t learn about what to do with children. Now I have some ideas of what to do with children and then there is not much need for rules.” (Student, 22)

“I have learned the most important thing is to make a rainbow bridge between myself and the child. I know how to do this with all of the children now. Thank you for teaching me how to make friends. You are my best friend and teacher. Thank you.” (Worker with abandoned children, 27)

“I never thought I would make a doll out of thing air, or create a powerful and unconstrained story, or draw something on a piece of white paper, because previous education has always been missing this piece. When I look at these, I feel a sense of achievement and think I overcame this fear, not just communication with a foreign teacher, but to create something takes courage. I think the teacher’s education succeeded, because with such courage I might change my attitude to life and how I handle things.” (Student, 23)




“Teach us some of the songs you sing Sandra”, came the request from the Parent body. Quickly we arranged that it would be the morning of the 1st year celebration of Tianfu Forest (Aspiring) Waldorf School. We sang on the school pathway where all the children could see us as they enjoyed their outdoor playground time.

The American Spiritual “This Little light of Mine ; Romi Agam Rom’s “ I am flying I am flying I am flying adorned with wings of light” and then Hafiz’s “ The sky where we live is no place to lose your wings: SO LOVe LOVe LOVE x2” (to Belinda Pagden’s tune).

While we flew about a circle singing in English and then in Chinese (immediately translated), we knew that we were making some kind of magic out there at Tianfu.

We stopped, in silence and awe we heard “COOOOO, COOOO, COOOO” from across the fields and in the nearby forest. So we sang again, and then heard “COO COOO COOO. ”

“Wo de Tien Ah” (Chinese for “OH my heavens “) rang out with our laughter and sparkly tears.

Then to the puppet show I was putting on for the children in the grove by their playground. A last before my leave taking after 3 months with this beloved Tianfu community. The parents had rehearsed the theme song “Seed Seed Tiny Seed” with me so the children were truly held by our encircling. They joined in too, all in English.

After the puppet show we sang our way to the “Storying Room”, (so named because we had first used this room the week before for our 3 day Storying Workshop. ) This room was a purpose built restaurant above the campus kitchen. I thought it would be perfect for a lounge sort of ambiance with large red and gold pillows on the red carpeted floor and so it became our singing and laughing and gaming and storying refuge for the Storying workshop and now this Singing Episode.

We decided together what would be appropriate for our last hour of singing. I introduced Shea Darwin’s “Healing Healing Water” song and we acted out in pairs how we might comfort a child or be comforted as a child with this song. The absurdity of adults sitting on each others laps had us rollicking . When we tickled as one tickles a child, we were weeping with merriment.

The one male present had been taking photos but it was insisted that he join in the our fun. He was “rushed” by elegantly dressed ladies who had completely lost their composure in the lesson.

I told a Native American story from Nancy Mellon’s “ Body Eloquence” that encourages celebration for depressing times. We walked a circle saying “HO “ as we beat our chests and stomped for emphasis. The chef and his assistants preparing lunch in the kitchen below us responded by beating their massive woks in unision.

Again we were crying laughing while practicing the importance of observing the wonders of LIFE.

I suggested that these songs are good for taking our children (AND ourselves) out of melancholia and into “moving on”. It is important to acknowledge our own and our children/family/friends’ pain and suffering. It is important that we learn how to get out of that state. Too much sympathy may be inappropriate.

Practicing increasing our heart rates by tickling, pounding our chest, stomping and creating music is a key to healing. As educators (parents are educators too) we must be committed to this task. Most people in the world are suffering a personal grief and then there is the grief for their families, their people, and their gender.

Depression and related illnesses are in epidemic quantities. Suicide of men and increasingly younger people are distressing themselves. We all have a responsibility to address this global malady. Learning how to cope with a child’s distress is a good start!

We ended our meaningful and lively session with “Off we go on our ponies” : Riding in a circle and “Whoa Whoa Whoa” . It was evident who the horsewoman was among us! She held her reins “just so” as she cantered with a straight back around the circle. This is a good song for getting children from one place to another. The often difficult “Transition”.

Children are well contained because there is this “riding off into space “ and then a built in “stopping of the horse”. Obviously this is a good song for teaching “self imposed discipline” too. The children are not galloping off chaotically. There is out- breathing and in -breathing to end.

A group hug ended our session and we look forward to more fun another time.



It is with such gratitude and fulfilment to write about the completion of our first ever batch of compost at Tianfu! As so many of us know, compost is everything. In both the physical and the energetic sense we are doing good transformative work here from the ‘ground up’ at this exciting young Waldorf Forest School & it is such a pleasure to be a part of it!


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On Saturday November 14 2015 the families and staff of Tianfu Forest Waldorf School gathered together to wholeheartedly participate in an agricultural opportunity. We discussed weather pressure systems, dug rich compost into the orange clay for our winter beds and harvested sweet potatoes and taro from our very successful Spring planting






We had many rich nature-based experiences at the wonderful Phoenix BD Camp last July 2015 including preparing our own food from the garden and meeting a mother cow about to give birth to her precious calf. Pheonix mountain BD farm is found just outside Beijing & below are pictures of the plentiful July Summer Gardens from which we collected fresh tomatoes for our pizza as well as cucumber for our salad – yum!




Above: This stunning statue prompted a spontaneous telling of the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff within our group of hikers one afternoon at the Yellow Mountain.



Our Nature Based Education Workshop last June in China was a wonderful ‘hands-on’ and fun exploration of the value of creating meaningful connections with the natural world.

To open the Nature Based Education Workshop in China 30 adults gathered around a fire, waiting our ” fear ” of nature and putting it in the fire to burn it with a commitment to work on overcoming that fear. Feeding the fire, smelling the smoke, and then leaping over the fire were all “warm ups” to the warm ups of playing games with stones and pine cones all the way to the 2nd activiity at the fish pond.


“Goethean observation”, or” Nature based sense impression meditation” at the Fish Pond. Workshop participants drew  something that “drew them in” :what  they saw or a representation by making pictures.


Gathering on the lawn area, we explored WHY would we make an effort to learn from nature & what are the gifts that nature has for our own development? What is “nature deficit “and what are the resulting illnesses and cures?

We examined items from nature like the Pine cone and witnessed the “sacred Geometry ” that actually forms it in its own archetypal way. ie Fibonacci Principle that is present in all these “flowers, forms of nature that grow as a “spiral.” We then sang “From you I receive to you I give, together we share by this we live. ”


We created a sculpture from Bamboo roots. Sandra told a story of the Nature spirits awaiting in the spruce and bamboo forest beside.

We practiced “playing ” in the forest, individually and together.


We explored the vegetable garden and  then the fruit orchard and chicken and goose pens. Some people climbed the fruit trees, others held or stroked a chicken for the very first time.The point was for adults to experience what children do when they are allowed to climb a tree or explore in the woods. HOw do We develop as individuals by spending time alone in nature. How do we develop respect for the earth and plant and animal kingdoms.


We made a merry parade to the pipe  music of the  XIAO instrument played by a workshop participant.Down the bamboo  hill to the farm  like panda bears we slipped and slid. The canola stalks were stacked and drying on tarpaulins. Participants jumped on the stalks and laid on the stalks and the seeds poured out of their casing. Yes the farmers were helped that day. The seeds would be processed in to the oil used for the kitchen’s cooking of the year. (100 people a day)


Our closing circle people shared their learnings and the WONDER of the day. “Wo de tien a” was the expression of the day” as we marvelled in the glory that nature presents us if we only look and listen and feel and receive in gratitude it’s gifts. Of course “what can I do” as a willing participant in supporting nature  leads to the answer: appreciate nature and ike others to it, especially the children; protect it, the land, the water, the air and plants and animals, get involved in your local communities so that these resources ARe available to your children to grow in. BE AMBASSADORE to NAUtRE. For NAture.



After many ‘mini’ updates from the land of weeping willows and golden canola in my current placement at Tienfu Waldorf Steiner School I thought it was high time for a complete report on just what I’m up to over here in China!

Tienfu Forest Farm (Waldorf) is just outside Chengdu in Southwest China. It is spring time now and the signature Weeping Willows are doing just that. Their long leaves are coming down in long “willowy” branches to touch the ground. There is a spring song of a woman letting down her hair, and her tears (the spring rain) runs down her hair to join the earth: heaven to earth, and the tears fertilize the earth with her love.

It is a fascinating opportunity to be in this budding school: one full kindy, 1 small mixed ages one, a parent child group; bustling parent education groups and CLasses 7,8,9 “on campus” with primary to come in the new school year in September 2015.

My job is specifically to work with the Early Childhood in all respects. Observing, reflecting, mentoring and “setting an example” I am doing while enjoying the children, teachers and parents too.

Biodynamic Agriculture teaching is also my mandate. I have the pleasure of creating many gardening opportunities with children and teachers, children and parents, just parents, office staff and teachers, and Class 9 youth and their Farmer teacher too.

It is exciting to be learning about the soil and rock here on this hilly spruce, bamboo and fruit tree property. There are fields of Canola, potatoes, broad beans, snow peas, cabbage, lettuce, eggplant and peanuts too.

Many of the adults I work with have come from rural lives but have never “worked the land” themselves. Land is not available for “purchase” in China, only for development so much rural land becomes HIGH RISES and supportive industry.

As in all Waldorf kindergartens there is an emphasis on “meaningful work” in addition to lots of Free Play time. These children are busy cleaning tables and chairs and dishes and floors and making food too. The school kitchen provides the rice, vegetables and soup daily, but the children prepare their snacks of fruit and nuts and “do cooking” one day a week too.

A particular highlight of my time here is working on festivals within this very different cultural context to which I am used to.  The ancient Chinese festival of The Sweeping of the Tombs coincided with the western Easter festival and I had much fun with the teachers here finding the similarities between the deeper meanings of each one. The story I told to the 200 parents and children present before the Easter Egg hunt was called The Easter Hare Legacy for Tienfu Forest School.

I’ll continue to post more updates and images as they come from my very special time over here in China.



Creating a story to introduce the “wednesday parent and kindy children’ s working in the garden theme” in Tienfu Waldorf Forest School, China.

The story was of “Lily” who is sleeping in the vegetable garden with her mum and baby Stella. She awakes and kisses her mum and sister and then touches the leaves of the lettuce and smells the Chinese onion flowers. She and her family walk past the root vegetable and seed storage of the year before’s crops and then arrive at the garden of many coloured flowers. She climbs up the flowers and smells and plays with them, then she slides down and begins to dig in the garden so she can plant her seeds. The song she sings is one Sandra wrote

“Seed seed tiny seed
in mother earth all cozy indeed,
Seed seed tiny seed :
root and stem you will need,
then 2 leaves and you are freed;
seed seed tiny seed:
oh and a blossom how beautiful indeed!”

Everyone then received a seed and the children and families paraded to the garden to dig in the plots the school has gifted the families to use as many of them live in towering apartment blocks.