In 2004, Katharine Woods, a California trained and experienced Waldorf elementary school educator, certified permaculturist, and biodynamic farming apprentice joined forces with her philanthropic, environmentally conscientious family and mountain outdoorsman, John DeLorenzo, to build and permit a 501(c)3 non-profit elementary farm school where academic, expressive and practical arts lessons would be experientially learned in accordance with the principles of Waldorf education and permaculture. In June of 2007, The Mountain School opened with a full summer camp program, and in September its first academic school year began.
Our journey began as an art, farm and wilderness centered kindergarten and quickly grew to offer a Pre K – 4th grade Waldorf curriculum to the local families of the Wood River Valley. Throughout our first seven years, we created a space with the surrounding wilderness and the gardens and animals of the farm that connected the school community, students, faculty, staff and parents with the wisdom of living in conscious awareness of humanity’s dependence upon the gifts of the earth. The community quickly came to experience the healthy benefits of living in accordance with the seasonal rhythms, of having real life experience with the realities of life and death, the processes of metamorphosis and transformation inherent within all life processes, and the promise of flourishing abundance when a positive work ethic is realized. By combining traditional Steiner school methods of teaching academics and arts with a heightened focus on permaculture and the practical arts (farm to table, animal to clothing, wilderness survival, wild harvesting, woodworking, and nature crafting) a developmentally appropriate and brilliant curriculum arose for pre-K through elementary school students that equally honored and nurtured the students’ individual birthright of a rich inner life, need to learn through truly practical life experiences, all while supporting their maximum cognitive, academic and social development.
As the chicks grew into hens, the goats multiplied and the children’s muddy boots grew ever larger, we came to realize the need for a larger site then the cozy homestead schoolhouse could provide. With great fervor, the steadfast staff and parent group charged forward to obtain charter school status at the state level and moved quickly to acquire a suitable building for growth close to the farm, a movement also inspired by the vision of making this unique education available to all the children of the Wood River Valley free of charge. Syringa Mountain Charter School successfully opened its doors as a K-5th grade Waldorf School in September 2014, with permission to grow up to 8th grade, and is certainly one of the most bountiful births we have witnessed spring forth from the site at 100 Mustang Lane. We are proud and honored to go forth as partner schools with SMS, and to also collaborate with the greater community in such a way that our unique educational center is accessible to all children of Blaine County Idaho.
The Mountain School has recently transitioned its elementary school program to the first Waldorf methods charter school in Idaho: The Syringa Mountain Charter School. The Mountain School has continued on as a Whole Systems Practical Arts Education Center. We center our lessons upon the skills required for bringing the bounty of the gardens and animals, the farm, to the table and to clothing and textiles, wilderness survival, wild harvesting, woodworking, and nature crafting. These practical arts lessons are experientially learned in accordance with the principles of Waldorf education and permaculture. We are currently cultivating this next chapter as we are beginning to offer our established and endeared site for an expanded offering of educational programs to all ages. In the Wood River Valley's thriving and supportive non-profit community, we intend to distinguish ourselves by offering permaculture, biodynamic and whole systems practical arts, adult and family classes and workshops, school field trips, after-school programs and summer camps. We are hoping to expand our outreach to benefit our local veterans and seniors, as well as special needs youth of all ages. We are also looking forward to the opportunity to provide our local public school educators with a series of 'field study' classes to support and enhance the standard Earth Sciences curriculum.