Waldorf school navigates virtual learning during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 3:01 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 21:50:01-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — As we work to rebound from the pandemic, we look for ways to learn from others on how we can move forward and do our best in the midst of things.

Our schoolteachers have become pioneers, forced to set up a new way of learning. They have a lot of knowledge to share with parents, students, and other educators.

Homes across the nation have turned into schools as students like Owen Arzate go to class online. He's a third-grader at Mountain Song Community School in Colorado Springs.

“We were doing a lesson and right now we’re learning about money,” Owen explained about his work.

Mountain Song is a Waldorf school with a very hands-on education. They tackle a different subject each month through art, music, and more. Teachers are now trying to keep the creativity going virtually.

Mom Ellie Arzate is also a teacher at the school and balancing work and her son learning at home, “It’s been an adjustment,” she said.

She said it’s especially tough because Owen misses seeing his friends in person.

“We have some time in the morning where we can say 'hi' and 'hello' and talk to each other,” Owen said.

Still, he is at an advantage, because he already knows his teacher and classmates from previous years. That's because the class stays together through elementary and possibly middle school.

“She just has a very creative and innovative way of teaching and presenting material,” Ellie Azarte said about his teacher. She said her son and other kids thrive on routine, so she tries to keep Owen on a schedule and says regular exercise is key too.

At Mountain Song School, Owen’s teacher, Ieeda Banach said they try to teach the whole student, heart, head, and hands, inspiring them to become lifelong learners.

“What we’re trying to do is waken up the feeling part of them, to feel excited, interested, to feel connected to it. A lot of ways we can do that is through art, so, a story, say, that I tell them in class, we create a painting from, we create a drawing from,” Banach said.

Banach knows it’s hard for kids right now and said parents can encourage them by simply showing how education is meaningful. Give your child examples of how what they are learning in school right now is used in your life as an adult.

“Here I am in my life, I do need to know my 7 times tables because that helps me in this part of my life, or when I’m cooking that helps,” Banach said, “When we can tie in meaning to what we’re doing it's important.”

She said she’s also hopeful that in this world where kids use technology sometimes exclusively to communicate, especially teens, that this pandemic will teach them a valuable lesson.

“Kids are learning how important human connection is right now by not being able to have that,” Banach said, “There’s a part of me that’s hopeful that the learning lesson for these students Is something they can carry forward with them. Just how important it really is for us to be together and be close. How important it is to be in a room with someone, see their faces, all the things we’re missing right now.

She also hopes teachers who were thrust into this new way of learning rely on their biggest resources right now- each other.

“Take really good care of yourself. This is really hard. And collaborate with everyone you know. Reach out to all of us because we are innovating and pioneering something we’ve never done before and the only way we can do that is with each other,” Banach added.

Banach said she’ll continue to try to teach creatively on the virtual platform and having one-on-ones with her kids to keep them engaged and on track and remind everyone of the most important lesson of all- we will get through this together.

Mountain Song is one of only four public Waldorf schools in Colorado. It’s currently accepting intent to enroll forms for next year.

If you have an idea for a future Rebound Colorado story email