From Beijing we flew to Xi'an, a city that is rich in history, from the walls around the old city to the nearby site of the terra cotta warriors. Our generous hosts at the Xi'an Waldorf School arranged for us to see many of the sites before Agaf gave a talk on how Waldorf education meets the needs of the growing child. The school itself starts with kindergarten and goes through a combined grade four and five.
The Waldorf School is in the suburbs of Xi'an, near an agricultural area that grows wheat and corn. The school has been able to rent a vacant school building and added a eurythmy room and apartments for teachers, but it will not be large enough to go through all six grades. Most of the children are transported by school bus and have free play from 3:30-4:00, which is when we were there.
It was good to see so many children playing together, enjoying one another and clearly loving their teachers. The talk we gave that night was held at a college in town and was well-attended by about 35 parents.
When we flew to Guangzhou, I discovered I had been invited to give a workshop on pregnancy and birth in Zhu Hai, about two hours away. So the next day they put me on a bus and off I went to this southern port city where the Pearl River meets the sea. It is right next to Macau (a former Portuguese colony) and only a ferry ride away from Hong Kong. Here in Canton province the weather is much more hot and humid than in the north of China!
I was met at the bus stop by Zhang Hao, one of the founding kindergarten teachers of the Chun-tong Waldorf school. She was thrilled to organize the workshop, as she had read First Teacher years ago and is expecting her second child in June. The next day there were 25 women and two men at the day-long workshop on birth to three.
I was also able to visit the school, which has two kindergartens, two playgroups, and goes through a combined class 4-5. They rent lovely rooms and garden space in part of an agricultural exhibition area (sort of like a fair grounds). They have also had wonderful mentors from Chengdu and Australia, and the result is a very strong Waldorf program with unique classrooms, beautiful grounds and lush vegetable gardens.
After returning to Guangzhou, I was invited to give an evening talk in the course for Waldorf School Administrators. So I shared with them how Waldorf programs in America are working with parents through classes for parents, study groups, play groups and care for children younger than kindergarten, and so forth.
My final visit while Agaf was teaching with Chris Schaefer for five days in the administration course was to the kindergartens at the school in Guangzhou. Here I was able to observe in two classrooms and felt right at home. Waldorf works--worldwide!