Willow Westwood is the founder and lead teacher of Brooklyn Morning Garden. Willow has been an early childhood teacher in Waldorf schools for years and studied teaching at the Sunbridge Institute, a Waldorf teacher training center in Spring Valley, New York. She worked in early childhood at the Brooklyn Waldorf School for two years and as the lead teacher of the Children's Garden (ages 2-6) at Our Sons and Daughters School, a Waldorf school on the East End of Long Island.
Willow grew up on a mountain in Western Massachusetts, spending her days exploring in the forest and working in the garden. She moved to New York City at 18 to study History and Economics at The New School, where she came to realize how critical social awareness, the capacity for creativity, and practical skills were to individuals trying to work towards a better world. Eager to help support these capacities, she delved into socially conscious studies of child development and as she began working with children she saw a universality in their drive to learn and explore, as well as the incredibly unique way children in the city learned to interact with their environment.
She returned to Brooklyn in 2018 to serve the borough's incredible community of families, and created Brooklyn Morning Garden to provide a place where children can receive the loving support they need to thrive in urban environments.
After graduating from the University of the Arts with a bachelors of fine arts in dance and a minor in religion and philosophy, Solana has spent most of her time caring for children of all ages, alongside performing with multiple dance companies and projects in New York City. These companies allow her to delve into teaching workshops in creative movement, modern dance, Capoeira and socially conscious choreography. Working within public schools as well as dance programs, she has found a love of teaching and getting involved with the young population.
In 2007, Solana finished her 11 years of Waldorf education at the Princeton Waldorf School in New Jersey. Looking back at that time she has nothing but love, gratitude, and excitement for those years she had growing up within a Waldorf community.
The value that Waldorf education has on child development and the important relationships it cultivates between people is what brought her to Brooklyn Morning Garden.
We are a practicing low-waste company and look to minimize landfill waste in every aspect of our operation. We also critically examine the sourcing of everything we use, choosing organic and local foods, toys from small makers made of natural and up-cycled materials, and care and cleaning products made from simple, natural ingredients. We do all of this to lessen our impact on the earth, but also because we feel it is important to model the values and habits of environmentalism for the children, to help them continue to be loving inhabitants of the earth and empower them to make positive change in human society as they grow.
Limited Digital Media
There is overwhelming evidence that digital media, and screens in general, have a detrimental effect on children’s development and wellbeing. They also take time away from actual free play, which is the most important thing for young children to do: they can learn to code later, they can only play with dreamy toddler wonder now. We value boundaries around screens and devices, and ask that families in our community don’t bring them into their children’s home life, and try to limit them beyond that. We know this can be hard in our media-saturated world and city (giant sidewalk iPads, anyone?), but we believe the effort needed to minimize exposure is absolutely worth it.
Diversity and Inclusion
The Waldorf/Steiner education movement has historically been a primarily white space, partially owing to the Northern European roots of the movement and a Eurocentric interpretation of curricula.
We aim to make Brooklyn Morning Garden a welcoming place for children of color, and are especially mindful of this considering our location in the historically black neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. We actively engage in anti-racism work so as to not model unconscious bias or microaggressions for the young ones in our care who are starting to develop racial identities and awareness. We offer images of children and adults of color in our books and toys, and engage in developmentally appropriate conversations about race when they inevitably come up.
We actively affirm any and all gender identities and expressions, and support the children we work with as they begin to identify with a gender (or genders), and experiment with or define expressions. Simultaneously, we work to provide models and images of diverse gender identities and gender roles. This often looks like changing the traditional pronouns in a song about a woodcutter, telling stories free from binary genders, and clearly disassociating biology from gender when talking to the children about their bodies.
We love being based in the cultural diversity of Brooklyn, and are happy to welcome families from all cultural backgrounds into our community. We celebrate seasonal, earth-based, non-denominational festivals with traditions shared by and reflective of the Brooklyn Morning Garden community.
time in Nature
All of our programs for children include a significant amount of time spent in outdoor play and practical work. Every day, whatever the weather, whatever the season. We believe that time spent in nature, even the very human-manipulated nature of a Brooklyn backyard, is inherently soothing and therapeutic for children, and is essential for their brain, body, and psycho-spiritual development. We value allowing children time to explore, without explanation, the soil and tree branches, decaying leaves and budding flowers.