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Michelmas is one of the many celebrations observed at the Rudolf Steiner School.

Rudolf Steiner School Celebrates 40 Years of Education

Nichole DupontiBerkshires Staff
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Circus learning at Rudolf Steiner.

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.— A school, by definition, is any institution where instruction is given. Over the last four decades, the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School (GBRSS) has given that and then some to the generations of students who have passed through its bright hallowed halls. In celebration of its 40th birthday the school invites all community members, alumni, faculty and friends to its anniversary party at the Route 7 Grill on Saturday, Sept. 25, beginning at 7 p.m. In addition to celebrating 40 years of education, GBRSS will be honoring Jean Zay, one of its founding members and teachers.

“We had four first graders, then there were seven, and it grew and grew,” Zay said. “There were enough parents who were interested. By the end that eighth grade class was at 50 students.”

That interest has continued. Today, GBRSS, which held its first kindergarten class in a donated barn in 1971, boasts more than 200 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. Each child moves through their Steiner experience with the same group of students and the same core teacher for eight years. It is this consistent togetherness that Zay said is one of the main benefits of being both a teacher and a student.

“You really get to know the children. You see what they have been and what they are becoming,” she said. “Many teachers will carry a child through all different subjects; music, languages, different arts, sociology, history. It’s very exciting because you’re not teaching the same subject all the time. You live in that world, whatever it is at the time, and then you go on from that.”

That world, according to 14-year-old graduate Sydney Keyes, is where a strong artistic foundation is cultivated as well as binding friendships. “There are a lot of different activities going on all the time,” Keyes said. “We took class trips to New York City, we took a canoe trip. There were 14 kids in our class and it was perfect. You get really close to your teacher and the other kids.”

While Keyes has moved on to the “big school” on the hill (Monument Mountain Regional High School), she still nurtures the many friendships and opportunities that the Steiner school has brought to her, including her appreciation for history and her love of theater, especially Shakespeare. In fact, Keyes just auditioned for Shakespeare and Company’s fall festival and has plans to further explore her interest in the stage.
Nurturing these interests is why Eric Bruun, former board president of GBRSS, has sent his three children to GBRSS over the last two decades.

“Basically the school’s approach is around the whole person, the whole child,” he said. “It’s not just about training the brain to meet a certain set of academic standards. It’s a child-centered curriculum, a lot like the Wizard of Oz; brains, heart and courage.”

As the school continues its mission of preserving and protecting childhood and creativity, Bruun said that the question of exposure to technology is an issue that GBRSS is constantly tackling.

“When the kids hit sixth, seventh and eighth grade they know all about technology and media. Technology is no longer an evil, it is a tool,” he said. “In practice, it’s really difficult to keep them from media. However, they do have a rich imagination and that should be nurtured.”

Zay continues to hold nurturing in high esteem, especially in a highly modern, highly distractible world.

“The times are so different; children are so different,” she said. “They’re so much more aware and informed.”

For more information on the GBRSS celebration call 413-528-4015 or email  Tickets are $40 for the public while alumni can pay the year that they graduated (1971=$19.71).   

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