It’s Go time

New build­ing at school to serve as hub of board game ac­tiv­ity

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By KIRSTEN JOHN­SON

KEAAU — Spend a day as a stu­dent at Mala­malama Wal­dorf School, and you might play a di­a­tonic flute or re-en­act fables and le­gends dur­ing drama class.

To learn sci­ence, you might take a walk through na­ture. For so­cial stud­ies, you might learn about an­cient He­brew or Nordic cul­ture, and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion class might in­clude cir­cus skills.

“The arts are in­te­grated into the learn­ing,” said Vic­to­ria Gold Sims, Wal­dorf’s ped­a­gog­i­cal di­rec­tor. “Chil­dren are not just given a book and told ‘Read this and know this to­mor­row for a test.’ That’s not what we do here. It’s not like we don’t use books but that’s not the for­mat … We are feed­ing the two sides of the brain at the same time.”

Founded in 1978, Mala­malama Wal­dorf School in Hawai­ian Par­adise Park is the lone pri­vate school on the is­land to op­er­ate un­der the Wal­dorf ed­u­ca­tion model, which fol­lows a “de­vel­op­men­tally ori­ented cur­ricu­lum, per­me­ated with the arts” and aims to ad­dress a “child’s chang­ing con­scious­ness as it un­folds, stage by stage,” ac­cord­ing to the school’s web­site.

The school is ex­pand­ing dur­ing its 40th an­niver­sary year — it hosted a soft ground­break­ing for a new mul­ti­pur­pose build­ing last month. The new build­ing is planned to serve partly as a space for stu­dents to play the pop­u­lar strat­egy board game Go.

Fund­ing for the mul­ti­pur­pose Go build­ing was kick-started by a $31,000 do­na­tion from cou­ple Denji and Mitsuko Ai­hara, who flew to Hawaii from Ja­pan to at­tend the ground­break­ing.

“When we came here for the first time, we felt chil­dren at this school re­ally wanted to learn Go and they were very pas­sion­ate about it,” Denji Ai­hara said through a trans­la­tor. “We were in­spired to pro­vide a build­ing where chil­dren can play Go any­time. And we no­ticed how big the prop­erty was and we thought maybe a lit­tle build­ing on the prop­erty for Go would be great.”

Mala­malama Wal­dorf was founded by cou­ple Donna New­berg and David Grad­wohl, who ini­tially wanted to start a preschool in Opi­hikao cen­tered around de­vel­op­ing the “whole child.”

In 1980, the school signed a 99-year lease with the help of David Wa­tu­mull, de­vel­oper of HPP, and moved to the 20-acre lo­ca­tion at the cor­ner of 26th Street and Makuu Drive where it has op­er­ated since.

There are about 133 stu­dents up to the eighth grade cur­rently en­rolled at Mala­malama Wal­dorf. Stu­dents hail from through­out East Hawaii, span­ning Hilo to Vol­cano to Honomu. The cur­ricu­lum em­pha­sizes “phys­i­cal growth of the child” for the first seven years, ac­cord­ing to the school’s web­site. Af­ter age 7, the em­pha­sis changes “to­ward the in­ner life of the child” and even­tu­ally works to lead the child to a “love of learn­ing” and to de­velop the “think­ing mind.”

The cur­ricu­lum also is “screen-free” and aims to al­low stu­dents “to be chil­dren longer,” school Di­rec­tor Kel­ley Locks said.

“The chil­dren are al­lowed to be chil­dren,” Locks said. “They are al­lowed to dig in the sand and swing and just ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s the big dif­fer­ence be­tween us and other schools … we’re cre­at­ing a well-rounded in­di­vid­ual and when chil­dren leave here, they go into the world as free thinkers. They’re not taught ‘You have to think like this’ but in­stead ‘You can make up your own choices and de­ci­sions.’”

Wal­dorf ed­u­ca­tion also reaches a mile­stone next year when it turns 100. The first Wal­dorf school opened in Ger­many in 1919.

There are now more than 1,000 Wal­dorf schools in 64 coun­tries around the world.

KIRSTEN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Fund­ing was kick-started by a do­na­tion from cou­ple Denji and Mitsuko Ai­hara, who flew to Hawaii from Ja­pan to at­tend a soft ground­break­ing in March.

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