“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)
07.12.15- Phoenix Academy of Farming & Schooling group, Beijing
Above: Phoenix Biodynamic Camp, 2015
Samuel: Tell us about your passion and your work.
Sandra: My business name tells my passion: It is “Living. LOVING LEARNING and laughing too: Educational programs for all ages”. Because my particular passion is nature, all my work stems from and is related to natural forces of life. So a NATURE based focus is a qualifier of my business. At this moment, I am outside Beijing at Phoenix Hills Biodynamic Farm, teaching young aspiring farmers how to teach nature based education as camp counsellors or all ages.
So for 6 days we will use the forest and farm and river and mountains as our palate for getting in touch with the elements and learning how those can be brought to children in a healthy way. In a way that supports the development of the children’s rhythms and senses. There is no place better for this in my opinion than in nature. As we are in winter here, we have the crystalisation forces evident in snow and ice on the land, the bare trees adorned with nests, steaming compost piles, and the potential for appreciating the warmth and beauty of fire making as a basis for exploring our creativity and learning to support that in the children.
Samuel: Tell us a personal story about your journey that has lead you to where you are now.
Sandra: Although I was raised in various suburbs of the world, my parents always had a garden, always cared for a compost and made rich beautiful soil, and always ate healthy, home-cooked food. Our weekends were consistently based around the garden life and having adventures to farms and mountains and lakes and rivers and the ocean. Picnics were a regular event with other families.
A first memory for me was of the smell of ducklings and chicks as my Godmother was a poultry farmer in Colombia (South America) where I was born. To this day, I love the smell of animal manures. Now that I know its value for compost making which I teach in Australia and China, I am all the more excited to smell a good fresh cow pat.
Samuel: What is some key messages and practical wisdom that you would like to share and how can people contact you?
Sandra: A key message comes from a fear I developed when I was 14 (43 years ago), that there was a conspiracy to kill the earth and all the people and animals. At that moment I knew I had to work towards bringing people to the land and the land to the people. I have been hugely gratified to hear people tell me that it is because working with me in Agriculture classes and learning the art and science of composting, and watching how I lead children in nature appreciations that they too have made a commitment to being ambassadors for the earth and all living creatures. They have fallen in love with life in many of its’ formations.
So my message is: ENTHUSIASM is infectious. To EN thuse is to put God into life. That is the way I like to bring education, I believe that life is meant to be lived with joy. I wish everyone to enjoy nurturing life for the sake of saving us all. Living Loving Learning and Laughing too, ALL of us where ever and whoever we are.
To see more about Samuel Osborne: Website
“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!
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
As a group we faced our fears of nature and the unknown on our first ever Inner Mongolia nature and drama camp for 6-11 year olds.
For the first time in their lives many of the children experienced hiking a mountain, dangling their feet in fresh icy mountain streams, bonding around the campfire and playing in ” natural sand” conditions . What a privilege to introduce them to the elements. We claimed Eco warrior status as we picked up rubbish wherever we explored: hills, grasslands and sand dunes.
Meal blessing and meeting Mongolian Grasslands hosts after our cooking lesson