Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Waldorf-inspired school initiative takes root in Lake County

The Shade Canyon playgroup at Peace and Plenty Farm in Kelseyville, California. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – On Friday, Dec. 11, local nonprofit Shade Canyon School announced its goal to open a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Kelseyville, seeking to broaden the tuition-free education options available to Lake County residents.

Shade Canyon will submit a petition to the Kelseyville Unified School District Board to be authorized as a charter school in the district.

The school plans to open in the fall of 2022 if approved. In its first year, Shade Canyon would include transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, then add one grade per year until the program spans grades TK-8.

Shade Canyon co-founder and mother of two, Savannah Mitchell, a lifelong Lake County resident, is a California-credentialed, Waldorf-trained teacher with a vision.

“When I first encountered Waldorf, I saw an education that I wish I’d had as a child,” said Mitchell. “I’ve dreamed for years of bringing that style of education to the families in my home county.”

Shade Canyon School’s founders are pursuing public charter status to ensure all interested Lake County families could have access to Waldorf-inspired education.

A time-tested model, Waldorf is the basis for over 1,000 schools worldwide. Although California contains 49 Waldorf-style schools (including two options in Ukiah, one in Napa, and a handful in Sonoma County), none are within easy driving distance for Lake County families, and private school tuition is expensive.

Waldorf education addresses the whole child: head, heart and hands. Classes meet each child in their current developmental phase, starting with play-based learning in the early grades. Intentional relationships between teachers and students form the foundation of learning. Many lessons are held outdoors, with hands-on experiences that engage all the senses. The educational model fosters dynamic thinking, creativity, and compassion – encouraging children to contribute their unique gifts to the world.

Morgan Chinnock, another co-founder, hopes Shade Canyon will offer her young children a return to the simplicity of childhood in the midst of a fast-paced, digitally-dominated world.

“Countering our culture’s one-sighted race to achievement, Shade Canyon springs from the conviction that as children are allowed to unfold at their natural pace in a supportive setting, they will grow and achieve in excellent, creative, and internally-driven ways,” Chinnock said.

Shade Canyon has already gathered community and kindled joy at their outdoor playgroups for families with preschoolers at Peace & Plenty Farm. While their playgroups are temporarily paused due to COVID-19, Shade Canyon continues to connect with the community through virtual events on their social pages.

In addition to founders Mitchell and Chinnock, Shade Canyon is supported by board members Nancy Lecourt, retired English Department chair and vice president of academic administration at Pacific Union College; Melinda Price, co-owner of Peace & Plenty Farm; and Monica Ashley, specialty Waldorf teacher and owner of Circle of Hands Waldorf toy store.

The group is currently completing its petition and invites Lake County families and community members to learn more and take their interest survey at www.ShadeCanyon.org.

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