Early Childhood Intensive

Bringing Cultural Consciousness through Circles and Stories - Early Childhood Course

with Holly Koteen-Soule, Somer Serpe and guest presenter Leslie Woolverton

January 14-17, 2022 - Friday 4-6 PST, Saturday-Monday 9-12 PST

Bringing Cultural Consciousness Through Stories and Circles

Can implicit messages be as effective and powerful as explicit ones?

Reflections on SCC Summer 2021 Professional Development Workshop


by Holly Koteen-Soule

For those of us who carry responsibility for building inclusive and caring communities in our early childhood classrooms and with the families in our Waldorf Schools, the current social questions loom large. Out of our understanding of child development, we know that young children learn through imitation and modeling and thus, our continuing inner work with our own unconscious biases and assumptions is essential. We also need to be prepared to respond appropriately to specific situations that arise in our classrooms which call for explicit statements that support differences of all kinds and invoke a gesture of inclusion.

This past summer, Sound Circle offered an online workshop for early childhood educators where we explored creating stories and circles that could bring important themes and healing gestures to the children in our classes. Leslie Wetzonis Woolverton joined SCC faculty members Holly Koteen-Soule and Somer Serpe to facilitate the workshop. As a whole group, we participated in exercises designed to bring us a greater awareness of our own unconscious biases and the need for all of us, and especially the children, to be affirmed and supported in our identity development. We also worked in small groups creating stories to illustrate one or another of several suggested themes. Towards the end of the week, the stories that lent themselves to movement became the beginnings of movement circles. Other stories offered themselves as likely puppet plays.

Through the week we explored healing gestures that we as teachers can model for our children and illustrate in our stories and circles, for example:

  • We can recognize and work through antipathy or discomfort with things and people that are different from us.

  • We can stop labeling and shunning or shaming others because of labels.

  • We can listen to one another.

  • We can move past an “us and them” orientation.

  • We can solve problems by collaborating with others.

  • We can know that there is a way for everyone to get a share, even if we feel fearful tha there isn’t enough.

  • We can go beyond avoiding hurt or conflict by redeeming it, making it better.

  • A healthy community has a breathing, permeable boundary.

  • We live by grace, love, forgiveness and humility.

Some of the themes that we explored were:

  • Appreciating skin color differences

  • Recognizing different kinds of families

  • Undoing male and female cultural stereotypes

  • Normalizing developmental or ability differences

  • Celebrating multi-language families

  • The importance of an inclusive community in which everyone feels a sense of belonging

There was a great enthusiasm among the workshop participants for the creating of new material that supports the reawakening of cultural consciousness that speaks, not didactically, but in a heartfelt way, to young children and their families.

Participant Reflections

"I feel like I can now actively help change the narrative of our society, whereas before, I was somewhat intimidated."

"Holly's MLK Jr circle was really lovely as it gave such an elegant picture of what I'd like to bring to the children in my group. Taking something that is somewhat abstract and making it physical with song and movement is just so wonderful."

"I loved the facilitators! Kind, warm, insightful. I loved the collaboration of all."

"This is the third Waldorf program I've taken this summer, and was far and away the most beneficial. I felt much more connected to facilitators and other participants, and was much more comfortable asking questions. I also just really enjoyed this experience: it was a pleasure."

Leslie Woolverton has been a Waldorf Early Childhood Educator for 17 years. She primarily has taught two programs at Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten & Nursery School: The Parent/Child Class for 17 years and The Three-Day Nursery for 13 years. Leslie has been a certified Waldorf Educator since 2014. She is currently an active Committee Member of the WECAN IDEA Board in Chestnut Ridge, NY & also is mentoring a new teacher trainee at Sunbridge Institute. Leslie is a proud mother of one son, who now is attending Vassar College, and two grown stepchildren both married. Leslie is also an interior designer, an artist. In the upcoming 2021-22 school year, Leslie will be teaching at Silver Spring Day School. She is currently working on a novel on American Folk/Fairytales and the History of Oral Storytelling in America.

Holly Koteen-Soulé received her BA and MA from Antioch University in Seattle and studied Waldorf education at Emerson College. She was a Waldorf Early Childhood teacher for 25 years, first at the Seattle Waldorf School and then at the Bright Water School, where she taught Kindergarten and also pioneered the first Parent and Child classes in the Seattle area. She was a founding member of Sound Circle Center and is currently serving as the Director of Early Childhood Education. She is a member of the WECAN Board and served as the WECAN Coordinator of Teacher Education for five years. She is also member of the Pedagogical Section Council of the Anthroposophical Society.

Somer Serpe trained as an artist and as a teacher, earning her BFA degree at Parsons School of Design and her Masters in Waldorf Early Childhood Education at Sunbridge College. After teaching Nursery and Kindergarten at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School for 15 years, Somer now leads the Parent Child Program. Somer is a Northeast Regional Representative for WECAN and serves as a mentor for teachers and schools as well as an inspirational coach for parents. She leads workshops and parent education opportunities around the country. In the classroom, Somer enjoys gardening, puppetry, singing, purposeful work and creating healing stories for children and parents.

Registration Deadline is January 7, 2021

Cost of the program is $350.00 per participant (for all registered prior to December 15) Registration received after December 15 will be $400.00 per participant.

If you are a school looking to send five or more participants please contact the Business Manager for group rates businessmanager@soundcirclecenter.org.

Course Location: Virtual (A zoom link will be sent out a few days prior to the start of your course)