Parents and children gathered Sunday in Modestos Freedom Park for fun classes based on an influential form of alternative education.
One exercise was the wonder ball game. A chattering group of children passed a ball around a circle and each took turns jumping into the middle.
Teacher Tedra Prouty said the game helps children develop their motor and verbal skills, and also promotes the brains ability to adapt to experience.
Parents who participated in the classes Saturday and Sunday want to establish the first school in Modesto inspired by the Waldorf education movement. About 25 attended Sundays exercises for preschoolers and children age 5 to 6, which focused on hand movement, running, thinking and verbal skills.
There are more than 1,000 schools worldwide based on the education methods of philosopher Rudolf Steiner. His teaching methods have inspired students to gain an enthusiasm for learning at an early age and become independent thinkers.
Waldorf schools strive to develop artistic expression and social interaction by placing as much emphasis on the arts as on academics.
There are Waldorf schools in the Sacramento area, but the schools closest to Modesto are in Jamestown and Los Banos. The Modesto group is working with Los Banos-based nonprofit Foundations Public Schools to get approval for Manzanita Charter School, with an opening date in fall 2015. Foundations Public Schools opened Waldorf-inspired Green Valley Charter in Los Banos last year.
Foundations chief executive officer, Tisha Blackwood-Freitas, said parents can spend $40,000 a year to send their child to a Waldorf private school in New York, but the Modesto parents propose a free charter school supported by public funds. They plan to ask a district such as Modesto City Schools to approve the charter school next year.
Prouty said she attended Waldorf schools as a child, graduated from Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento and taught in Waldorf schools in Southern California for 10 years.
She said the education is designed to address childrens needs at every stage of development. The students learn the core subjects history, language, math and science but are encouraged to find their heart and soul by choosing special subjects, whether its crochet, woodworking, music, literature or foreign languages.
It gives them capacity to be confident in their choices, Prouty said.
She led children and their parents in creative play during Sundays classes, which served as a fundraiser for the Modesto school. Twin 3-year-olds Diana and Vivien Wolfe joined in with their father, Jesse Wolfe, who teaches English at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock.
Wolfe said he became intrigued with the movement during a visit to the private Sierra Waldorf School in Jamestown. We loved it but it is just so far away, he said.
About 80 parents are Facebook followers of the effort to found Manzanita Charter. The school likely would start with 60 to 80 students in kindergarten through third grade and then expand gradually to a K-8 school, Blackwood-Freitas said. No school site has been chosen.
The group will have an information booth Thursday at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market, next to the downtown library, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Waldorf educator Susan Goldstein will give a free talk on the method at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Stanislaus County Library auditorium, at 1500 I St., Modesto.
More information is available at www.foundationspublicschools.org or by calling (209) 222-8439.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.