What curriculum do you utilize?
Our curriculum is primarily based on the principles of Waldorf education, along with nature immersion and awareness. We seek to instill values of connection to our surroundings, responsibility, and creativity, through meaningful hands on activities and service to others.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child’s development, and caters to the needs of the children. Our teachers use these developmental signposts as their general guide, but also have freedom within each subject to keep their own students’ needs and interests in mind as they plan their blocks and create their lesson plans. Subjects are integrated, as they are in life, and the use of artistic endeavors and meaningful, hands on experiences to explore academic material fosters an internal motivation to learn, creativity and free thinking in our students, rather than rote learning.
How does 100% outdoor school work?
Each class on campus has a designated area to facilitate learning to the developmental degree of its participants. Early childhood classes have a fenced play area for each class, well equipped with various open ended multi-sensory play opportunities, plenty of shade, handwashing sink and a bathroom nearby. Grades classes have tented and shaded areas with seating, all classroom materials, chalkboards, and handwashing stations conveniently located nearby, as well as the ability to move about our 5 acre campus to other locations for classes such as gardening, drama, qi-gong and more. Students are able to utilize fans and cooling towels as needed. Classes take place outdoors, with appropriate weather gear, unless there is lightning nearby, at which time classes would move indoors temporarily. Typically the waether patterns in Florida support this model, as storms tend to happen after school has ended for the day. In the case of weather events anticipated all day, such as a tropical storm, classes would be cancelled. There are five extra days in our school calendar to accommodate these inclement weather days.
What specialty subjects do students have?
This varies over the year, and by age. For more information on our specialty subjects, please see here: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/special-subjects/
What are Forest Fridays?
Forest Fridays are a weekly school wide day of nature immersion, designed to deepen our naturalist practice, such as wildlife tracking, sit spots, and survival skills. We meet at various parks and preserves each week, with a schedule released prior to the start of the semester.
What ages do you serve?
We offer drop off programs beginning at age 3, as well as parent/caregiver/child programs from infant through age 3. Both part and full time programs are currently through grade 9.
What are school hours?
Our Grades programs run 8:30-2:30, except for Thursday, which is 8:30-1:30. Our Meadowlark Nursery program is available from 8:30-12:30, our Sandpiper VPK is from 8:30-1:30, and our Forest Kindergarten is from 8:45 to 1:45.
Do you offer extended care?
Yes, here is a description of our extended care programming: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/extended-care/
What qualifications do your faculty possess?
Most of our Grades faculty have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in education, and have Waldorf curriculum training. Our Early Childhood faculty have a range of educational achievements, from the Florida Early Childhood certificate, to masters degrees. All teachers have Waldorf training and/or experience, as well as other alternative teachings to offer students. The majority of our faculty have 4 plus years of experience at Mangrove.
What are your student/teacher ratios and class sizes?
This depends on the age of the children. For our youngest students, we will have a teacher and an assistant and at most 11 students, simply because their needs are different. Typically Early Childhood classes may have on average 11- 18 students and 2 teachers. For Grades classes there is one teacher, and between 10-18 students.
What is the cost of tuition?
This varies by the number of days per week a student is enrolled for. You can find a link to our tuition schedule, here: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/tuition-fees/
Do you offer financial aid?
Yes. Here is a summary of what is possible, through scholarship foundations, as well as the school:
What is your attendance policy?
As much of the daily lessons involve discussion or hands-on activities, being absent for even part of the day can cause children to experience gaps in their social life and learning. Consistent attendance in class and prompt arrival are encouraged for your child’s well-being and out of respect for the class itself. Lessons can be done from home if needed, however, we prefer students come in person whenever reasonably possible. Excessive absenteeism is 9 or more per semester; excessive tardies would be 5 per semester. We offer part time enrollment for those who wish to homeschool as well.
What is VPK?
This is a program sponsored by the Early Learning Coalition that allows a child to attend a 15 hour per week program, at no cost for the child’s pre-kindergarten year. Children must be Florida residents and for our program, must be 4 years old on or before September 1 of the current school year to be eligible. This program runs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 8:30-1:30.
What is the general structure of the day for young children?
The emphasis on rhythm is essential for the well-being and security of the young child, therefore each day follows a regular schedule. For example, a class might start the day with unstructured outdoor play, then move into snack preparation and then focused outdoor projects. After this the children will move inside to wash up and enjoy a shared meal they helped prepare. They will also enjoy a circle time, open ended play, and a story. Last, they will have a short rest time. For our VPK students, the learning domains are infused into this rhythm.
What is the general structure of the day for Grades children?
Grades children typically have some time to move or socialize, then begin with an opening verse, followed by the main academic part of their day, called the main lesson, which is one area of content taught over several weeks as a block. The only exception to this is our upper grades students, who often begin with a specialty subject, and have their main lesson later in the day to better support their adolescent circadian rhythms. Regardless of the grade level, each main lesson contains active and focused work, and appeals to the thinking, willing, and feeling aspects of the children. Lower grades will have a substantial time for movement and hands on activities, such as bean bag math, handwork, clapping games or other rhythmic work, singing or pentatonic flute. Upper grades will spend some time in recitation, singing or movement. All students may participate in mental math exercises, review from the previous day, projects, cooperative games, discussion of new material, writing exercises, or artistic work during this time period. Upper grades also include laboratory experiments and activities during this time. As this is their main academic time of the day, tardies can be problematic as they then missed substantial academic content, much of which cannot be made up, as it is collaborative. After their main lesson the students break for snack and recess, then move into their specialty subjects of the day, such as woodworking, drama, or foreign language. After this they have lunch and recess, then either another specialty subject, or an extra main lesson, which is often utilized to further enrich their morning lesson.
Do you allow part time enrollment?
We do! Please see: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/enrollment-for-homeschoolers/
What is your admissions process?
The admissions process typically begins with a tour or open house, when the parent can meet teachers and ask questions about our programming. From there, if a parent chooses to apply they can do so online: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/apply-now/
Once we receive the application and students records, the teacher will meet with the parent or parents and discuss the child’s needs in more detail. Next, if it seems like we are a good fit for the child’s learning style, he or she will be invited for a visit day or days. The teacher will then make a decision based on their observations of the child and previous school records; often in collaboration with their colleagues. A student can begin class once notified by administration that all enrollment paperwork is complete.
What is your acceptance rate?
Our acceptance rate is approximately 90%, however sometimes admission can be delayed due to waitlists.
Who ultimately decides admission or program placement?
The class teacher ultimately decides admission, based on the process detailed above.
Do you have an admission deadline?
Admission is rolling based on space availability.
Can my child(ren) try the school before committing?
Yes, as part of our admissions process, after applying, students attend a shadow day or days to determine if it is a good fit for them.
When does your school year begin?
The day after Labor Day. Please see our full calendar here: http://www.mangrovesarasota.com/calendar/
Do students receive report cards and grades?
At our school learning is a noncompetitive activity. Parents receive quarterly report updates from their child’s teacher, either as an in person conference or a written report. At the end of the year parents receive a narrative report with a rich description of their child’s strengths and challenges, not just in academics, but in their overall development and multiple areas of intelligence.
Do Grades teachers move with their classes each year?
Typically, yes, although sometimes we loop teachers, meaning, one teacher will take a class through lower grades, and then another will take on the upper grades.
Do you utilize standardized testing?
If a parent requests it, we can administer standardized testing, however we do not plan our curriculum or activities with this in mind. Tax credit scholarship students 3rd grade and up are required to take a standardized test per scholarship rule, and these are completed at the end of the school year. We do not engage in test preparation as part of our curriculum, though.
What is your policy on withdrawal?
Enrollment is viewed as a year long commitment, yet of course there are times when this is not possible, and therefore we remain flexible, rather than cause undue hardship to a family. We simply ask for two weeks notice, and payment is through the month of withdrawal.
What is your policy regarding conflict?
We strive to resolve issues and conflicts in a healthy and transparent manner, as conflict resolution occupies an important role in building a community. We ask that when an issue or concern arises to please first speak directly with the individuals involved. Often issues can be resolved through open, direct and respectful communication. If a parent is unable to resolve the matter in this way, they can reach out to the administration to assist them.
Do you have a media/technology policy?
Yes, the use of computers, laptops, handheld devices, tablets, and television by students is strongly discouraged, for many reasons. For example, media interrupts the child’s natural inclination to move their bodies, create original pictures in the mind, and engage in lived experiences. For more information on our media policy, as well as resources supportive to parents, please see here:
Technology is introduced in late middle school, after students have had ample time to develop many inner capacities through real, meaningful experiences. Students first learn how these technologies actually work, and how to safely and consciously explore and participate in online activities. Our hope is to foster a responsible, thoughtful, creative engagement that doesn’t interfere with real world interactions, creative outlets, or healthy rhythms in their lives.
Do you have a dress code?
Yes, we do ask that children dress for the weather, as well as an active day. We are an “all weather” school, with many outdoor activities throughout the day, thus we ask that you please keep this in mind throughout our seasons. It does actually get cold here sometimes! Clothing should be comfortable and allow for unrestricted movement. Play clothes are ideal, and please no clothing with pictures and words, including logos and advertising. Students should bring a hat daily , and must also have rain gear available.
Do you serve food?
Food is served in the Early Childhood as the children help prepare meals as part of the rhythm of the day. All meals are wholesome, organic, gluten free, and vegetarian. In addition, the whole community enjoys shared meals together on some Thursdays of the school year, often prepared by our students, and these meals also aim to be inclusive of all diets while also being nourishing, healthful dishes.
Are children of mixed ages ever together?
In a typical year, yes! We have many opportunities through the week and throughout the school year to enjoy the benefits of the mixed age dynamic and peer mentoring. For example, all of the grades put on a play at the beginning of the school year. All grades are welcome in our after school clubs, and on our Forest Friday expeditions, and recesses, there are many times when the grades are all together.
Why is reading taught later than in public school?
Reading is a relatively new skill as far as humanity is concerned, therefore the children’s early years are deeply immersed in oral communication and auditory learning, through sounds, circles and storytelling. This supports many literacy skills, and fosters a strong sense of comprehension. This is more in line with the child’s unfolding development, giving them plenty of time to move their bodies, and integrate their senses before expecting them to sit and focus on the written word in the sense of decoding.
When the children do learn to read, they first explore how each letter’s form evolved out of a picture, thus they experience the shift that took place among the ancients, with written words coming from their own artwork. When approached in this way, reading comes much more naturally, joyfully, and relatively effortlessly. In addition, their ability to comprehend what they read is much more advanced because of the emphasis in their early years has not simply been on decoding. Above all, we want to cultivate a joy in reading, of tales, legends, and eventually great literature, while also supporting the child’s overall, whole body development.
Here is an informative article regarding reading and the young child:
How do you decide 1st grade readiness?
We utilize teacher observations in class, as well as specific activities to assess the child’s physical, social/emotional, and intellectual development, all of which point to a fundamental shift in consciousness from the kindergarten child to the grade school child. Generally after the first 7 years of development, the physical body comes to a certain stage of completion, and the forces previously used for physical maturation now become available for academic work. Signs that this physical process is complete include: noticeable lengthening of arms and legs, individualized facial features replacing baby features, visible knuckles on the hand and kneecaps instead of dimples, the arch in the foot becomes apparent, and the losing of baby teeth. Complementing these physical changes is a variety of new coordinated abilities. One also looks for other social/emotional abilities including: the ability to care for one’s physical needs(dressing, washing, toileting), ability to share the teacher’s attention and wait for a turn, to follow instructions and complete them. Students who turn 6 before May 1st are considered for first grade readiness assessments.
Will you ever allow a child to move into first grade with a summer birthday?
Students who turn 6 after May 1st will be considered for first grade readiness assessments at the request of the parent. We may consider a first grade trial in the fall if the child is showing some signs of readiness, the parents have a strong history of being supportive to school policies and their child’s teachers, and the teacher has taught first grade before.
Will you allow a child to skip a grade or hold a child back?
Generally, no. Children are grouped by age in their classrooms, as each age group shares a common internal developmental stage, which is met by specific elements of the curriculum. Therefore, if a child is struggling academically, or needing more challenges, support will be offered in different ways, rather than by changing their social group.
How involved can parents be?
Parents are welcome to volunteer their time in many different areas, depending on their particular skill set and availability. We offer opportunities to parents throughout the year in our weekly communication.
Are you a member of AWSNA?
No, we aren’t. We appreciate the flexibility of being an independent school and have found our school thrives inspired by many elements, rather than Waldorf alone.
What is your approach to religion in school?
We are a secular school, however we do foster reverence and gratitude for life and our planet by introducing universal, nature inspired blessings before shared meals, and a rich seasonal festival life. Through these practices we endeavor to awaken the child’s natural reverence for wonder and the beauty of life. Seasonal festivals are emphasized throughout the year in order to connect us to the rhythms of nature, and to our ancestors, while nourishing the inner life of the soul and deepening the bonds of our community.
In addition, children learn about various world religions from the historical or cultural perspective beginning in third grade, and over the years explore many religions.
What is your approach for children with special needs, including gifted children?
We have found that a child who might otherwise be labeled is able to unfold in their own time here. As the curriculum is well-rounded, they often find strengths in other areas, boosting their esteem and will to put forth effort to build capacities that are more difficult for them. Almost always, a child’s weaknesses in one area, which could be academic, emotional or physical, will usually be balanced by strengths in another area. We try to bring the child’s whole being into balance, without damaging their sense of self and esteem in the process.
A child having difficulty with the material might be given extra help by the teacher or by parents; tutoring might also be arranged. Teachers may refer parents to special services to support their development out of school, or an additional evaluation for more information on how to best serve the needs of the child may be in order. In addition, when it comes to children who are gifted, they may also need to spend time in other areas to balance their whole being. They might be given harder problems or challenges to tackle, or be asked to mentor a peer who is having trouble. In both cases, it is essential that parents and teachers are in agreement and work together to support the child.
What types of special needs can you accommodate?
We strive to accommodate all types of needs, however, we have found that with our current resources we are best able to serve children who are able to function fairly independently in their environment for their age, and are comfortable with the unstructured time inherent in our curriculum. Within this framework, teachers can offer extra assistance as needed, tutoring, and classroom accommodations such as more time, fidgeting tools, some one to one instruction, modified instructions, and things of this nature can be implemented. Teachers can typically accommodate 1-2 special needs children per class, and still serve the needs of the rest of the class simultaneously. In some instances children can receive additional therapuetic modalities at school.
What kind of extracurricular activities are available?
This varies year to year but in the past has included creative movement, hoop class, lego club, choir club, and soccer club. We are not offering any extra-curriculars this year.
Does Mangrove offer transportation options for students?
We do not offer transportation, however some families in our community carpool.