For the Love of Learning

Q&A with Mojave Springs School

Alexandra Cannady

School Director

Mojave Springs School

Mojave Springs School, a Waldorf-inspired AWSNA registered initiative, is dedicated to fostering creative and independent thinkers by providing knowledge, nourishing emotional intelligence, and cultivating artistic expression, inspiring students to act with the right intention in the world. Red Rock City Lifestyle asked School Director Alexandra Cannady to share how the school’s philosophy and how it fosters the love of learning in each student.

Please describe your school.

Our school is truly unlike any other I've had the opportunity to work with. When I've led newcomers onto campus, I have always heard their excitement about their impression that the campus stands as an oasis in Las Vegas. We offer our children as many natural materials as possible in their play areas, classroom activities, and academic work.

At the moment, our students range from two years old to third graders, and all our students are afforded many opportunities to bring their imaginative worlds to life. Our teachers give the students space to create food, toys, and art from scratch, and it's clear how connected the students are to their work.

I have a daughter in the Tansy class, our youngest, and a son in the Honeybee class, our kindergarten class. My children both come home excited to share songs and stories with me, and it is endlessly exciting to hear my two-year-old daughter's budding language explain the process of "flour, water, bread!" Our older students are guided through their academics in artistic and tactile activities as well, and although many of our teachers are new to Waldorf methods, they all have done so much work this school year to learn methods for guiding the children through watercolor, chalk drawing, and handwork activities. Our program is truly unique. 

Are you a local institution? 

We are local, yes. Underneath Mojave Springs School is the Mojave Educational Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The founder, Jodi Reiter, was a mother who believed in bringing Waldorf education to Las Vegas so passionately that she created what we're continuing today. Our current Board of Directors is made up of local community members as well as parents from the school, and everyone is equally dedicated to fostering the best for the school and its students. 

Tell us about your school's philosophy.

Rudolf Steiner originated the Waldorf educational philosophy around the concepts of anthroposophy. At its core, it aims to deeply understand child development, to see each student as the whole person they are, and to continually learn how the context of society and culture affect individual development. At its most straightforward level, the Waldorf methodology sees personhood, fosters it, and educates within it. 

How do your teachers teach the love of learning?

Think of the teachers who had the most profound impact on you. Did it matter what they taught, or did it matter who they were? When Rudolf Steiner set up the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, he acknowledged that it matters who each individual teacher is and whether that teacher can see who each individual student is. Our teachers take great care in preparing their stories, lessons, and activities to make sure not only that they're covering content the students need for everyday life but also that each student has been considered in their preparations. If I think back on what caused me to love learning in my own life, it was the human connection I was afforded, the artistic opportunity, and the intellectual connection I felt with the great philosophers and historical figures I was learning about. 

How are students encouraged to be free thinkers?

Our students have so many opportunities to think freely. In the younger classrooms, the students do whole-group activities: stories and songs during circle time, Spanish, baking, watercolor painting, clay modeling, felting, and more. Our older students knit, crochet, learn violin and flute, and perform their language arts and math lessons together.

However, students of all ages at Mojave Springs are given time for unfettered play. This is where their individuality really shines through. I've seen our students make their own obstacle courses, create ships out of wooden crates and silk scarves to sail the seas, make stages out of logs and instruments out of planks to perform rock concerts, and build circus arenas wherein various students performed their unique skills. One teacher also shared the story of two Honeybees a couple of years ago making a full-fledged jewelry store entirely out of paper; they were five years old, mind you. Giving space for students to express themselves is an integral part of our every day. 

What is the thought process behind calling your daily schedule a rhythm?

In truth, when we think of our routines, all of us are really part of a rhythm. Some of this rhythm is determined by ourselves, but a lot of it is reliant on external influence. Think of how different our routine may be in the shortened days of winter as opposed to the extended days of the summer months. Children rely on their rhythm to ground them (don't we all?), and although this is loosely based on time, it's also based on the circumstances of each day. The schedule may tell us that it's 9:15 a.m., which may mean it's time to gather water bottles, wash up, and head inside for our morning snack. Our rhythm, however, may have driven our students to build a fortress in the sand, and perhaps they're just now filling their moat with water. The teacher who is observing his or her class may see that the snack can't begin until this student-driven activity comes to a natural close. That's what makes rhythm different. 

What is the one thing new parents are the happiest about in the first weeks of school?

My answer to that question is so different from one new family to the next. One new elementary student, for example, has been waking up thrilled to return to class each day, and that's what has made the parents the happiest. Other parents love joining us for festivals, like our recent Lantern Festival at Rainbow Family Park. I, myself, just got to enroll my daughter in late October when she turned two, and I love hearing her sing me songs, talk to me about baking, and show me dances from Spanish class. I suppose the throughline here is that parents love seeing their children engage in truly joyful activities while learning skills they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn. 

Any additional thoughts you’d like to share?

I'm very lucky to have seen our school from different angles. I joined the Parent Council (PC) at the end of my first year, then became the president of PC, then an elementary teacher, and then the director, where I am now. I've enjoyed every role I've had at the school, and I've seen so much love come out of everyone who contributes to it. It's hard work building a startup school and even harder work using a methodology so new to the area and many of the teachers and parents. Still, it’s so rewarding because of how dedicated everyone is to the vision.

“It's a special experience working with others who care so deeply about what's best for these children,” said Cannady.

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