The Benefits of Integrating Farm and School Curriculum

The Benefits of Integrating Farm and School Curriculum

The benefits of integrating farm and school are well researched. Roseway Waldorf School provides healthy outdoor activity for learners and brings balance to the heavier academic activities that take place in the classroom. The physical activity of working the garden has a directly beneficial effect and many pupils calm after being able to direct their excess energy. After a time on the farm they are often far more ready to sit, focus and receive academic tuition.

Farm and Classroom Curriculum

Our pupils also study many of the activities of farming in a more academic manner. Hands-on agricultural and environmental learning experiences bring deeper meaning and comprehension to many of our studies in the sciences, including botany, ecology, geology, physical science, and chemistry. Our teachers work consciously to dovetail what is done in chemistry and biology lessons with activities on the farm when appropriate for the syllabus. The curriculum ensures that activities involving the farm are age appropriate for each grade. The grade eleven syllabus includes a section on inorganic chemistry and nutrients, where after producing various soils types on the farm, the students then test for and observe their nitrates, phosphates and potassium ions and use this practical experimentation to enhance their understanding in the classroom.

Platform for Engagement

In addition to the invaluable experience they’re gaining on the farm, they’re sharing the benefits with the entire school community. The farm is providing a platform for engagement and debate around the crucial topics of food sustainability, nutrition, pesticides and gmo, the benefits of Bio-dynamic and Organic farming(such as on our school) versus commercial farming and the challenges encountered with different methods.

These students are exploring any and all ideas from the engineering of hydroponic agriculture to coming up with new ways of developing more sustainable means of planting food in the future with regard to shortage of land and resources. They have looked at urban rooftop farming practices as well as different types of vertical gardening systems in small areas. The students have also learnt that by using a mixed bed approach and companion planting methods, they are able to eliminate the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals on the Roseway farm.

Health Conscious Kids

We encourage our pupils to develop a consciousness about the health effects of what they eat – this too is supported by our healthy lunchbox recommendations and the produce from the school garden is used by the school tuck shop, which in turn, produces cooked, healthy, organic food daily like soups, curries, stews, quiches and wraps to name a few. Roseway Waldorf recognises the importance of good nutrition in relation to being able to learn and take in subject information better. With a healthy body it is more possible to develop a healthy mind, strong, ready and able to learn, retain and to fully take in what is being taught.

All of the practical lessons learnt on the farm prepare learners for many diverse tasks in life by contributing to the development of a well-balanced individual: guiding, nourishing, and educating the whole human being – hands, heart, and mind. The programme encourages youth to be concerned and aware of the environment while reaping the practical benefits of healthy food and a sense of achievement through the wholeness of the process.

Stay connected with school garden on https://www.facebook.com/RosewayWaldorf/

-By Carla-Jess McDonald

Why simple toys boosts imaginative play.

Why simple toys boosts imaginative play.

May people walking into a baby care, playgroup or Kindergarten classroom in a Waldorf school fall in love with the “old world” feel created by the wicker baskets filled with pebbles and other nature treasures, the simple cloth dolls, and play cloths. There is a reassuring charm these classroom spaces hold that remind us of calmer more carefree days, perhaps even of our own childhood. These classrooms strongly contrast the “modern” trend of bold primary colours, Astro-turf grass and the latest educational toy with all it’s bells and whistles. The contrast is so striking that a new parent meeting the Waldorf schools for the first time may well ask themselves “is this ‘old world’ approach to pre-school learning sufficient to meet the increasingly academic demands placed on young children by our conventional schooling systems?” Without a doubt the answer is “Yes!”

Waldorf education is based on a deep understanding of human development that has been tested, refined and confirmed for nearly 100 years. The toys and teaching methods used in early childhood classrooms speak to the manner in which young children learn. Simply put the toys found in our classrooms pass through two check points before being confirmed as as desirable for the developmental needs of our youngest pupils. The first is the toys connection to the natural world: is it made of nontoxic natural fibers? The second is a question regarding the type of play that it engenders: does the toy leave room for imagination? If these two questions can be answered positively it is likely that they would make healthy and desirable play-things for our foundation learning. Why do these two checks in particular form the basis for out selection of toys. In order to understand why these checks are used we need to consider what each of these toys offers the young child.

Natural firer toys

Unlike adults, a baby, toddler and young children do not rely solely on his/her sense of sight, nor does she/he make quick judgements about things based on a visual perception. The young children experience the world in a full and lasting sensory perception. Toys made from natural materials provide a connection to the natural world. This is a foundation of the education cycle and of rooting a child in the reality of life here on earth. The toys are made from wood, wool, silk, mohair and from collections of shells, sticks, flowers and more that the children themselves can gather. These natural materials nourish a connection to the natural world and a sense of belonging for the developing child. The collected treasures also reflect the changing seasons, helping the child mark the passage of time and connect with the yearly cycles. Certain seed pods may only appear each year as the weather become cooler and subtly reassure the child that the natural order of things still holds. This experience is surly one of value in a world where our experience of time can increasingly be one of rushed chaotic and fragmented moments ruled by the relentless pace of the modern world.

The Simplicity of the toy – does it leave room for imaginative play.

Conventional dress-up clothes give way to colourful play cloths, which can become the cape of a king, the peasant woman’s skirt, the wings of a dragon or the river running through a carefully created landscape. The childs play is not directed by the preconcieved notion of the cartoon character represented by the clothes but rather stimulated by the endles possiblities offered by the simple piece of fabric.

Dolls are designed to simply embody gesture that encourages nurture while learning and open a wealth of interpretive imagination. The strong and static face of a plastic baby doesn’t leave room for imagination. The simple face of a Waldorf doll allows the child’s own imaginative play to set the emotion of the baby. Further the soft dolls are pleasing to touch and comfortable to snuggle. In these ways, the dolls nourish the senses while allowing imaginative play. In many ways Waldorf teachers understand that when it comes to early educational toys less is more. Too much detail in a toy can override a toy’s usefulness to the imagination.  This can take some time for new Waldorf parents to fully appreciate. I for one years ago delighted in a play dough breakfast machine my daughter was given as a gift. She played with it for what seemed like hours at a time. I at first believed this play to be creative and tactile. She was after all making endless pancakes, using moulds to create piles of fruit and so on. It was about three months later that I visited another Waldorf mom and teacher for a play date between out two girls. When we arrived the girls ran off to a specially prepared table that had nothing more than two medium sized balls of play dough while us moms sat near by enjoying a cup of coffee. I could not help but notice the striking difference in the quality of play that came from the lonely balls of play dough as opposed to my previously praised breakfast machine. The girls were immersed in a self narrated story, as they spoke into being the next idea they would follow up by making the creature or appropriate landscape, how different this was to the repetitive and uninspired action that had transfixed my daughter when playing with the mechanical contraption I had once believed to be of educational value! Having had this first hand observation I was now more able to appreciate the foundation the Waldorf “old world” foundation actually laid for the critical out-of-the-box thinking and innovation I hoped to see develop in my child during their more formal years of academic schooling. She was responding to her developed, imaginative innovations and not simply repeating a set pattern of activity.

When choosing toys for your child the following questions may make a useful guide:

  • Is it aesthetically pleasing?

  • Does it offer a truthful and pleasing tactile experience?

  • Does it leave room for the imagination?

  • Will it inspire creative play?

  • Is it open-ended? (That is, is there more than one way to play with it?)

If you can answer yes to these questions, you will be providing your child with all the tools needed for years of healthy play!

–  Lauren McGuire

What Is Critical Thinking? Why Should We Develop It In Our Children?

What Is Critical Thinking? Why Should We Develop It In Our Children?

There are times when we as adults consider decisions or paths that we may think of as minor, yet our children see them as major life issues.

This is the birth of critical thinking – a vital part of a child’s development.

What exactly is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is defined as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” A tall order for a small child.

However, it creates wonderful opportunities for children and allows them to learn, explore, and solve problems.  When a child is given the opportunity to investigate a matter, it allows them to develop their abilities.

Our responsibility as parents and teachers.

As parents, we can help our children to build their critical thinking abilities.  Solving problems for them, instead of allowing them to develop creative ideas for themselves, puts them at a disadvantage.

We may find that our children need different windows of opportunity to find their own balance for critical thinking –with much of this dependent on their age and level of understanding.

For instance, a Grade 2 child may experience pressure to join her friends in teasing another child; will she give in to the peer pressure or decide not to follow their bad behaviour? A pre-schooler, on the other hand, may face challenges when he wants to build sand castles that continuously fall down.

The book “Mind in the Making” by author Ellen Galinsky, rates critical thinking as an essential life skill for children.

We as adults should not rush them to come to a decision. Rather let them draw conclusions and make decisions in their own time.  By doing this, we are helping them instead of holding them back, and allowing them to buture this life skill.

At Waldorf, we believe that helping a child to learn critical thinking is empowering them to cope with the challenges that they will face later in life.

We work hard to help children develop these essential skills.  Please contact us and find out how we can help your child.

The Power of Imagination in Learning

The Power of Imagination in Learning

We all want the best for our children. We want them to be happy, successful, respected and well-liked. We want them to stand out in an increasingly competitive world and to be the very best they can possibly be. We harbour secret ambitions for their futures, and, in our quest to provide as many advantages as possible, we are often guilty of over-parenting – enrolling them in an endless stream of sports and activities designed to give them that evasive “edge” over others.

Ironically, though, by depriving our children of adequate “downtime,” we are limiting their opportunities to develop their imaginations and creativity.

Imagination is crucial for the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Our children need to be encouraged from a very young age to play, and play hard. Make a mess, explore, splash in puddles, discover all the possibilities of paint and crayons and glue. Take time to wonder at ants marching in a straight line, or at the noise a cricket makes at night in the grass. Build forts out of blankets to create other worlds where they can be other things. Pretend. Dream.

It’s so important to give our children enough opportunities to indulge in this kind of play. Watching TV or spending hours on computer games only makes them passive participants in someone else’s stories. They need the space and time to create stories of their own.

As well as fostering our children’s cognitive development, imagination also builds their social and emotional skills by allowing them to consider different outcomes to situations they encounter. This is a great confidence booster and does wonders for their self-esteem. Enhanced communication skills, wider vocabularies and adaptive learning habits are also all results of encouraging imagination.

It’s not hard to see why Albert Einstein said that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

The passionate belief that imagination is at the very heart of learning stimulates and inspires the entire ethos of Waldorf teaching. If you’d like to know more, come and see us at the Roseway Waldorf School. We can’t wait to share our vision with you.

The Benefits Of Hands-On Learning

The Benefits Of Hands-On Learning

Have you ever doodled during a business meeting or dull presentation? Research is now showing us that this kind of activity is not a symptom of boredom or disinterest. It’s actually a representation of the “busy hands, busy brain” phenomenon, and people who doodle during meetings retain almost a third more information from those meetings than those who don’t.

Why?

Experts agree that engaging in a simple, hands-on task during a learning experience helps prevent restlessness and daydreaming, thus increasing the amount of information retained.

This is exactly the same principle applied during hands-on learning experiences in schools.

What Is Hands-On Learning?

Hands-on learning is any educational activity that involves the learner directly, by encouraging them to “learn by doing.” It’s often difficult to understand something you haven’t seen or experienced for yourself, so allowing students to directly see, touch, or feel – instead of just reading about something in a book – is a great way to not only encourage learning but also to promote independent and critical thinking.

“Kids learn through all their senses, and they like to touch and manipulate things,” says Dr Ben Mardell, a researcher at Harvard University. Author Judy Dodge agrees. “The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information,” she says. “If you’re only listening, you’re only activating one part of your brain, but if you’re drawing and explaining to a peer, then you’re making connections in the brain.”

Hands-on learning is particularly effective in encouraging an understanding of science. While it’s true that scientific information can definitely be retained and recalled when taught via lessons and books, a far deeper and functional understanding comes from studying the same concepts through hands-on learning.

These are just some of the benefits that have been observed in children immersed in hands-on learning:

  • Critical analysis and thinking is encouraged by having to interpret events that have been physically observed, rather than through memorising correct responses.
  • Learners realise that data can be interpreted in different ways, and this encourages them to question events and practice cause-and-effect thinking.
  • Learners rely more on practical experience in planning experiments and generating hypotheses, than on authority.

At Roseway Waldorf, we strongly believe in the principle of learning by doing, which is why our learning looks a little different to what you might be used to. If you’d like to see how effectively hands-on learning is working for our learners, please chat to us about coming for a visit. We’d love to meet you.

Why Should You Encourage Finger Counting?

Why Should You Encourage Finger Counting?

Many schools across the world veto finger counting.  You may wonder why Roseway Waldorf school would find it important to encourage it.

The short version is that finger counting has been found to be vital in mathematical achievements, and should not necessarily be associated with being mentally childlike, and not progressing to bigger and better ways of study.

Within our brains is a somatosensory area, which is a representation and stimulator of finger counting – even if the actual fingers are not being used for counting.  This portion of a child’s brain lights up when counting starts, and when more complex sums are attempted this area comes into play to assist with the output.

Our amazing brain is made up of various networks that distribute the inputs to the needed areas, and when a child is involved with counting and math, the visual portions of our brains are activated.

In fact, when a Grade 1 child is encouraged to count on their fingers their understanding of Grade 2 math is increased.

How children might find it easier to study

Looking at an average classroom, it’s not always easy to say which children will love maths and which won’t.

Schools have goals to meet and policies to adhere to.  Sadly you might find that it seems that they are rushing through worksheets and maths problems in the hopes of giving a child the needed understanding.  No teacher is able to understand straight away which children will flourish at maths.

It’s unfortunate that if a child does not “get it” straight away, there is a real danger that they will actually lose out on something that they could possibly be very good at.  At the primary school level, visual aids are used quite a lot to help with understanding in most subjects.

When it comes to the higher grades, there are often just too many children and a whole lot of work to get through.  Visual teaching, (finger counting, etc.) just does not have the time to present itself, yet this is where visual teaching would assist with maths concepts and help the brain to work as well as it can.

Visual maths could be the answer to most problems.

Different individuals will always have different ways to approach the study of maths.

Kinesthetic awareness is a movement sense; it is your nerve receptors tell the brain what’s happening in your surroundings.

While different methods work for different children, there is a logical and visual awareness that helps a child to understand now, and assists with study later. Visual awareness is very important when it comes to understanding maths, and finger counting is the visual awareness that helps a child to understand and develop different areas of their brain.

Finger counting discouraged at an early age.

Sadly not all educational institutes believe in the benefit of finger counting.  In fact, there is one, in particular, that encourages other classmates to report to a teacher if they see anyone counting on their fingers.  Many schools would rather not teach finger counting to children, or make sure that children don’t use it in their mathematics journey.

Research has proven that when finger counting is discouraged, math development can slow down and even come to a complete stop.  Think about a concert pianist; the brain-finger coordination is wonderful to watch, with amazing results. The same can be said for mathematicians. Our fingers can provide additional motivation that helps our children to learn and develop in a wonderful way.

Our approach to maths is different to that of more traditional schools. If you have any questions or would like more information, please get in touch. We’d love to chat to you.