BAGUIO CITY ? Athena Masilungan wanted to give her 5-year-old son Gabriel an environment that would nurture his mind, body and soul.
She organized a play group for her son that met in his playroom from 9 a.m. to 12 noon every Saturday.
?I invited parents and their kids, aged 3 to 6. Our activities consisted of singing, movements, painting, gardening, outdoor playing, beeswax modeling and storytelling.
These are activities specific to Waldorf,? said Masilungan, who trained on the education system.
Waldorf (also known as Steiner Education or Waldorf Padagogy), a European education system now being adopted by many schools around the world, aims to educate a child by balancing academics and artistic and practical activities.
As Gabriel?s group expanded, it had to move from the playroom to a playgarden, Masilungan?s backyard in Barangay Upper QM.
But even the playgarden was not big enough when the group grew to 20. One of the parents, Michelle Quinto, an NGO worker, offered her space on a hill in Barangay Pinsao.
The mothers pooled their resources and turned the playgarden into a full-fledged daycare center for their community. It became the Sofia Playgarden at the BLSI Ecohill that follows the Waldorf system.
Masilungan said Waldorf ?is holistic, child-centered, artistic and practical as well. It?s an education for the head, heart and hands.?
The system was developed by Austrian Rudolf Steiner, who set up the first school in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Cecille Fajilan, one of the mothers behind the daycare center, said Waldorf education aimed to develop ?well-rounded persons who are knowledgeable, skillful, compassionate and purposeful, who feel a deep reverence to the world and who can act with initiative and freedom.?
Masilungan said she was surprised that there was a lot of interest ?in this kind of education.? During a recent seminar, she prepared for 20 but 36 parents showed up.
Daycare teachers and caregivers from as far as Lepanto in Mankayan, Benguet; Dagupan City, Metro Manila and Baguio also came.
Activities at the Sofia Playgarden include free play, home activities (cooking, baking and housekeeping), artistic activities (painting, beeswax clay modeling, drawing, seasonal arts and crafts), storytelling and puppetry, and gardening.