At the Washington Waldorf School, students can attend the children’s garden from age 3 to 7. Some children are held back and start first grade at age 7, when they are considered mature enough for the curriculum. On a recent morning, the students of the children’s garden were baking, helping their teachers prepare an apple-crisp treat.
The toys used in the children’s garden often are made from natural materials, wood and natural fibers, Ms. Buchman says.
“The ‘toys’ are as nondescript as possible so you can leave it up to their imagination,” she adds.
A block of wood could be a car or a boat, or anything the child wants. A pink cotton curtain can be a tent or a veil.
Another essential part of the Waldorf pedagogy is to keep the same “class teacher,” or main instructor, for each class from first through eighth grades. This is referred to as “looping” by Waldorf teachers and is considered to help build a strong relationship between the students and their teacher.
“We believe that if you know the students well, you can get down to the teaching,” Ms. Bennett says. “It provides children with a continuity and community that is often missing in our lives today.”
Anabella says she missed that sense of community and warmth during her one year in public school. She also missed learning through art.
On a recent morning, her class recited “Beat! Beat! Drums!” a Walt Whitman poem. This, however, was no American literature class. It was history, specifically the Civil War.
Why not learn about war through poetry?
After the poem, teacher Karl Shurman initiated a class discussion on objectivity and who writes history.
This type of teaching is appealing to adolescents, Mrs. Sawers says, because they want the truth and they want to talk about such topics as how an individual’s conscience and rights might be pitted against the state.
“Our way of teaching has to connect with where they are right now in their lives; otherwise it’s meaningless education,” she says.
Waldorf teachers and advocates say this pedagogy is an education for the whole person, involving the physical and emotional as well as the mental.
In their way of thinking, it makes sense to teach history through poetry and math through music because life is like that.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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