School Camp with a Difference

Leaping into the Unknown, An Adventure in Muckleford.

Last week Castlemaine Steiner students from Class 5 went on a school camp with a difference. Frequently camps involve jumping on a bus and driving miles to somewhere far away. This camp started and ended at the school gate, on foot, and on foot we explored our beautiful Box Ironbark Forest in Muckleford. So often students don’t know what is up the road and this was their opportunity to find out. They could take their time to explore and learn about their place in the world. To understand the magic that is our local environment, learning how to move through and observe the land.
We experienced the elements with wild wind, rain, sunshine and starry nights, sleeping out in the open without tents or shelters. We traversed farmland, observing domestic animals and runaway sheep. The forest had different varieties of trees and groundcovers, many of which showed evidence of the animals that live in and feed on them. We pondered a snake shape made of quartz, puddling machines and mines from gold mining days. We walked in the inky blackness of an underground mine toward the light at the end of the tunnel. We sat in silence in the hope that we would see the echidna’s nose emerge where it had taken refuge in the root of a tree. While it didn’t emerge, the silence enabled us to feel the wind on our faces, clouds pass across the sun and hear the sounds of the forest. Such magic is just up the road!

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Class 8 Graduation

Last Friday we farewelled our Class Eight students with a moving ceremony and formal dinner where they were waited on by some of our Class Five students.

This was preceded by speeches hosted by Lyn Farrow, who has been their teacher over the past eight years, with contributions from all the other teachers of the school.
It was a memory filled evening bringing a celebratory and poignant conclusion for many of our long term families. In one case, this family association with the school spanned some sixteen years.

Many of these students began here as toddlers in Playgroup over ten years ago and so have grown up together. In an increasingly transient world this is a remarkable achievement providing a profound sense of continuity and permanence. These are friendships which will last a lifetime. I know of a group of Lyn’s last cohort who still share a house together as they finish of their various tertiary studies or touch base between travels.

On behalf of the entire school we wish these beautiful young people all the best in the future, wherever their path may lead them.

Reflecting on Class 4’s Werribee Experience

Last term Class 4 experienced Werribee Zoo and Werribee Mansion on their camping excursion. Here accompanying parent Kate McGann reflects on their journey.

33 hours. 25 children. 4 adults. Inclement weather. Camping. Giraffes. Lions. Rhinoceros. Zebras. Oryx. Meerkats. Gorillas. Monkeys. Mongolian Horses. Hippos. Bandicoots. Scratchy school slates. The dreaded cane. Chamber pots. Magnificent windows and staircases. Seemingly endless hallways.

Our children had so much to observe and absorb in such a short period on their camp to Werribee. So many themes with which to grapple. At the Open Range Zoo they listened to the positive and negative effects we as humans have on the world around us. Stories of species being brought to the edge of extinction by human action; then being brought back from the brink by breeding in captivity programs, to be released into the wild. They were provided with opportunities to find stillness in order to gain a sense of the animal they were observing. Elderly lions, with their manes now shed, slowly and leisurely grooming each other. The mesmerising effect of an indeterminable number of hippos steadily rising from the water, only to disappear again without trace. The lanky, yet somehow graceful gait of the giraffes alongside the safari truck. The sturdy and immoveable presence of the rhinos. The Tawny Frogmouth – was it a statue, was it real? Koala spotting in the eucalypts. There was much admiration of the 150 year old bluestone shearing shed – so beautifully and cleverly crafted. Our children, accustomed to creating with their own hands, had an appreciation for the effort that had gone into its construction.

At Werribee Park Mansion the children were invited to experience the lives of their peers in a wealthy household during the Victorian era. They were told of the invisibility of children…their confinement to the nursery with a nanny. The lack of emotional intimacy between parents and children. The disinterest in their opinions. Strict and physical disciplinary methods. The difference in the educational opportunities provided to girls and boys. The narrow definitions of gender roles. They observed the difference between the opulence enjoyed by the family upstairs and the starkness of the servants’ quarters. They were told of the hierarchy amongst staff within the household. The age of the youngest maids on staff – so close to their own age – who had the unenviable job of emptying the family’s chamber pots. Epically gross, I believe! Our children expressed the outrage we may expect from their privileged, 21st century viewpoints. They were also asked to consider the sustainable use of materials of the times in comparison to the present. Slates versus paper, the quantities of clothing and toys and the composition of these items. There was much food for thought.

In amongst all these new experiences, was the necessity of tent raising and setting down, taking responsibility for personal items, washing and drying dishes, attempting to sleep…all requiring lashings of 9 and 10 year old diplomacy. I saw so much kindness between the children. So much generosity. Helping each other subdue wayward sleeping bags that were resisting their covers. Working together to raise and set down their tents, with the complication of wet flies from overnight rain. Sharing a very limited supply of pencils and drawing paper on the bus. Writing stories to provide each other with a giggle on the long trip home. Bodies being used as pillows for tired bus mates. Concern for a travel-sick class member.

It was a privilege to be a quiet observer of Class 4 while they encountered so much that was new and challenging to them. I believe I witnessed them stretch and grow. All in 33 hours.









As We Honour Midwinter

Always a mysterious and powerful time, the solstice has for millennia been embraced as symbolic of rebirth and hope. Marking a critical point in the passage of the earth/life cycle, the solstice is often overlooked or misunderstood, yet these turning points can be symbolic of endings and new beginnings.

This is the time of the year when the nights have reached their longest and the days their shortest. A peak time of power and change, observed since time immemorial at such power spots as Stonehenge and Notre Dame Cathedral where the eight pointed cross at the roof of the choir is exactly aligned with the winter solstice sunrise.

Symbolically the sun dies and is reborn. For a moment it appears to stand still. All is calm before it enters the next phase of its zodiacal journey. From here the days will gradually begin to lengthen with the promise of renewal, making this a very beautiful time to draw within and once again set or reaffirm intentions for yourself, your loved ones and the world community.

At school we represent this in the spiral walk – during which each child singly and in darkness journeys, sun-wise (or anti-clockwise) around and into the centre of a large spiral, once there lighting a candle which they use to light their long way out, leaving it in the spiral as they go. They enter in darkness and leave in light. They do this with reverence and in silence and it is always a privilege and wonder to behold.

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An opportunity is also provided for the parents and staff of our school community to experience the power of this meditative ceremony – a chance to quieten the mind and allow time for personal reflection, while being filled with a sense of awe by the spiral’s support and beauty.

This year our spiral, created from fresh scented pine and wattle, grew with much laughter, goodwill and discussion, as have all the preparations to mark this very special time in the life of our community.

Our Winter Lantern Walk Festival brings together our families, with merriment and colourful lanterns to light the way, hot soup, fiery braziers and fellowship to warm us.

It can also be an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned during the preceding phase of the sun’s cycle, since the last solstice, and plan for the phase ahead. Rudolf Steiner was detailed in his expression of the need for contemplation and meditation and we take this festival of light as an opportunity to find the inner light that we each have at the centre of our being. Amidst our lives of hectic busyness this time to ponder can be profound.

The solstice also coincides with the end of term 2, so on behalf of the College of Teachers, I wish you all a welcome and safe rest from the school routine.

To bear the spirit light within world winter light

Aspires blissfully my heart’s desire

That soul seeds, glowing bright,

Take root in cosmic depth

And word divine in senses’ darkness resounds,

Enkindling light with all being.

Rudolf Steiner


John Goble & Diana Brooks

Class 8’s Year of Challenge

Year 8 at Castlemaine Steiner School is always a very full and challenging year. This year is no exception. Highlights include demanding outdoor ed. experiences, the presentation of major projects, not to mention, a full scale Shakespeare production.

At most schools year eight is just another numeral between seven and nine. Here it includes challenges that are designed to cumulatively represent aspects of what is best in our curriculum, over what, for many of our students, has been ten years at this school.

Early next term, for example, this particular class will be spending six days in an unsupported trek through the wilderness spaces of the Flinders Ranges, where the boundary lines between interior and exterior landscapes blur somewhat as the unbroken horizon becomes the only constant throughout each day’s journeying.

Next week they head off for few days on a city camp. Activities will include orienteering and visiting a homeless refuge, important experiences for ‘country kids’, all from a central city venue.

Last week saw the students setting up displays and making final preparations for the spoken presentations of their major projects. These are based on topics that the students choose themselves under the guidance of an external mentor (not a family member) who they must, themselves, approach. The project usually spans at least six months and the creative and practical processes must be fully documented in a journal. The entire project, including the journal and presentation are assessed by an external assessor.

I have heard it said that most of the population, when given the choice between a slow and painful death or public speaking, would opt for the former. Our Year 8 students get no such choice. Over the course of the year they have been preparing with small group rehearsals and project updates for their ‘big night’ when, in front of an audience upward of around 150 adults, family, mentors and teachers, they presented the journey of their project in a three to five minute speech.

Some of the achievements of our students over the years have been remarkable, opening many doorways to new interests and skills they have continued to develop in the years ahead. I expect no less from this group.

For obvious reasons, attendance at such an event is by invitation only, however all presentations will remain on display until recess on Monday and the students will be available to speak with about their projects after assembly.

I well remember some years ago looking at the projects with my then Class 5 on the morning after. Amongst the interested visitors was the then Assistant Principal of the Secondary College whom I overheard remark to the effect, “You realise, of course, that these students won’t be challenged in this way again until they get to their VCE.”

If you are regular to our Monday assembly do allow time to stay, if not, I invite, indeed urge you to make the effort. You won’t be disappointed.


John Goble

For the College of Teachers

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Welcome to term 2 and welcome to our new blog! We hope to use this space to share a little more of daily life at our school – some interesting and special things, together with snippets of the many treasured moments which happen in the life of our school.

We began the first week of term 2 with our school assembly. I always look forward to the assembling of our community and starting the week singing together under Anne’s infectious enthusiasm for three-part harmonies (which for me, remains firmly in the alto range!). Libby now plays cello at the beginning of assembly and the beautiful, deep tones of this instrument create a soulful and calming atmosphere to settle the children after their busy weekends. Parents are most welcome to attend each Monday morning and soak up some respite after those sometimes hectic mornings getting children to school.

The tradition of oral storytelling is enlivened during our assembly where children, parents and teachers are brought together to hear about myths and legends, integral to indigenous culture and our Steiner pedagogy. The power of the spoken word through storytelling sinks deeply into the soul life of a child and nurtures their connection to the earth and cultural epochs through time. After story, the children sing their way back to class, ready for the task of learning, and I return to my office reminded of all the reasons for our work here, nourished on a soul level and focused on the importance of this remarkable education.

This year it is our intention to place renewed focus on celebrating the festivals, creating a stronger connection to the life of the earth as it journeys through the seasons, bringing us closer to the cycles of life so fundamental to humanity.

We ended term 1 with a joyful celebration of nature’s harvest. The produce and preserves so generously donated were gratefully received by The Salvation Army to pass onto those in need within our local community. My heartfelt thanks to all parents, staff and students who contributed to this lovely event. Term 2 will see us marking winter, a time when the days grow shorter and colder and nature suggests we turn within for contemplation.

I look forward to sharing this occasion with you all. In the meantime, should you wish to discuss any aspect of our school, I am available by phone, email or for personal appointments.

With best wishes,