Planning to Change the World
In each of our own ways, we strive to make the world a better place. It may be through volunteering in our community, being a good steward of the environment, or raising children who can bring their own gifts to the world. For many of us, supporting a beloved institution or cause is important to us, but after taking care of our loved ones there just isn't enough left. How many times have you thought…if I win the lottery I would give it to a worthy cause. For most of us, this is an unlikely occurrence, even though we’d like to give the kind of gift that could make a bigger impact.
Gift planning is one way people can support causes they care about far beyond their lifetime. A bequest is a plan in your will to leave either a specific amount of money or percentage of what is left in your estate to an institution or person. Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor received the largest donation we’ve gotten from a bequest in Seyhan Eğe’s will. For some people, finding a way to reduce their income taxes and at the same time make a gift to a non-profit, can benefit them in multiple ways. This can be done through donations of stock, which are easily processed through your financial institution. Families have also established Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), that allow them to put money into this fund and receive a tax deduction. That money can then be donated to various non-profits over a period of time. In fact, the money in the DAF is invested and can grow tax-free. Life insurance policies, IRAs, and DAFs can be assigned beneficiaries, such as family members or non-profits, who then receive the balance of those funds at the time of the owner’s death. Real estate, appraised art or antiquities can also be given to a non-profit as an asset to be collected or sold.
If you’d like to learn more, RSSAA is offering a free webinar Gift Planning When You Don't Have Cash to Give on Tuesday, October 19, noon-1:00 pm. Ashley Waddell Tingstad, founder of Treetown Law and RSSAA mom, and Melissa Joy, founder of Pearl Planning are offering their expertise on gift planning. RSSAA also has a resource page with tools to make these kinds of donations.
There are many ways you can make a gift that costs you nothing today — or that helps you make a tax-wise investment to support an organization you care about.
The annual 12th grade September zoology trip had to be canceled in 2020, and the 2021 trip seemed doubtful because of the virus transmission risk inherent with travel. Fortunately, staff and families worked together to plan and execute an incredible experience for the Class of 2022 to spend six days at Hermit Island Campground on the coast of Maine, the 25th time this trip has been offered to Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor seniors!
Students started their 12th grade year at the high school campus doing their zoology main lessons outside on our high school campus with Mr. Banks. They had one week together to prepare for what they would be studying in Maine. Expectations were high. Many students hadn’t traveled in a long time and were incredibly excited about this opportunity. Moreover, because of the pandemic, these students were not able to do the 10th grade Survey Trip or any Hiking Club trips which would have given additional opportunities to get to know one other and to develop confidence for camping and studying outdoors together.
One student noted that she’d forgotten how much being in nature can make her feel grounded. She said that while she was excited about the trip, she hadn't thought that she would be able to fully leave behind the enormous stress she feels as a 12th grader applying to college, but she was pleasantly surprised that she felt light and happy all week.
Mr. Banks said of the academic objectives, "The primary aspect of the block is biological study, including field observations of different habitats, lab observations of organisms, main lessons on different invertebrate animal groups in which the students get to observe animals while we talk about them, and the ecological interactions between the organisms and their environment. In addition, from the scientific point of view we study the geological aspects of how these habitats form, including looking at how beaches, dunes, and mudflats are formed and cosmic influences on the earth leading to the tides that shape these environments."
Studying invertebrate zoology in person in the tide pools on the coast of Maine was a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Students were able to synthesize learning from lectures, laboratory work, and observation to gain a deep understanding of local ecosystems. Poetry, cooking, painting, and singing ensured that students could learn about and appreciate this experience via multiple pathways and senses.
The students were challenged. They slept in individual tents in an often-noisy campground (thanks to both animals and other campers!) and had to work together to prepare for and clean up after every meal. They had little free time because of the rigorous academics, and no electronic devices. Their classes were mostly outside regardless of weather. Nevertheless, student reflections are overwhelmingly positive.
Many students count frolicking in the mud flats as a highlight. Singing around the campfire was another.
Some students’ favorite part was getting to know students from other Waldorf high schools. The Hermit Island trip has been attended by many Waldorf high schools for the past 25 years. Combining several schools during the one-week trip gives students a chance to meet others outside their typically small high schools. Many students stay in contact with these new friends for the rest of high school, into college and beyond.
Students expressed gratitude for the chaperones that made this trip possible, including the campground owner who gave an inspiring talk about the local environment and our role in preserving natural habitats. All of us at the high school are grateful to be able to provide these unique experiences for our students.
Soon our school will be celebrating Michaelmas. For many of you, this may be the first you have heard of this festival — I know I didn't know about it until I became involved with Waldorf education. It is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Waldorf schools, and Waldorf schools seem to be one of the few places it is even celebrated. It falls on the 29th of September each year and is generally associated with the fall equinox and the beginning of autumn. As J. Fleming from Shining Mountain Waldorf School explains, “Saint Michael is an archangel mentioned in the Bible, Apocrypha and Koran. He appears as a spiritual figure and protector of humankind, inspiring strength, courage and will throughout history.”
The story of Michael taming the dragon is one of courage. As summer comes to an end and days grow shorter and colder, we need to gather courage to get through the dark and cold days. Stories and verses for the students share the message that they have the ability to stand in equanimity in the face of life’s challenges. That every moment is one of decision in how they act. That they can choose to act with courage, imbue all they do with care, and call on their own inner will to persevere.
We have all sorts of dragons in our lives — things that distract us from our goals and intentions. One for me would be the internet as it is so easy to spend countless hours on, and it can easily eat up a lot of time, leaving me feeling as though I did not get everything accomplished that I wanted to. So, like Michael taming the dragon, I try to find the right balance to keep the tool useful and not a negative influence. The same can be said for television, sweets, etc.
Michaelmas is a time to reflect on the courage and dedication we need to do those tasks that sometimes seem greater than us — parenting, teaching, managing a household, or a difficult task ahead at work — and to remember that we can shine our inner light and courageously do what is right, even if it is hard.
This year, due to pandemic restrictions, our Michaelmas for our kindergartens and grades 1-8 will be celebrated in the classrooms with the teachers and students, but you can bring parts of this enchanting festival into your own home by singing along to some Michaelmas songs from our sister school, Cincinnati Waldorf, and taming your own dragon with our delicious dragon bread recipe!
DRAGON BREAD RECIPE
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
Mix together the yeast and warm water. Let it rest. In another bowl, mix eggs, oil, salt, and sugar. Add flour. Add yeast and water mixture and mix until blended. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s firm and smooth, then round it into a bowl coated in a little oil. Turn the ball over once to coat both sides of dough with oil. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Now place your dough on a greased cookie sheet and shape it into a dragon. You can use scissors to cut legs, a mouth, scales, etc. Poke in almonds for teeth, or dried fruits for spikes, if you wish. Cover and let your dragon bread rise again for about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until done.
Volunteers can make all the difference at a school! From practical, hands-on work in the classrooms and around the campus to valuable input about school governance and development, our school could not function without the amazing support we receive from volunteers.
But, it's not just about us, there are many benefits of volunteering. Here's what's in it for you:
You'll help create a better learning environment for your children
Schools with a strong volunteer base perform better. There are many demands placed on schools with limited financial resources. Any volunteer effort can help bridge that gap at no additional cost to the school. Also, teachers work incredibly hard! They're superheros, but they can't do it alone. Taking things off the plate of teachers, administration, and staff frees them up to do what they do best—educate our children.
You'll meet and make new friends and help build a vibrant community
Sure it sounds cliché, but raising children takes a village. Volunteering at school is a great way to connect with other parents and create a circle of adult friends. Over time, these friends grow to know and love your children. Never underestimate the power of community in raising children.
You get a better understanding of where your child spends so much time!
Our children spend a LOT of time at school. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to share in school-related experiences. It gives you more in common. Even when not in their classroom you gain a deeper familiarity for the environment, the trends and the ethos of the school. School becomes more of a family experience for everyone.
You'll build deeper relationships with teachers and staff
Your child’s teacher and school staff are your teammates in parenting. And, at a Waldorf school your child is likely to have the same teachers over multiple years. They have a tremendous impact on children, both academically and socially. Having a presence at school is a great way to get to know them better, show them your support and build relationships that can help them support your child.
You can use your skills and share your talents
Volunteering is a great way to showcase your strengths. Look for opportunities that are within your wheelhouse. Using the skills that come naturally to you makes things easier (and often more enjoyable). If you love baking, sign up to help with a bake sale. If you love photography, offer to take photos at school events. If you're business minded, join the committee. Volunteering will feel less burdensome, and your natural talents will be appreciated.
When parents are involved in their children's education, the children are more likely to:
- earn better grades.
- score higher on tests.
- pass their classes.
- attend school regularly.
- have better social skills.
- show improved behavior.
- be more positive in their attitude toward school.
- complete homework assignments.
graduate and continue their education.
Any volunteering is good for your health!