Understanding Eurythmy in the Classroom

Understanding Eurythmy in the Classroom

The inclusion of the subject Eurythmy through all grades is an essential feature of Waldorf schools. Eurythmy is a highly refined movement art which nourishes the children’s sense of well-being and aids other learning areas by strengthening expressive capacities, improving balance, coordination, concentration, rhythm, and awareness of patterns. The group forms help foster healthy class dynamics while the speech and tone work heighten the children’s appreciation for the finer quality in literature and music.

Eurythmy is not dance. It is music or speech translated into movement and calls for a deep artistic feeling and understanding. The gestures in the eurythmist’s movement repertoire relate to the sounds and rhythms of speech, to the tones and rhythms of music and to “soul experiences”, such as joy and sorrow.

The gestures for the vowel and consonant sounds are not arbitrary but rather artistically reflect the way the larynx moves in shaping the current of breath so that one or another sound is produced. Movements of the arms and hands show the pitch, the intervals between the notes, and major and minor modes, and even individual chords and notes. The meandering of the melody and its stresses are usually expressed in the form being moved. The feet can emphasize staccato notes or other aspects of rhythm. Individual eurythmists will present the same piece in different ways, but each will aim to manifest the intrinsic elements of the music rather than his or her own feelings about or reaction to it.

In the early years the lessons follow an extensive set of exercises based on successively more complicated geometric figures and choreographed forms. Each exercise is chosen specifically to correlate with the developmental stage of learning the pupils are in and works in harmony with our wider curriculum. Rods or balls are sometimes used in exercises to develop precision in movement, and extend the pupils awareness. The rods are usually approximately the length of an arm; the balls are of a size to fit comfortably in one hand. Both are generally made of copper, a material receptive to warmth.

In later years, once the basic forms and gestures are well known, they can be composed into free artistic expressions and the subject develops into a performance Art.

During performances the element of colour is also emphasized both through the costuming, usually given characteristic colours for a piece or part and formed of long, loose fabrics that accentuate the movements rather than the bodily form, and through the lighting, which saturates the space and changes with the moods of the piece.

 

Homework – What it is and what it should be.

Homework – What it is and what it should be.

When addressing a conference of school doctors Rudolf Steiner described the homework at the first Waldorf School as ‘stingy’. In other words, a very light homework load was being set. He believed that a heavy homework load especially in Primary School classes caused distress to pupils and often resulted in symptoms like poor digestion. In Waldorf schools there is a clear recognition that school work is best managed within the context of the classroom where peers are part of the discovery and support process, along with the guidance and watchful eye of the teacher. It is possible to complete a task at home that has begun in class and requires nothing more than time to finish this well established and understood tasks from class time.

Homework should be done out of the pupil’s desire to bring more of what they have learnt and mastered to the fore. It is not supposed to be a list of additional practice that often presents more confusion, stress, demotivation and apathy in the learning process. Everyone knows that homework at its best should strengthen and motivate pupils. It should not become burdensome or present a teaching challenge for parents. That said, there is definitely a place for regular practice of tasks that needs to be properly mastered. A reasonable time (sometimes with parental supervision or support) may need to be set aside to build the skills needed to areas of initial weakness. However, homework in a Waldorf School should be part of the activities of the afternoon or evening. There should always be time for healthy play, exercise and relaxation.

If homework does not add to the joy of learning and work then it destroys the very essence of what is to be achieved in a holistic education. So, homework in a Waldorf School should always be kept to a minimum and should always be an opportunity for the pupils to extend, complete and beautifully present work with which they are fully engaged in understanding and interest.

 

 

Embracing Art in a Waldorf School

Embracing Art in a Waldorf School

Art at Waldorf schools is not just a subject, it forms part of the entire educational ethos. Founder Rudolph Steiner believed that we as humans have three aspects – intellectual, manual and artistic/creative, and that all three parts have to be advanced equally.

While most schools place an emphasis on reading, writing and maths, we take the view that it’s equally important for every child to paint, sculpt, draw, sing, knit, and dance.

Waldorf schools believe the ability to create something beautiful is not limited to a few “artistic” children but is something that everyone is capable of. Placing the “artist” on a pedestal beyond the reach of “average” students only serves to discourage all but the most talented children from tapping into their artistic sides.  So many of today’s environmental and social problems require innovative and creative solutions, and what better way to produce creative and independent thinkers than by encouraging them to express themselves artistically in their own individual way?

While the Waldorf Way encourages children to develop a keen sense of the aesthetic, it also ensures they understand that you shouldn’t separate art from life and that every child’s inherent artistic ability can permeate every subject taught.

When children recite a poem, for example, they don’t only learn to appreciate the beauty of language, they also, almost by default, learn to strengthen their memory. The delight experienced by a first grader when drawing straight lines that then turn into curves helps with their later understanding of embryonic metamorphosis. And the manual dexterity developed by learning crossstitch, or how to knit using three needles, may encourage more analytical and agile thinking when it comes to making sense of calculus.

It’s a proven fact that art engages many areas of the brain and can have far-reaching effects on children’s developing minds. The Burton Study looked at over 2 000 children and concluded that those who were engaged in their school’s arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, problem solving, risk taking, self-expression, self-concept and cooperation than those who weren’t.

Art is a vitally important part of children’s holistic development, which is why it’s such an important part of the curriculum at Waldorf schools. Our aim is to thoroughly engage the developing child as their capacity for thinking, creating and feeling unfolds.

If there’s anything more you’d like to know about the role of art in a Waldorf School, please get in touch. We’d love to chat.

Unfolding Creative Concepts in Art and Science

Unfolding Creative Concepts in Art and Science

STEAM education is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.  

It is based on the idea that there are significant areas of overlap between the practices of art and science. These areas represent an opportunity to show how creative thinking increases when it occurs across multiple disciplines. STEAM is the new catch phrase in pedagogical circles and has gained huge public popularity in recent years; however, the concept of holistic and integrated learning has been at the heart of Steiner-Waldorf Education for almost a century.

The Waldorf methodology is unique because other curriculums have traditionally worked towards a separation of disciplines (for example by limiting subject choices a scientific or a humanities package), whereas ours continues in its full breadth until the 12th year.

A Roseway Waldorf graduate will experience, as an addition to the foundation laid in KG and primary school, another 5 years of science, mathematics, drama, art, music, craft, technology and more before they enter into their final exam preparation year. These subjects are taught in a dynamic and integrated manner: art and science are never divorced.

For example, in the high school, our Class 8 pupils study the mathematical beauty of the Platonic solids. They discover geometric laws for themselves through drawing and folding each of the five platonic solids: tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. In Class 11, they will study projective geometry and work in a rigorous way again with art, geometry and algebra.

Similarly, in the Arts, mathematical concepts such as the golden ratio and symmetry in nature are explored. Through sculpture, human anatomy is given an artistic dimension which only deepens the learning that took place in the biology block. These few examples show how the STEAM concepts have always been a part of our methodology.

To many, art and science seem to be at odds – especially when it comes to creativity. Popular thinking sees art as being driven by emotions and inspiration, science by facts and information. The stereotypical artist is depicted as an extravagant individual while the scientist is jokingly referred as a socially inept “nerd”.

In fact, there are more similarities than differences in the gestures of the scientist and the artist. Both are passionate about meaningful questions – “How do I establish truth?”, “Why does it matter?” “How to make a difference?”

Arthur I. Miller, scientist and writer at University College London, says:

“Highly creative artists are driven by science. Art can also enable us to understand science better. Art is good for science. Both use aesthetics and beauty to enable us to better understand an external reality that is beyond our sense of perception.”

John Madea, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, also supports this point of view.

“We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry […], and for learning to occur by a continuous feedback loop between thinking and doing. Artists and scientists approach problems with a similar open-mindedness and inquisitiveness – neither fear the unknown, preferring leaps to incremental steps. They make natural partners. With such complementary thinking, there is great potential when they collaborate from the offset, resulting in unexpected outcomes that can be exponentially more valuable than when they work apart.”

This has huge implications for educators, and there are already extensive studies underway which are re-examining the way in which these subjects are taught in conventional schools.

For example, a recent study in America looked at 5th to 7th Grade girls’ conception of creativity, what implications this has for STEAM education and so concluded that STEAM education has the potential to increase our understanding of the many creative practices and dispositions that art and science have in common.

In this light, it is not surprising that many Waldorf graduates find themselves finishing high school with many possible life paths which could easily integrate the arts and traditional academies, in fact very often including a unique synthesis of the two.

If you’d like to understand more about Waldorf teaching methods, please contact us.

Understanding Waldorf – Why Choose A Steiner School?

Understanding Waldorf – Why Choose A Steiner School?

When you look at your child, you see the whole person. The child they are now, and the potential of the adult they will become. You also realise that there are significant emotional, social and cognitive milestones they will experience along that journey.  This is the same way that Waldorf schools – also known as a Steiner school – looks at your child. We take a holistic view of education, appreciating that children have hands and hearts, as well as heads. Bringing all these elements into balance and harmony and introducing content and experiences at strategic moments that meet the child’s changing educational needs, is a core philosophy of all Waldorf schools.

One of the fundamental differences between Waldorf schools and mainstream schools is that before the age of seven Waldorf schools teach children through play, and teaching methods which focus on how to think, not what to think. We know that focusing on abstract academics at this stage of development has a negative impact on future learning. Children often become stressed, anxious and rigid in their thinking when formal learning happens at too young an age. We place emphasis on the development of critical life skills – being able to look after yourself, avoid violence and care for others. This emphasis on life skills builds the foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic.

In many traditional mainstream schools, subjects are taught for the sake of gaining content knowledge, whereas in a Waldorf school subjects are experienced so that content knowledge is used for growth and development. At Roseway Waldorf, we know that primary school children connect more effectively with their school subjects through feelings as a part to the intellect.  This stage of development is the optimal time for nurturing imagination. Steiner stated, “this vital picture-making capacity…gives life and insight to logical and conceptual thinking.” This is why we bring some form of artistic activity into every subject and every lesson. In the lessons, there is a balance between listening, speaking, and doing …between humour and seriousness, taking in, transforming, and giving out.

When young children learn in an environment that nurtures and recognises all their senses, they go on to become emotionally secure adolescents who are more than ready to successfully navigate life’s challenges with confidence, courage and enthusiasm.

Our high school curriculum is broad, rigorous and inspiring! We do not encourage premature subject specialisation. Roseway Waldorf pupils have the privilege of five years of science, five years of mathematics, five years of biology, history, geography, literature, language studies, art, music, craft, farming and so on. The various aspects of the curriculum provide a real challenge to the individual pupil, who has to display a larger measure of independence and originality of thinking than is normally the case at secondary school level. At the end of this process our pupils are equipped not only to successfully manage Matric and enter into their chosen course of tertiary studies, but most importantly they are ready to tackle life with courage. They face new challenges undaunted, armed with the certainty that they are prepared for what the future sends their way, ready to grasp new opportunities the moment they recognise them.

The twelve-year journey through of our curriculum is designed to awaken children’s imaginations, encouraging them to communicate effectively, think critically, and develop rich perspectives about the world in which they live. We use an integrative and innovative approach to learning, encouraging our children to become life-long learners with the necessary initiative resilience and creativity to make a positive impact on their future.

We believe that once you’ve had the chance to look around our beautiful school, your question won’t be “Why choose a Steiner School?” but rather, “Why not?”

How Is Waldorf Education Different From Unschooling?

How Is Waldorf Education Different From Unschooling?

Waldorf Education is indeed an alternative form of education. It has often been mistaken by some as a form of unschooling.

Being alternative does not mean that Waldorf is a version of unschooling. There are points where the two education approaches meet. Both, for example, respect the fact that education should be focused not on content but on meeting the child where they are. Both systems also believe strongly in learning through life – being outside, playing and learning through practical activities. Both agree that no education should start in the abstract. That does not mean that theory cannot be extracted from the practical.

One of the main differences, however, is that with Waldorf education, it is the teacher who discerns with the guidance of a well worked out curriculum, when to introduce the subject matter to be learned. The timing introducing particular subject matter is based on when it coincides with the development of the child as a human being. Class 3, for example, sees the introduction of stories from the Old Testament that show how the Jewish people handled authority because nine-year-olds are often grappling with similar issues in their own development. While in Class 12, the eighteen-year-olds are introduced to philosophy because they are developmentally ready for complex, objective and existential thoughts.

Boundaries are another huge area of difference between unschooling and Waldorf education. With unschooling, there are often very few, or no boundaries, and children are encouraged, for example, to go to bed when they feel like it, and eat what they want for breakfast (even if it’s chocolate). With Waldorf education, we believe that because children are still learning, it’s not fair or helpful to ask them to take part in a democracy when it comes to what they will learn or play with what they will. They may well be attracted to things that could have a negative impact on their well-being, and it is the job of the Waldorf teacher (and parents) to set age-appropriate boundaries that contribute to the healthy development of the child. The impact of healthy sleep patterns and nutrition on the children’s learning ability is emphasised. Our approach is to help the child gradually develop and foster their own sense of duty, responsibility and initiative. In the early years, boundaries are largely imparted by the daily rhythm and routine of well-planned activities that balance and alternate free play with more focused activities. The security and predictability of this create a learning environment where the teacher seldom needs to impose a limitation on the children because they are held by the structure of the day. Adults working with this age must be mindful that their every action, word or mood is imprinted on the young child and that they therefore need to be a worthy model of intimation. As the children mature in primary school they look to their teachers to hold the class with loving authority and later in adolescence they relish the possibility of exercising greater personal initiative within the secure boundaries of the curriculum.

Unschooling is also known as “experienced-based learning,” “independent learning” and “natural learning.” It is a more “radical” form of homeschooling in that it doesn’t use a fixed curriculum, emphasising instead the opportunities to learn from the world around us. This more organic, self-directed learning is similar to the way in which we learn as pre-schoolers, and as adults in the world of work – if we want to know something, we research and find out the answers. If we don’t want to know something, we don’t have to.

The philosophy behind this approach is that unschooling creates an enthusiasm for learning because children are only learning about things that genuinely interest them and which they find intrinsically fascinating. This is something that doesn’t always happen with subjects in a more formal curriculum. In a Waldorf School, a formal curriculum is used as a vehicle to open genuine interest in learning and areas of personal research.

In unschooling, the parent is the teacher – not in the traditional, formal sense, but instead in the way that parents naturally teach their children about things. Together, they pursue questions and interests as and when they arise, only using more “conventional” teaching methods if the subject at hand requires it.

As an educational philosophy Waldorf schools offer their pupils a vast scope for personal expression and academic extension. In this way, pupils are encouraged to develop broad interests through being exposed to diverse subjects throughout the curriculum. While all the children are presented with maths, science, art, music and craft etc. The teachers endeavour to find a connection point for the various personalities in class, drawing each child into a relationship with the subject matter and thereby fostering holistic a holistic education that is not limited to one’s natural interests or inclinations. Waldorf teachers undergo extensive training in child development and continue this training throughout their careers.

The staff at Roseway Waldorf School would welcome the chance to unpack this subject in more detail with you and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to arrange a meeting.