Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-02-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



LGBTQI-inclusive initiatives at Urban Prairie Waldorf School
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Urban Prairie Waldorf School on Chicago's Southwest Side began more than a decade ago with the goal of educating students from early childhood to eighth grade in the traditional Waldorf model of engaging the whole child intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. Waldorf students are encouraged to be curious, compassionate and self-reliant. They also use critical thinking skills in every subject area.

The school has also added LGBTQI-affirming policies in recent years. Sexual orientation non-discrimination language is featured online and in the print handbook, all faculty and staff have pronouns included on the school's website, a transgender and non-binary students and community members gender affirmation policy has been added in the last year, the school's first-floor bathrooms are gender neutral, LGBTQI history representation is being woven into each grade's curriculum and the 8th grade human fertility class includes LGBTQI human reproduction instruction.

Local intersex advocate and speaker Pigeon Pagonis visited the 8th grade human fertility class to share their experience with the students. Staff has also gone through training with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and facilitate Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity ( SEED ) seminars monthly where they learn about their own implicit bias when creating their curriculum.

On March 31, Urban Prairie held its first school-wide Trans Day of Visibility event. The day was focused on bringing consciousness and visibility to the trans and gender nonconforming community. Each teacher chose activities that were age-appropriate and would meet the developmental needs of their students and the 8th grade students volunteered to lead many of the day's activities. Younger children heard gender creative fairytales and stories. One grade had older students role-play how to ask someone about their pronouns in a respectful way. The transgender flag was painted in watercolor by some students while others passed out homemade pins in the colors of the flag.

There was push-back from some parents due to the Trans Day of Visibility event. A few students were kept home that day while some other parents, whose children were at the school that day, told the school afterward they would not be returning for the 2018-2019 school year.

Although there were a small percentage of parents who reacted negatively to the Trans Day of Visibility event, the rest of the school community has been supportive.

"Urban Prairie's value of LGBTQI-inclusivity is based in love—a love and appreciation for each child ( and parent ) who comes to our school," said Urban Prairie Director of Community Development Heather Berhalter. "We strive to be a school that presents 'mirrors' and 'windows' for every child and their experience. A 'window' is an opportunity within the curriculum to see into and value another person's experience. A 'mirror' is a curricular opportunity to have your own existence reflected back to you in a way that is affirming of your humanity. This method seamlessly interweaves love for the other and self worth into our everyday learning in the classroom. When all of the children feel seen, loved and valued, they are available for the real work of school—learning and growing. Our transgender and non-binary students and community members policy gives the structure to support this basic value of our school."

"The Urban Prairie curriculum is probably one of the most accepting and inclusive environments I have ever experienced," said 8th grade student Siah Berlatsky. "For anybody who is thinking about going to this school, they will have a phenomenal experience. They will be taught to love and respect themselves for who they are."

"It is important that we recognize, honor and accept trans and non-binary people for who they are," said 8th grade student Cecilia Cowen. "Learning more about this community and talking about the issues they face is very helpful for any middle school student."

"Urban Prairie has been the most supportive school I have been a part of," said 8th grade student Elliot Bushell. "I would consider this school to be a safe space for me. The teachers and community on the whole are very warm and friendly. I do not think I will be able to find a place like Urban Prairie in the future."

"I am excited and happy that the school is striving to be a more inclusive place and that festivals like Trans Day of Visibility allow our students to be more compassionate and understanding," said Movement and Games Teacher and 8th grade math teacher Adriana Kondrat. "It was a bit surprising to see some community members be apprehensive to the festival and the other affirming initiatives that are occurring. As an educator, my highest priority is the safety and well being of the children. When we offer a curriculum that show the breadth and depth of human experiences, we support each student's individuality while developing their capacity to meaningfully engage with the other."

"It is incredible to work in a school with incredible faculty who care so deeply for their students," said 9th grade teacher Meredith Merchant. "It allows the space for developing adolescents to move into their true selves with freedom. Being a teen is hard enough, if we can help clear the path through affirmation and love, then we have done our jobs."

"Having a transgender policy for our school is something I support," said Urban Prairie parent Briana Villarrubia. "In 2016, after a discussion with our pedagogical chair around transgender identity, I offered to have my sister and niece come talk to our faculty, staff and parents about our family's transgender journey. The intention was to support and educate others about transgender issues and start a conversation around acceptance and understanding. Research shows depression and suicides are probable outcomes for transgender individuals. If there is a way to avoid this through education and communication, to encourage acceptance of differences, I am happy to participate and support this conversation.

"I believe the push back in our school around our transgender policy reflects what we see in the world. The Waldorf idea of community and the verse shared at our Parent Council meetings states that, 'A community is healthy only when the whole community takes shape in the mirror of the human soul, and the force of the individual soul lives in the community.' I believe our school wants all people to feel welcome and that our policy is an opportunity to continue a conversation that will strengthen our community and world."

"Our family is very happy with the school," said Urban Prairie parent Sarah Steedman. "The school faculty and staff are progressive and forward thinking in many areas, but particularly of note is they provide a safe place for all students to express their true selves without fear. For the students, this meant receiving age appropriate education on how to be inclusive with everyone in our school community as well as the wider community.

"Our two kids transferred to Urban Prairie from CPS where they were both struggling for different reasons, one with their gender identity and the other academically and socially. They were begging us to find a different kind of school to go to because they were so stressed out. Both of our children are now thriving. I credit a lot of their joy and the rewarding friendships they have found to the exemplary and forward-thinking education they are receiving. The teachers are meeting the challenge of a changing world with grace, compassion and inclusivity toward all."

"We are committed to affirming the identity of all children regardless of age," said special subjects teacher Jillian Miller. "It is our goal to make children, families and staff feel included, celebrated and valued. Each community member should see themselves represented at Urban Prairie Waldorf School."

See for more information .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Advocates support health-education bill for public schools 2020-02-26 - At a press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 26, a group of advocates announce their support for the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children's Health ...

Gay News

The Illinois 60 by 25 Network to hosts 7th annual conference 2020-02-20 - CHICAGO, IL — Advance Illinois, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission ( ISAC ) are pleased ...

Gay News

Suburban district settles anti-trans lawsuit 2020-02-19 - After more than four years, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 settled a lawsuit brought by transgender former student Nova Maday, who alleged discrimination. ...

Gay News

30 Under 30 Awards to be held June 24 2020-02-17 - Windy City Times will again mark Pride Month with its annual 30 Under 30 Awards. The ceremony will take pace Wed, June 24. ...

Gay News

About Face Theatre to host Wonka Ball: Silver and Gold May 30 WONKA BALL: SILVER & GOLD 2020-02-12 - CHICAGO ( February 10, 2020 )— Dress up to get down at Wonka Ball, About Face Theatre's annual benefit gala and Chicago's most ...

Gay News

High-school seniors can pursue journalism award 2020-02-09 - The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association ( NINA ) will award a $1,000 scholarship this spring to the high school senior picked by the ...

Gay News

Award-worthy event happens during PHIMC/Safe Schools ceremony 2020-02-05 - In a surprise move during the Jan. 26 reception to celebrate the union between Illinois Safe Schools Alliance ( the Alliance ) and ...

Gay News

MOMBIAN Parenting on 'The L Word: Generation Q' 2020-02-05 - The L Word: Generation Q, the sequel to the groundbreaking queer television drama The L Word, just ended its first season on Showtime. ...

Gay News

Queer Valentine's Day event at MCA 2020-02-05 - "Odd Pleasures: A Queer Valentine's Day Event" will take place Friday, Feb. 14, 7-8:30 p.m., at the Museum for Contemporary Art ( MCA ...

Gay News

'Love Out Loud' ball Feb. 8 2020-02-05 - In Demand Entertainment and CSU Royal Court are presenting the Love Out Loud Ball on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2-10 p.m., at Chicago State ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.