Corvallis Waldorf School is proud to pioneer an Environmental Science Program that is unparalleled in our local community. It is a beautiful example of how the Waldorf Curriculum can be adapted to the surrounding environment and help develop a true sense of place.

environmentWhat we call our Environmental Science Program is an exciting collection of projects, ideas, and tangible opportunities for our students. Various grade levels take part in these activities to be exposed to practical, hands-on aspects of the study of Science, Mathematics, and local Geography both on-site and within our local community. We are excited to provide a variety of learning, research,and community involvement projects for Corvallis Waldorf School students now and for many years to come.

Here are some examples of the topics explored in the following areas:

Mathematics

  • Creation of tables and graphs based on data collected by students
  • Measurement and measurement conversions
  • Estimation
  • Calculation of tree height through triangulation
  • Calculation of the height and volume of a tree, through the measurement of the diameter and breast height
  • Calculation of growth rates
  • Problem solving and critical thinking

Science and Geography

  • Map-making and map-reading
  • Knowledge and identification of many native and invasive plant species
  • Identification of the parts of a tree and their purpose
  • Reading the story of trees from the patterns of their rings (plant physiology)
  • Botanical identification (plant morphology)
  • Study of soil types and their impact on various plants
  • Measurement of rainfall and temperature patterns
  • Seasonal changes and their effect on plants and animals
  • Familiarity with local ecosystems
  • Study of native birds and animals and their habitats
  • Forest management practices
  • Hydrology
  • Physics (water cachement design)
  • Hypothesis

Current Activities

On-Site: Development and Evolution of Ecosystems. Since 2010 students have researched, planned, mapped, and executed the first stage of a long term goal to create and steward several thriving ecosystems on our school grounds. These ecosystems include an oak savannah, a seasonal wetland, Western Cascades forest and Eastern Cascades forest.

We are continuing the legacy of the school before us (Fairplay Elementary) in managing and expanding the native arboretum that was planted in 1991. We honor those dedicated students, teachers, and local volunteers who started this work years ago, and have enjoyed hearing about the original project during their recent visits to our school. In addition to new plantings, during the 2012/13 school year we thinned the arboretum and created snags and deadfall for animal habitat.

Many local organizations have partnered with the teachers of Corvallis Waldorf School to bring their expertise in forest management, native plant and animal identification, and native restoration. Among these volunteers are representatives from OSU Forestry department, Mary’s River Sierra Club, Institute for Applied Ecology and Mary’s River Watershed Council. We work together to share our knowledge and support Corvallis Waldorf students in their vision and enthusiasm for this project.

This particular branch of our Environmental Science Program provides opportunities to exercise a variety of academic skills. This variety, in itself, serves as a practical example of the interconnection between the various fields of study and their practical use in everyday life. Teachers have great flexibility in projects of this nature to choose skills which best fit the age and level of their students and at times which best suit scheduled studies. Small collaborative group work is highly encouraged, as students share their strengths and become each other’s teachers.

On-Site: School Greenhouse

In 2012 a generous parent at our school donated and built a large and well equipped greenhouse that enables whole classes to work together in planting seeds and caring for seedlings, for current and future projects. It is just this kind of parental involvement which makes the Corvallis Waldorf School a unique and supported learning environment.

On-Site School Vegetable Gardens

Corvallis Waldorf School has established vegetable gardens and their own greenhouse and chicken coop. Each second, third and fourth grade class tends these gardens each school year. Waldorf schools strive to provide outdoor experiences for their students, and our school is no exception! The students often enjoy cooking with their harvest and eating a community meal with their class.

Off-Site: Riparian and Native Plant Restoration

Corvallis Waldorf School students have enjoyed a variety of native restoration projects in recent years; this includes the native plant restoration of sections of Finley Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis in a partnership with Finley Wildlife Refuge and the Institute for Applied Ecology. Students have raised native plants from seed in our school greenhouse, enjoyed several visits from local experts for lessons in native plant and animal identification and local ecosystems, and multiple field trips to Finley to plant and participate in practical field lessons.

In 2012/13 our fourth, fifth, and sixth grades have expanded these efforts with a riparian restoration project in the Mary’s River watershed near Philomath, Oregon. Students have learned about hydrology and botany as they collaboratively plan and implement their own restoration project for this location. The Mary’s River Watershed Council and the Institute of Applied Ecology have partnered with the Corvallis Waldorf School to provide this educational and community involvement opportunity for our students.

Off-Site: Class of 2011 Mural project at the First Alternative Co-operative

In 2011, our graduating eighth grade class created and installed a beautiful mural depicting the Mary’s River Watershed around a water tank at the South store of the First Alternative Co-operative. This community project was spearheaded by an alumni parent. It serves to promote and beautify the Co-op’s water cachement system. It was fitting that it poured rain as they worked together to install the finished mural. Corvallis Waldorf School is incredibly fortunate to belong to an interested community, invested in the education of our youth.


Future Activities

Water Cachement

Middle School students and teachers at Corvallis Waldorf School will design a water cachement system in order to provide our environmental science program with the volume of water necessary to expand our on-site projects. This will provide opportunity for a practical study of physics and mathematics. We hope to fund the completion of this ambitious project with grants and donations, and utilize volunteer labor from our local community.

Development and Evolution of Ecosystems

In 2013/14 students and teachers will expand and enhance their current Development and Evolution of Ecosystems project with studies in ecological succession, the addition of under story trees and plants, data collection to measure the effectiveness of our previous efforts, additional efforts to create animal habitat, invasive plant management, and stewardship of the current plantings. The current plantings serve as examples of many native plant species and local ecosystems. Students will participate in nature
and seasonal observations.

Birds and Bees

In addition to the creation of snags from three trees in the arboretum and the installation of student crafted bluebird boxes, students have been researching beekeeping. We hope to add a beehive to the Environmental Science area of the school site.

School Garden Expansion

We also hope to expand our thriving vegetable gardens with plantings corn and winter wheat, oats, triticale, flax, and barley. Third grade students will be able to sow, harvest, thresh, winnow, and grind the wheat, thereby having a complete meaningful experience to strengthen their studies of grains and cereals. Students in the past have had to rely on outside sources of these grains to use as examples in the classroom, or use an alternative site to grow their small patches of grains.

School Pumpkin Patch

Corvallis Waldorf School aspires to have a yearly pumpkin patch on site for our annual Harvest celebration, and the enjoyment of our younger students. This seems such a small project but all of these projects combine to give our students skills to observe the natural world and the enthusiasm and awareness for protection and care for the environment around us.