For many it’s still a bit early for holiday shopping, but those in the know recognized Nov. 7 as the opportunity to find items unlike those offered elsewhere. The Waldorf School of Atlanta’s annual Holiday Fair draws people from around the metro Atlanta area and even from distant cities.
“We have more than 2,000 handmade items—most of them made by parents,” noted Stacey Alston, the school’s enrollment director. The collection includes many items made of natural materials such as the hand-carved wooden toys, craft items and hand dipped candles. Known as the Forest Shop, the little store is up the hill and through a wooded area from the Columbia Presbyterian Church, where the school holds its classes. An assortment of books and other school supplies also were for sale.
Children had their very own Enchantment Shop, where they looked for special items to give as gifts.
The hand-crafted, natural-material items are in keeping with the Waldorf education method, which infuses fine and practical arts into the learning experience. Waldorf schools are based on the philosophy of early 20th century German educator Rudolf Steiner, who believed that children learn best when teachers take advantage of their natural curiosity and sense of wonder.
“Right now the third graders are raising chickens,” said parent and board member Nick Owen, who also is the school’s treasurer. “They had a garden going earlier in the year, too.” On class days one might find children measuring ingredients to make bread, knitting with naturally dyed wool or planting flowers, incorporating mathematics, science and other disciplines into the activities.
The Waldorf School of Atlanta on Kirk Road near Columbia Drive in Decatur accepts kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The area’s other school using the Waldorf method also is in Decatur. Academe of the Oaks, located on New Street, educates ninth through 12th grade students.
Although the event is a fundraiser that typically brings the school between $5,000 and $10,000, money is not the only reason for holding the fair, now in its 22nd year. “It’s an outreach to the community—a sort of open house,” Alston explained. “It gives people in the community a chance to come in, meet us and see what we’re all about. It’s also a kind of reunion. Many former students come back every year, and parents who no longer have children enrolled here still like to come back for the fair.” Alston estimated that between 300 and 400 people came to this year’s fair.
When the fair is at its peak, there are activities everywhere. Storytellers are weaving yarns, crafters are demonstrating such arts as gourd painting or the making of pine cone bird feeders, children are running through obstacle courses and the smell of foods such as vegetarian chili and homemade desserts fills the air.
A huge draw this year, according to third grade teacher Elizabeth Roosevelt, was the puppet show. “We had four performances and each one sold out,” she said.