Little Lions Waldorf Child and Family Centre began as an extension of the Grade 12 Family Studies program at Lakeview High School, conceived and organized and taught by Traude Wedding. It began as a workplace daycare, also serving the Parenting Practicum course as a model for Waldorf childcare.
A start-up grant was acquired and a license obtained in 1984 for a one-room day nursery. The program expanded, eventually to include an afternoon program but finances were limited. Requests were made to the city for subsidized spaces. The process of incorporation was completed by 1986. The first Board consisted of three directors, Bobbi Sawchuk, Mary-Jane Wedding and Traude Wedding.
Eventually there was a full daycare, morning and afternoon programs and five directors. Later the After School program was added, and enrollment was growing fast. But Lakeview was due to close. Many applications were made for grants to the City and to various Ministry of Community and Social Services. This resulted in the purchase and renovation of the Clarke Street property in 1991. The staff and directors looked forward to the blossoming of Waldorf childcare in their own centre. A Board resolution established Traude Wedding as founder and honorary director for life. New directors supporting the Waldorf philosophy have been gradually added to the Board.
The one location of Little Lions blossomed into a second site across the city in 2005. This was located in the former Drew Street School and was our second home until 2013 when the centre closed and moved into Hyde Park School. Two more sites opened in 2007. The St Paul location was our first site to be opened in a Catholic School and the fourth location, Whitefish, was in a public school. Whitefish was also our first rural site, located in the village of Hymers.
The following years saw many more expansions in quick succession as well as a couple of closures and we now have eleven locations, nine of which are in schools. One location is in the June Steeve Lendrum Family Centre and is not open to the general public. The original building that was purchased for Little Lions in 1991 is still operating as a child care centre but also houses our main offices.
HISTORY OF THE WALDORF MOVEMENT
The educational and childcare philosophy of Little Lions is based on the teaching of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who founded the first Waldorf School in 1919, for the children of the workers in the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. Soon there were many schools, and while visiting them in the 1920’s Steiner observed the need for pre-school or “Kindergarten” programs. Elizabeth Grunelius began the first Waldorf Kindergarten, based on the needs of the very young child as Steiner described them in his books and lectures. These lectures became the basis of the “Waldorf” or Steiner philosophy of education and childcare for young children.
One hundred years later, there are now Waldorf Schools all over the world and this movement toward freedom in education continues to grow.
Little Lions Waldorf Child and Family Centre, a unique childcare program in Northwestern Ontario, is affiliated with other Waldorf institutions in both Canada and the United States. It is a member of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.