Urban Prairie Waldorf School
Ms. Cather's Class
Weekly Update - November 8, 2019

Virtue of the Month: Honesty

In her wonderful book, Tending the Spark: Lighting the Future for Middle School Students, Betty Staley writes about the middle school years in this way:

“It is during this time of vulnerability that we focus on character development to nourish the souls of middle-schoolers and prepare for the civilizing mind. During this time, middle-schoolers may become aware of something special that lives within, the spark of compassion, connectivity, and purpose. They go through phases in which they feel their individual needs and wants, and at the same time, they experience themselves as members of the community.” (p. 47) 

She goes on to describe the character development that she has seen at many Waldorf schools in the 6th grade, where the study of Medieval history lends itself to working with the idea of chivalry and the virtues that Medieval knights upheld.  She encourages “working on the virtues [students] need to develop throughout the year,” where the students “focus on what they want to strive for at school and at home, and they include their parents and teachers in acknowledging their successes and struggles.” (p.48)

The 6th grade students will be focusing on one of the virtues every month, beginning with November. This month’s virtue is honesty. We discussed examples of being honest, when it is hard to be honest, and the virtue of telling the truth, even if you may not be caught lying. I am going to have the students reflect on how they are doing with this virtue on a weekly basis. Please, please talk to your 6th grader at home about honesty, and encourage them to bring an awareness to this virtue to their everyday lives. This is an important moment of individual awakening and development for our dear 6th graders, and through the study of these virtues, we can help them through this.


Morning Lesson

This week, we began our Business Math/Economics block. The class has learned the vocabulary words: goods, services, economy, currency, consumer, and barter. The 6th graders brainstormed a list of occupations from this time and place, and then created cards for a bartering game, where they chose an occupation and listed the goods and services that they could offer to others.  The next day, we sat in a circle and played the game. The class participated eagerly, and liked thinking about what needs and wants they would have as an adult, and what they could barter to meet those needs. After the game, we debriefed to discuss how it went. Some students reflected that it was hard when the goods and services being traded were not of the same value.  Then someone posited that that is why we use currency in our economy. I asked them to think about what would happen in someone in the group had nothing to trade, but had many needs. This led to an interesting discussion about poverty and social responsibility.

Thanks to Miles’s dad, Andy Hershberger, we have an exhibit case in the classroom from the Field Museum about how pencils are made. As part of our Economics block, I want the 6th graders to gain an appreciation for how the things they use every day are made.  They learned about how pencils are made, first telling me the story from what they could infer from the exhibit case, then hearing more details from me, and finally acting out the process. I was impressed with the way they were able to sit down and write out the process after working on it in this way.

As this is a math block, I introduced percentages to the class this week. First we talked about where they had seen percentages in their daily life. They mentioned test scores and sale prices.  They learned common percentage to fraction conversions. To bring in some inquiry and discovery, I asked them to think of the common decimal-fraction conversions they know (1/4 = 0.25) It didn’t take long for them to realize the connection between 0.25 and 25%. We will continue our work with percentages in the coming weeks.



In Math Skills this week, the class learned a new math game called Krypto, in which you try to reach a target number by adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing all of 5 number cards. We started each skills class with 5 minutes of this game, to work on their flexibility and automaticity with numbers. We reviewed estimation, exponents, and square roots, and practiced operations with fractions as well.

In Language Arts skills class, we worked on writing skills and read from our class reader, Hidden Figures. I am encouraging them to do some or all of their nightly reading work with a parent/guardian for a couple of reasons. First, this book is at a higher reading level than our last book, Wonder, and also makes references to the historical context of the World War II era, with which the 6th graders are largely unfamiliar. Second, the book does tackle some sensitive topics, especially related to the segregation of Jim Crow and the plight of African Americans in the 1940s. I have been having some rich conversations with the class about this book, and I encourage you to talk to your 6th grader about it as well, to help them to understand and process this complicated moment in history.

During our Artistic class, the 6th graders received their calligraphy nibs for their fountain pens and began to learn to write in calligraphy, in the style called Uncial Hand.


Outerwear Guidelines

As the weather turns colder, we are asking for some care and attention around the outerwear that students bring (or don’t) to school. Our Care/Therapeutic team has drafted the following guidelines for outerwear, by temperature. See the handy guide below. When someone does not have the necessary outerwear, we usually send them to find something from the lost and found box, or send them inside for that recess. I know that the kids want (and NEED) to be out there playing, so please be sure that they bring what they need.

Please see below for new information pertaining to Urban Prairie Waldorf School outerwear guidelines:

70 degrees and warmer: Shorts, short sleeves

65 – 70 degrees:  long pants required, short sleeves acceptable; long sleeves encouraged on cloudy and / or windy days; rain gear required if raining

50 – 65 degrees: long sleeves required; jacket layering recommended

40 – 50 degrees: jacket required; additional layering recommended

30-40 degrees: multiple layers required; outermost layer must include winter jacket, hat and gloves / mittens; scarf highly recommended for all ages / required for lower grades (EC – 3)

Below 30 and if snowy: snow gear required – winter jacket, snowpants, hat, gloves / mittens, and boots

Urban Prairie Waldorf School will determine the necessary outerwear on a given day according to real feel temperatures.  Real feel temperatures will be recorded on a chart outside the main office at approximately 10:00 a.m. and again at approximately 12:00 noon.  Students will be expected to adhere to the outerwear guidelines. The guidelines were formulated with the children’s optimal health in mind and the understanding that appropriate outerwear provides the children with the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in outdoor experiences throughout the year.  Thank you for supporting the children in this way. If you have any questions, please contact Candace Choma, Chair of the Care / Therapeutic Group.

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, Nov. 25-Tuesday, Nov. 26: Parent Teacher Conferences. Sign up here!


  • Saturday, Nov. 16, 9:30-12:oo Experience UP and Community Fair
The schedule is set for Experience UP, Nov. 16, 9:30-noon. Be a Waldorf student for a morning! Bring a curious friend or a wondering grandparent, and let them experience your child’s education first hand. Childcare available, $30.
  • Electromagnetism– Andi Pearl, Grade 7
  • Geometry in the Waldorf 5th and 6th grade – Megan Cather, Grade 6
  • Lower Grades Math – Amanda Poll, Grade 3
  • Higher Level Thinking: Women in Early America – Mat Riendeau, Grade 8
  • You, Too, Can Be a Pentathlete – Adriana Kondrat, movement
Stay afterward for the UPWS Community Fair, noon-4pm, to buy savory and sweet treats to raise funds for middle school projects, and to shop, mix, and mingle.  There is also an Outerwear Swap going on at this time.
Have a lovely weekend!