by Robyn Brown
I was a teacher in a “big” Waldorf School for nine years. I taught a group of children from Kindergarten through to eighth grade. I love Waldorf Teaching, and know Waldorf Education to be a healing pedagogy. What we do in a “big classroom” meets the needs of most children significantly, but from the beginning of my teaching career I knew that there was something missing. There were always some children whose needs were not being met. My best was not enough, because I did not know enough. When my class graduated from eight grade, and I began to wonder what I was going to do for my sabbatical I knew that what I wanted to do was learn what could be done for the children whose needs were not met. I knew of one person who might have some answers, so I contacted her and asked if I could come to work with her. This was Sunny Baldwin, and her school was called Somerset. At Somerset I saw the kind of work that made a difference for the children. For the first time I saw children really overcome their difficulties and be able to move on and return to a “regular” big classroom. The only difficulty I saw was that there was only one Somerset, and yet everywhere there are children in need of such a program. This is why I started Mulberry Classroom. My hope is that someday there will be more and more such schools, wherever they are needed.
Mulberry Classroom began in 2001. We started small, just five children in a tiny setting in San Francisco. During that first year the interest in our program grew significantly and by the end of that first year it was clear that we had outgrown our first site. It was also clear that the city was not the place for us. We needed to be in a place where we had direct access to nature. We needed space around us to move, someplace calm and soothing so we could learn and someplace beautiful so we could play.
Our second home was at St. Vincent’s in San Rafael. This site is an historical one, built after the gold rush as a home for children who became orphaned during that time. With its towers and plazas and fountains and palm trees it reminded us of a palace. We could walk to the wetlands and had plenty of places to explore right outside our classroom door. But soon, we were too big for those rooms too.
Next we moved across the freeway from St. Vincent’s to a site that gave us room for our own gym and plenty of indoor and playground space. We were close to an “Open Space” trail and walked up the hill every morning to run in the woods. The views of the hills and the bay were wonderful. Still, something was missing.
From the time Mulberry began, it was our dream to be on a farm. We wanted a place were the children could be practically involved in growing a garden and caring for animals every day. In June of 2011 we moved to our new site in Santa Rosa, and we officially became Mulberry Farm. We have almost three acres, and have been busy ever since planting, weeding, watering and harvesting along with building a round pen and arena for our riding program as well as building fencing and housing for our animals. Farm chores have become an integral part of morning movement time, and the children are very proud of their farm.