Handmade with Love

Kindlehill opens it new Kindergarten, January 28th, 2011

The new kindergarten at Kindlehill is a beautiful spiral building with a sweeping curved roof.  It has been constructed with recycled and renewable materials, sourced locally where possible.  The design and construction is a showcase for earth buildings, and a regular destination for eco building tours.

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Kindlehill’s mud brick education

BY SHANE DESIATNIK of the BLUE MOUNTAINS GAZETTE 22 Feb, 2011 11:34 AM
 
What’s made of mud bricks, straw and recycled materials, is decorated by sculptures on the walls, features a moat that crosses a tiny stream and has a roof shaped into a playful spiral shape to inspire children’s imaginations?

It’s the completed kindergarten wing of Kindlehill School’s Building the Education Revolution Program upgrade, welcomed last Wednesday by students, teachers and parents.

In about six months, local builder Jason Dash and his team at Mud and Straw Concepts will complete the rest of the upgrade by putting the finishing touches on a state-of-the-art performance and drama centre, art and sculpture room and playgroup classroom.

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A Village School

Kindlehill’s building project, courtesy of the government stimulus building project, is possibly the most unique in the country. Tucked away in Lake Street, Wentworth Falls, the small independent primary school is constructing a spiral shaped performance space and kindy from cob, straw bale, recycled material. A woodworker skilled in 16th century carpentry techniques built the spectacular timber columns. The existing building, once the original home of Blue Mountains Grammar, is also undergoing extensive renovations, again drawing on building materials with low embodied energy.

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Grand Designs

As a writer, I have a professional sympathy with architects. At the outset of a project, we both face a blank page. Sure the clients and builders have ideas, but it is the architect’s task to reconcile these ideas with the financial, bureaucratic and physical constraints of the site and transform it into a coherent whole.

Simon Hearn of Sunlab Architecture did just this when he designed the spiral kindy and performance space. He was brought into the project by architect Jamie Brennan who had already chosen the site and scale of the new building, so it would imaginatively spiral into the old.

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10th Anniversary School Photo

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For the 10th Anniversary of Kindlehill, a group photo was taken of the entire school. This proved more difficult than anticipated, because not only was it tricky to capture every smile and twinkling eye when the shutter opened, but John and Duncan were missing in action until the last few photos! Here is an image that captures Kindlehill at 10 years of age, growing and blossoming, on a winter’s day.

 

New Kindy: Timber Frame Assembly

Recently, a major phase of the New Kindy building was completed. The timbers that Matt Fenn & his crew of carpenters had been shaping for months were brought up the hill and assembled into a wonderful structure in a two whirlwind days.

 

Kindlehill Celebrates 10 Years

Feature Image: The first Kindlehillians on August 3rd, 2000

Kindlehill in 2003

Kindlehill in 2006

Susan at a Kindlehill picnic in Autumn 2000

Ten years ago today – on August 3rd, 2000 – seventeen children, their parents and three teachers from the Rudolf Steiner tradition put down roots at 8 Lake Street, Wentworth Falls. Originally built in the 1950s as a schoolhouse for Blue Mountains Grammar, the site had been through many incarnations including a spell as an art centre and meditation retreat. Now it was to be Kindlehill, a primary school that placed community at its heart.

Susan Herold, the only founding parent who still has a child still at the school (Mira in Year 6), likens those early heady days to “a rocket launch”, “a huge blast of energy” and “the beginning of an adventure”. Pioneer optimism and blue sky idealism ran high amongst the parent group, even as the daunting realities of starting a new school began to kick in. On August 3rd 2000, the building was an empty shell without so much as a table or chair and money was in short supply.

Lynn, who has been a teacher since the school’s inception, recalls the fundamental excitement of dipping into the wellspring of Steiner’s educational philosophy, and relating these ideas to contemporary Australian society. “In the beginning we didn’t even identify ourselves as a Steiner school”, she said. “We spoke somewhat cumbersomely of ourselves as a school for creative/artistic education.”

Thanks to a loan from one mother, to teachers prepared to work for nothing, to parents who built and maintained the facilities, to John Daniel who brought his business and administrative skills to the table, the fledgling school survived. Without this level of commitment, Susan is sure that “we wouldn’t have made it.” Inside the classroom, the children felt only the love and warmth, however Susan remembers the uncertainty, the adults never quite sure what the next challenge would be. “It was a damn exciting time but exhausting.”

Ten years on, Susan feels that the less predictable, airy days of the school’s evolution has passed. These days, Kindlehill is more grounded and stable, especially with the purchase of the premise late last year. Lynn likens the founding of the school to “conceiving a child, providing the conditions that would nourish it, and living in relationship to what unfolded as its unique character or personality.  We kindled a light on the hill.”

At home with: THE KINDLEHILL WWOOFER

At any one time, six to seven wwoofers work and live amongst the Kindlehill community. Most stay for one or two weeks, although some remain for a month or more. Others leave and return. Amongst them, friendships are formed, love has blossomed and hearts have been broken. John reckons they bring a good energy to the project and an international flavour, underscoring the global dimension to the principles fuelling this local project.

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