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Charter school uses Waldorf color ideas

In Waldorf education, the color of the rainbow is a metaphor for the development of a child's mind, and the colors of Waldorf classroom walls follow that progression.

Each color of the rainbow affects a child's physiology and psychology, according to Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, who developed the Waldorf concept in 1919.

That's why Steiner prescribed certain colors for certain grade levels, a color scheme Waldorf schools, such as Central Point's Madrone Trail Public Charter School, have been following for nearly a century.

Color is not the only feature that sets Waldorf classroom walls apart from other schools.

The walls are painted with a technique called "lazure," derived from the German word "lasur," which means glaze.

"They use a figure-8 motion with a watercolor pigment," said Allison Casenhiser, a third-grade teacher at Madrone Trail.

The color starts dark at the bottom of the wall and gets lighter at the top, giving the illusion of light and fluidity. Combined with the color, it has a powerful effect on physiology that one can feel upon entering one of the classrooms.

Each grade's classroom walls follow the colors of the rainbow, starting at the top of the rainbow in grade kindergarten with a rose hue. Waldorf education focuses on nature and allowing children to develop at their natural pace.

"Nothing is random," said Christine Crawley, a teacher at the Siskiyou School, a private Waldorf school in Ashland. "Things are done in Waldorf education because of certain observations (in nature and in child development), and it's like, 'Wow, that really matches the child at this age.' " In kindergarten, the color mimics the comfort of the womb, which is important to younger children, said Crawley.

That theme continues in the first grade with a lighter pink and in the second grade with a peach, where students' attitudes tend to be "peachy" and carefree, she said.

In the third grade, the walls turn golden.

The yellow color represents "the birth of the individual," Crawley said.

"They come into their own," she said. "They have the feeling of separation of others." In the fourth grade, the walls take on a yellow-green hue, signifying the students beginning to become more grounded on the earth, she said. In kind, Waldorf students in the fourth grade begin studying geography and local history, she said.

The sciences begin to emerge in the fifth grade, bringing a blue tinge to the green. Fifth-graders study things such as botany and Greek mythology.

"Blue is a mind color," Crawley said. "It's the color of the celestial realm." Hence, in sixth grade, where more higher thinking takes place, blue dominates the walls.

"They are going more in the sciences, physics, astrology and study of the Middle Ages," she said.

The color continues to darken as students enter the seventh and eighth grade until in the eighth grade, their walls are purple.

"It's the merging of the red and the blue," Crawley said. "They've come full circle."

Madrone Trail School third-grade teacher Allison Casenhiser shows off the school's first-grade classroom's pink color scheme. - Bob Pennell