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Interest growing in alternative education

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They have recently presented Whistler council with a plan to rent a portion of the Spruce Grove Community building for two years to accommodate their burgeoning and bustling school community.

Ultimately they would like to see the school established in the old Alta Lake School near Chaplinville, returning it to its former function and preserving the historical aspects of the school.

The physical constraint of their current location means fewer children can get the Waldorf experience in Whistler.

"We actually do have a few that want to come into the grades and we didn’t have space, so it’s our space that would be turning people away," said Kirkegaard.

Their situation is almost mirrored in the Montessori school.

Lima has been teaching Whistler kids through the Montessori method for as long as the Alta Lake School has been teaching the Waldorf method.

Originally two small classes at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church could meet the demand in Whistler. But interest has grown to such an extent that Lima is now forced to put children on waiting lists due to class sizes.

While she is pleased with the current location and has been looking at adding classes there on different days, provided the Church agrees, she admits sharing the space can sometimes be a little troublesome in terms of setting up and dismantling the class each day.

Currently the classes offered run for children ages 3 to 6.

Parents pleased with the Montessori method have talked about expanding the school.

"It could grow and parents are in fact interested in looking at a private school, going beyond kindergarten and into the elementary grades," said Lima.

This all depends on parent involvement, financial backing and finding or building a suitable site.

Both schools are non-profit organizations relying on fees, fund-raising and government assistance to stay afloat.

The different educational styles and methods developed within the last 100 years, independently of each other.

The first Waldorf School opened in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany under the direction an Austrian philosopher/scientist/artist named Rudolph Steiner.

The school was for the children of the employees of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory.

The distinctive style of education which first began there has now spread to over 800 schools throughout the world.

One of the phrases used to describe the Waldorf style is learning through "the head, the heart and the hands."

Kirkegaard said that every child can benefit from this holistic approach to learning.

"I think if you have a whole body experience, if you learn something innately by doing with you hands, by moving with your body, by thinking with your head rather than just coming at your intellect all the time, I think it could only benefit everyone," she said.