Bright Water Alumni Panel

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Oct 16, 2017 No Comments

Where do our students go after graduation from eighth grade? Are they ready for the new challenges—academic and otherwise—that come their way? What effect has their Waldorf experience had on their lives?

These are the kinds of questions many parents start wondering about long before that joyful (and bittersweet) graduation day arrives. For many years now, BWWS has convened an annual Alumni Panel where we invite former students back to share their experiences in high school and beyond. This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, November 29, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

The panel will be composed of both recent and older graduates of BWWS, all of whom will share their experiences in local public and private high schools, and beyond. This year’s panel is still being composed, but in the past we’ve had students from Franklin, Roosevelt, Garfield, Lakeside, Holy Names Academy, Seattle Waldorf High School, the University of Washington and other area schools.

The event is open to families wherever their student happens to be on his or her journey through Bright Water—even if they’ve just started Kindergarten! This is an opportunity to learn more about the impact of Waldorf education on students’ lives once they depart our school for new adventures. So whether you’re well on your way or just beginning to explore your opportunities as students and parents, this special evening offers insight into the potential challenges and rewards awaiting BWWS’ future graduating classes.

Come with questions!

Sugar Plum Faire – Vendors Needed!

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: Community Spotlights, Extracurriculars, Festivals & Celebrations, News, Outreach, School Culture- Oct 13, 2017 No Comments

Sugar Plum Faire is just around the corner!

On Saturday, December 9th from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Bright Water Waldorf School will be hosting our annual winter event. In addition to all of the great crafts, activities and delicious chili and sweets, we’ll have vendors peddling their wares: books, handmade dolls, clothing and everything in between! If you or someone you know is interested in selling at Sugar Plum Faire, please fill out and submit a completed vendor application by November 15th.

And of course, Sugar Plum Faire is a celebration replete with food and fun, and we now have all of the grades-specific activity sheets available online (except Grade One) so parents can get started with planning and sign up! Grade One will have a new activity this year and we are just putting the finishing touches on what that will look like. Stay tuned . . . The forms are available here, along with more details about the faire.


Third Grade Trip to Sunfield Farm

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: Early Grades, News- Oct 13, 2017 No Comments

The Third Grade trip to Sunfield Farm in Padlock, Washington, took place earlier this month. This was just in time for harvesting potatoes and wheat, and winnowing and grinding grain. Students also encountered—and milked—goats, which inspired some of the writing and illustrations below.

Sunfied is a Rudolf Steiner-inspired farm using biodynamic farming techniques and serving the local community. It also has a Waldorf school and offers community-education programs. Sunfield has hosted Bright Water students for many years now, helping bring home a sense of the rhythm of the seasons—particularly during the Fall harvest time. To learn more about Sunfied, click here.

Emerging Future interview with Michael Preston, former BWWS teacher

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Sep 16, 2017 Comments Off on Emerging Future interview with Michael Preston, former BWWS teacher

Michael Preston small imageAs part of his Emerging Future podcast, BWWS parent Joel William DeJong has conducted a fascinating interview with former Bright Water teacher Michael Preston. In a wide-ranging discussion covering personal stories, philosophy and more, Michael offers insights into Steiner, Waldorf education and much more that will be of interest to many BWWS parents and others. Many thanks to Joel and Michael for sharing their wisdom and humor. You can check out the interview here.  


All School Work Party!

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Aug 09, 2017 Comments Off on All School Work Party!

Join us on Saturday, August 26, from 8 AM to 12 PM to help us get the school ready for the new school year. This is a great opportunity to reconnect with friends, faculty and staff and share in the glorious weather that has graced Seattle this summer. We look forward to seeing you!

BWWS Literary Arts Magazine!

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Jun 05, 2017 Comments Off on BWWS Literary Arts Magazine!

It’s here! The inaugural issue of the Bright Water Waldorf School Literary Arts Magazine is now available for download. Many thanks to every student who submitted materials and participated in any way in the creation of what we hope will become an annual publication. Thanks are also due to Project Advisor Katie Söderlind who took it upon herself on short notice to guide students in pulling the magazine together.

You can download the inaugural issue as a PDF here.

Guest Post: On the Intersection of Waldorf Education and Medicine

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 25, 2017 Comments Off on Guest Post: On the Intersection of Waldorf Education and Medicine

By Sam Blackman, M.D., Ph.D.

Sam is a BWWS parent and Board member. Many thanks to him for this post and for his other contributions to our school.

I recently had the privilege of spending an hour and a half speaking to the eighth-grade class at Bright Water Waldorf School.  This wonderful opportunity was presented to me by Nazneen D’Souza.  May is typically my “teaching month” where, for the past five years, I have lectured to undergraduates and graduate students at the University of Washington on topics related to my work in oncology drug development, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with an entirely new group of students where I would have to take an entirely new approach. The prospect of working with eighth graders was, truth be told, a little daunting, and I wasn’t quite sure how to keep them engaged.

Ms. D’Souza’s charge to me was that I should attempt to bring forth the connections that I observed between the sciences and the humanities, especially as I saw them from my current perspective working in the biomedical sciences. I studied philosophy as an undergraduate, so the seventeen-year-long course of study that I undertook in science, medicine, pediatrics, and oncology might seem either like a remarkably long detour or my having gotten incredibly lost along the
way to a career in the humanities. It turns out that neither was the case. I gravitated towards a study of the humanities as an undergraduate as a purposeful, equal, and opposite reaction to my father’s relentless pressuring of me to pursue a career in medicine. And I gravitated towards a study of science and medicine—upon graduating from college—as a way of bringing the abstract philosophical precepts and concepts I had been taught to life (as well as a way to avoid certain starvation).  But how could I make this approachable, interesting, and relevant to eighth grade BWWS students?

In the days leading up to my appointment with the eighth-grade class, and only after a number of hours of brainstorming, I happened upon the “thread” that I was looking for—and it turns out it was in front of me all along.  So, upon entering the classroom, I wrote the following list on the blackboard:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Movement
  • Patterns/forms
  • Seasons
  • Languages
  • History
  • The five senses
  • Stories
  • Experiential learning

After spending a little bit of time telling the students about my path, I opened the discussion by asking the class what this list of words meant to them.  The answer came immediately from multiple voices: these were the defining characteristics of a Waldorf education (as seen through the eyes of the eighth-grade class).  I couldn’t agree more, I said, but they also happen to be the aspects of science and medicine that initially drew me in and built upon my undergraduate background in the humanities. And, more recently, the points I listed were the very aspects of science and medicine that are most satisfying to me today, over twenty-five years after I started my journey.  This was enough to hook the students, and with that we spent the majority of the time discussing episodes and anecdotes from the laboratory, the hospital, and from the history of science and medicine to illustrate these points.

For example, while I am a terrible artist in the traditional sense, I revel in the art and beauty of histology and immunohistochemistry to allow us to visualize microscopic anatomy, and the use of confocal microscopy to probe even further into the subcellular anatomy. I encouraged the students to look at the winners of the annual Nikon “Small World Photomicroscopy Competition” to revel in the beauty of the otherwise invisible.  We discussed the ability to use clock drawing to diagnose and monitor neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease

Science and medicine are musical in so many different ways.  From the high-pitched bowel sounds of intestinal obstruction to the onomatopoeia of borborygmi (the rumbling of your stomach). From the scratchy hoarse voice that comes from injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve to the “irregularly irregular” drumbeat of a heart in atrial fibrillation and the cacophony of alarms and noises and whooshes and vibrations in a modern intensive care unit (which, by the way, is bad for patients).

We spoke about medical history, and how self-experimentation has led to the development of new techniques and an understanding of the etiology of different diseases.  The eighth graders were simultaneously fascinated and grossed out by the story of Dr. Werner Forssman, who in 1929 put himself under local anesthesia then inserted a catheter into the antecubital fossa in his arm and threaded it up the brachial vein to the subclavian vein and from there into the right atrium. As the first person to demonstrate (albeit in an unusual and dangerous manner) that this was possible, he unknowingly developed a procedure that allowed for modern cardiac catheterization and all of the amazing knowledge that has followed, including our detailed understanding of cardiac physiology and the development of less-invasive procedures for treating heart disease.  We also reveled in the story of Dr. Barry Marshall, the Australian physician who defied all conventional knowledge and proved that the bacteria Helicobacter pylori could live within the acid environment of the stomach and cause stomach ulcers. And he did this by drinking a liquid culture of H. pylori!  Of note, despite the scorn they initially suffered for their self-experimentation, both Forssman and Marshall won Nobel Prizes for their discoveries. 

Finally, we spoke about the use of the five senses in medicine and how important they are in diagnosing disease: from visualizing subtle changes in skin color that can give hints about blood pressure (pallor) or inadequate oxygenation (cyanosis), to the sweet and fruity smell of ketones on the breath of patients in ketoacidosis and the foul smell of an infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to the importance of touch in palpating the abdomen or feeling the point of maximal impulse when conducting a physical examination. From the sound of the internal world that you revel in while auscultating the heart, to the empathic listening necessary to tease out a complex medical history.  Of course, students were curious about whether or not you use the sense of taste in medicine, which reminded me of this classic and crowd-pleasing story of the great physician Sir William Osler:

Osler is often called the father of modern medicine, and for good reason. He was one of the founding professors at Johns Hopkins and created the first residency program. Osler was obsessed with the need to pay careful attention to even the tiniest details when it came to observing patients. When he served as medical professor at Oxford University, he lectured his students – stressing the vital importance of careful observation, as it was often the key to accurate diagnosis of a patient’s ailment.

A diabetic’s urine, Osler pointed out, often had sugar in it. According to this apocryphal story, Osler displayed a bottle of urine to the trainees, dipped his finger into the bottle, and brought his hand to his mouth to taste the urine. Passing the bottle around the room, he asked the students to do what he had just done.  The students dutifully participated in the unpleasant task – knowing that if they paid careful attention, they might taste the sugar in the urine. After the students had finished their exercise, Osler said, “Now you will understand what I mean when I speak about details, because had you really been watching, you would have seen that I put my index finger into the urine . . . but my middle finger into my mouth.” (1)

The ninety minutes with the eighth-grade class went by way too quickly for me and ended in a flurry of thoughtful and insightful questions that demonstrated to me how well Waldorf education, and Bright Water Waldorf School, have been preparing our children to journey forth into a world where scientific discoveries are happening at a torrid pace.  In the end, we each learned from the other. I walked away with an appreciation of the sophistication and abilities of these young adults, and of how to make science and medicine approachable for them. The students, hopefully, left with a sense that, as the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins so elegantly put it, “science is the poetry of reality.” My sincerest appreciation to BWWS and Ms. D’Souza for providing me with this remarkable opportunity.


(1) Stein, Harold A. The Way I Saw It: Memoirs of an Ophthalmologist. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2013.

Second Grade Flowers

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 21, 2017 Comments Off on Second Grade Flowers

Hot on the heels of May Faire and just in time for June, the Second Grade has decorated the first floor with beautiful bouquets of flowers. These lovely, delicate watercolor paintings provide an opportunity to explore the color that lives and breathes in the world around us. Thank you to the Second Grade for reminding us of this natural beauty–and of the fact that summer is almost upon us!

Spring Reign 2017

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- May 04, 2017 Comments Off on Spring Reign 2017

By Coach John Healy

The Middle School Ultimate team enjoyed a fun and successful run last weekend in Burlington at Spring Reign, the largest mixed-gender youth tournament in the world. The team played its way into the C Division championship game, falling to a spirited Whidbey Island Waldorf team. En route, Bright Water Waldorf beat teams from Seattle’s Washington Middle School, Roosevelt Middle School of Eugene, Ore., Stratford Hall School from Vancouver, B.C., and Winnipeg’s St. John-Ravenscourt School. The team went 4-2 on the weekend, with both losses to Whidbey. 


More than half the team had not experienced tournament play—six games in two days in a festival atmosphere—and the weekend saw enormous growth across the entire squad. The kids improved their play every game and showed admirable grace both in victory and defeat. Over the course of the season, they’ve become a much more skilled group and supportive team mates. 

The season continues this Saturday when the Middle School team returns to league play against Seattle Country Day School and Lakeside Middle School. The games begin at 1:45 on the Woodland Park play fields.


In Memoriam: Neal Mobley, former Bright Water Waldorf School science teacher

Posted by: Chris Nelson   -   Posted in: News- Apr 23, 2017 Comments Off on In Memoriam: Neal Mobley, former Bright Water Waldorf School science teacher

Neal Mobley a beloved former Science teacher at Bright Water Waldorf School, passed away in March. Neal had participated in the school from very early on. Many parents who have been around BWWS for a while will have fond memories of his engaging teaching—not to mention his famous tahini sauce! 

Inspired by science from a young age, Neal pursed a degree in engineering and worked in industry for fifteen years. After his daughter attended Seattle Waldorf School, he was inspired to teach, and eventually left his engineering career to become a middle-school Waldorf science teacher of Physics and Chemistry. Neal’s love of science, and of the Waldorf approach he adopted, is well-expressed in some thoughts he shared with us a few years back. 

“Science education begins long before a child enters school. The first nature walk where the child observes, picks up, and asks about every rock, leaf and caterpillar they encounter is a vital moment of learning. The first time a child climbs up on a stool and helps Grandma make biscuits is as well. Or their first experiences of throwing things off the highchair tray to watch them fall. Experiencing the world around us is science education. Children receiving a Waldorf education are allowed to explore their world through play, rhythmic movement, music, and observation—without the heady analysis they are not ready for in the younger years—by building the house from the ground up, rather than starting with the “roof.” A shift happens when the student enters middle school in sixth grade. Around 12 years of age, the child is ready to receive the world in a new way. They are focused more on the world around them and they want to engage this environment in a deeper fashion than before… 

The most rewarding aspect of teaching middle school students, for me, is to set up an environment where they have the freedom to explore their own interests and passions. I am there to shepherd them through the experience, provide the tools and materials they need, help answer any questions they have and get out of their way. The enthusiasm I witness in that environment is indescribable and it can be quite awe-inspiring.” 

As with so many teachers, the gifts Neal Mobley brought to his students will have a lasting, positive impact on their lives. Thank you, Neal, for sharing your love of science with Bright Water.

(You can read more from Neal here and here.)