Following the Waldorf curriculum, Clearwater Bay-based Garden House Kindergarten and Pre-school was founded in 2008 by Sai Kung resident and mum Cannie Pang. The school welcomed seven students in its first year and is now the school of choice for 120 beaming students and a dedicated group of teaching staff.
A relatively unfamiliar curriculum in Hong Kong, Garden House Kindergarten and Pre- school’s ethos is deeply rooted in the Waldorf philosophy. Established by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf method places a stronger emphasis on physical expression and a creative hands-on approach rather than a conventional academic curriculum. The alternative education technique encourages learning and education for the head, heart and hands, whereby students identify with the world through nature, culture and society. “We believe in teaching children in an unconscious way with elements of repetition and rhythm while developing reading and fine motor skills at the same time”, says founder Pang.
The school values a small student to teacher ratio. Younger age group classes comprise of 20 students with three teachers and two teachers for older classes. Programmes are suitable for children aged one to seven years old with English, Mandarin and dual stream options. Children are accompanied by their parents for the first year and progress into kindergarten by themselves from two to seven years old.
Stretching across 10,000 sq ft of space on Silverstrand Beach Road, children have plenty of space to run, learn and explore in the school’s classrooms, kitchen and playground. Rooms are naturally lit with softly muted coloured curtains and walls painted a soft shade of pink. “It’s a colour of comfort and warmth”, says Pang. “We want to create a wholesome environment that nurtures the physical, emotional, social and spiritual development of each child in preparation for primary school”. Typical of Waldorf education methods; themes, nursery rhymes and songs are introduced and repeated for three weeks.’
“As teachers, we help children understand the world by providing predictability through rhythm, giving them a dependable sequence for the day and consistent pattern throughout the week”, says Pang. The school’s incorporation of the Waldorf curriculum can be seen by their use of hands- on activities, like arts and crafts and cooking, as well as in their use of wooden tables, chairs, play structures and toys to engage the students’ senses.
Mathematical and scientific concepts are introduced to students in a natural way by setting the table for snack time, counting out bowls and measuring ingredients for baking and cooking. “We strive to provide a rich supply of natural materials and surroundings that encourages imagination and exploration”, says Pang. Students engage in what the school calls contraction (light reading and down-time activities) and expansion (running, playtime) exercises, circle time that introduces nursery rhymes and extra-curricular activities including Mandarin, jazz, taekwondo and cooking, which are also open to non- Garden House students.
Garden House owns a 3,000 sq ft farm ten minutes away from the campus in Ho Chung, where students are taken once a week to grow and harvest crops including lettuce, beans, papaya and peanuts. “There is a sense of fulfilment when the students can see the outcome of their input – from planting the seeds, watering them and seeing it grow into something beautiful”, explains Pang. The school makes use of the crops by bringing their harvest back to the school to cook. Chinese New Year festival saw freshly picked turnips turned into turnip cakes which are traditionally eaten during that time.
A mix of nationalities make up the school cohort with Pang explaining in recent years more and more Asian families are becoming aware of a Waldorf style education. Previous Garden House students have gone on to secure places in international primary schools including German Swiss International School, Hong Kong Academy and Kellett School. While there are no current plans to open a second Garden House campus, Pang hopes to help others who want to adopt the Waldorf curriculum and increase its presence in Hong Kong. “I want to instill and maintain the essence of connecting to children and parents under one roof”.
School Report: Garden House Kindergarten and Pre-school
Year established: 2008
Class size: 20
Curriculum: Waldorf Curriculum
Fees 2015/2016: Fees start from $360 per session for parent and child classes and $4,400 per month for two days per week in Kindergarten.
Non refundable capital levy: N/A
Address: 7 Silverstrand Beach Road, Clearwater Bay
Tel: 2358 1177