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Learning That Grows with the


Learner: An Introduction to
Waldorf Education
Ruldolf Steiner founded a school to educate the whole cal intelligence the teacher wants to
childhead, heart, and hands. encourage.

Middle Childhood
HENRY BARNES When children are ready to leave
kindergarten and enter 1st grade, they

W
hen children relate what they and affect the body for a lifetime. are eager to explore the whole world of
leam to their own experi Those concerned with the young experience for the second time. Before,
ence, they are interested and child parents, caregivers, nursery and they identified with it and imitated it;
alive, and what they leam becomes their kindergarten teachers have a responsi now, at a more conscious level, they are
own. Waldorf schools are designed to bility to create an environment that is ready to know it again, by means of the
foster this kind of learning. worthy of the child's unquestioning imi imagination that extraordinary power
There are more than 500 Waldorf tation. The environment should offer of human cognition that allows us to
schools in 32 countries. No two are the child plenty of opportunity for mean "see" a picture, "hear" a story, and
identical; each is administratively inde ingful imitation and for creative play. "divine" meanings within appearances.
pendent. Nevertheless, a visitor would This supports the child in the central During the elementary school years,
recognize many characteristics common activity of these early years: the devel the educator's task is to transform all
to them all. opment of the physical organism. Draw that the child needs to know about the
Waldorf education has its roots in the ing the child's energies away from this world into the language of the imagina
spiritual-scientific research of the Aus fundamental task to meet premature tion a language that is as accurate and
trian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner intellectual demands robs the child of as responsible to reality as intellectual
(1861-1925). According to Steiner's the health and vitality he or she will analysis is in the adult. The wealth of
philosophy, man is a threefold being of need for later life. In the end, it weakens an earlier, less intellectual age folk
spirit, soul, and body whose capacities the very powers of judgment and practi tales, legends, and mythologies, which
unfold in three developmental stages on
the path to adulthood: early childhood,
middle childhood, and adolescence. About the Waldorf Sdwob
The Waldorf schools began in and Canada, and 17 in Australia. Each
Early Childhood 1919, when Enril Mob, owner of the school is administratively indepen
Infants and young children are entirely Waldorf-Actoria cigarette factory in dent.
given over to their physical surround
Stuttgart, Germany, asked Rudolf Thirty-three full-time teacher train
Sterner to establish a Khool for the ing institutes operate in seventeen
ings; they absorb the world primarily
children of hu workers. Steiner countries; five are in North America.
through their senses and respond in the The Association of Waldorf Schools
most active mode of knowing: imita school be a unified 12-year school of North America (AWSNA) span-
tion. Imitation is the power to identify open to all children, independent of son an annual conference and
oneself with one's immediate environ political and economic control, with regional conferences. The association
ment through one's active will. Every educational responsibility in the bands also sponsors coufcrmtcs and work
thing anger, love, joy, hate, of the teaching faculty. shops for schools, parents, and the
intelligence, stupidity speaks to the Today, 532 schools in 32 countries public. Twice a year, an informal
infant through the tone of voice, the woikwim the Waldorf principles and iiitfinafifltial circle rnccls in Stuttgart
physical touch, bodily gesture, light, method*. There are 134 schools in and the Hague.
darkness, color, harmony, and dishar Germany, 2S9 in other European
mony. These influences are absorbed by countries, 120 in the United States
the still-malleable physical organism

52 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
speak truth in parables and pictures rupted lesson. One subject is the focus right through elementary school. With
becomes the teacher's inexhaustible the class deals with it in-depth each rare exceptions these teachers lead the
treasure house. When seen through the morning for several weeks at a time. main lesson at the beginning of each
lens of the imagination, nature, the This long main lesson which may well day. Other teachers handle special Sub
world of numbers, mathematics, geo run for two hours allows the teacher to jects, but the class teachers provide the
metrical form, and the practical work of develop a wide variety of activities continuity so often lacking in our dis
the world are food and drink to the soul around the subject at hand. In the jointed world today. The class teacher
of the child. The four arithmetical oper younger grades lively rhythmic activities and the children get to know each other
ations can, for instance, be introduced get the circulation going and bring chil very well and it is this teacher who
as characters in a drama to be acted out dren together as a group; they recite becomes the school's closest link with
with temperamental gusto by 1st the parents of that class. When prob
graders. Whatever speaks to the imagi lems arise, the strong child/teacher/par-
nation and is truly felt stirs and activates ent bond helps all involved work things
the feelings and is remembered and through instead of handing the problem
on to someone else.
learned.
The elementary years are the time for During the elementary This experience of class community
educating the "feeling intelligence." It is
only after the physiological changes at
school years, the is both challenging and deeply reward
ing to teachers. Having to prepare new
puberty, which mark the virtual comple educator's task is subject matter as their students get older
from year to year is a guarantee against
tion of the second great developmental
phase, that imaginative learning under to transform all that going stale. Children begin to see that a
goes a metamorphosis to emerge as the
rational, abstract power of the intellect
the child needs to know human being can strive for a unity of
knowledge and experience.
about the world into When children reach high school
< age, the pupil-teacher relationship
Adolescence the language changes: specialist teachers replace the
Throughout the glorious turbulence of of the imagination. class teacher.
adolescence, the personality celebrates
its independence and seeks to explore The Ascending Spiral of Knowledge
the world once again in a new way. The curriculum at a Waldorf school can
Within, the young person the human be seen as an ascending spiral: the long
being to whom the years of education poems connected with the main lesson, lessons that begin each day; the concen
have been directed is quietly maturing. practice tongue twisters to limber up trated blocks of study that focus on one
Eventually, the individual will emerge. speech, and work with concentration subject for several weeks. Physics, for
In Steiner's view, this essential being exercises using body movements. example, is introduced in the 6th grade
is neither the product of inheritance nor After the day's lesson, which includes and continued each year as a main les
of the environment; it is a manifestation review of earlier learning, students son block until graduation.
of the spirit. The ground on which it record what they learned in their note As the students mature, they engage
walks and into whiclvit sinks its roots is books. Following recess, teachers pre themselves at new levels of experience
the intelligence that has ripened out of sent shorter "run-through" lessons with a with each subject. It is as though, each
the matrix of will and feeling into clear, strongly recitational character. Foreign year, they come to a window on the
experienced thought. In traditional wis languages are customarily taught from ascending spiral that looks out into the
dom, it is this being who "comes of 1 st grade on, and these lend themselves world through the lens of a particular
age" around age 21 and is then ready to well to these later morning periods. subject Through the main-lesson spiral
take up the real task of education self- Afternoons are devoted to lessons in curriculum, teachers lay the ground for
education which distinguishes the which the whole child is active eury- a gradual vertical integration that deep
adult from the adolescent. thmy artistically guided movement to ens and widens each subject experience
music and speech handwork, art, or and, at the same time, keeps it moving
gym, for example. Thus the day has a with the other aspects of knowledge.
In the Classroom rhythm that helps overcome fatigue and All students participate in all basic
How is this developmental theory enhances balanced learning. subjects regardless of their special apti- ~
reflected in Waldorf classrooms? The Class teachers continue with a class tudes. The purpose of studyingj^subject /
school day begins with a long, uninter from one year to the next ideally. is not to makeXstudent into a grofes-

OCTOBER 1991 $3
sional mathematician, historian, or biol individual. ensure that education does not produce
ogist, but to awaken and educate capaci If the ascending spiral of the curricu one-sided individuals, crippled in emo
ties that every human being needs. lum offers a "vertical integration" from tional health and volition, these less-
Naturally, one student is more gifted in year to year, an equally important "hori conscious aspects of our human nature
math and another in science or history, zontal integration" enables students to must constantly be exercised, nourished,
but the mathematician needs the human engage the full range of their faculties at and guided. Here the arts and practical
ities, and the historian needs math and every stage of development. The arts skills make their essential contribution,
science. The choice of a vocation is left and practical skills play an essential pan educating not only heart and hand but,
to the free decision of the adult, but in the educational process throughout in very real ways, the brain as well.
one's early education should give one a the grades. They are not considered The 6th grader who, as part of the
palette of experience from which to luxuries, but fundamental to human class study of Roman history, has acted
choose the particular colors that one's growth and development. Cassius or Calpumia, or even Caesar
interests, capacities, and life circum himself, has not only absorbed Shake
stances allow. In a Waldorf high school, speare's immortal language but has
older students pursue special projects The Arts and Practical Skills learned courage, presence of mind, and
and elective subjects and activities, but, Waldorf teachers believe that the human what it means to work as a member of a
nevertheless, the goal remains: each being is not just a brain, but a being team for a goal greater than the sum of
subject studied should contribute to the with heart and limbs a being of will its parts. The 9th grader who has
development of a well-balanced and feeling, as well as of intellect. To learned to handle red-hot iron at the
forge, or the senior who caps years of
modeling exercises by sculpting a full
human figure have, in addition to a spe
cific skill, gained self-discipline and the
knowledge of artistic form.
Students who have worked through
out their education with color and form;
with tone, drama, and speech; with
eurythmy as an art of bodily movement;
Curriculum Integration: A Mini-Conference with clay, wood, fiber, metal, charcoal
December 9-11,1991 and ink, (and, ideally, with soil and
Washington, D.C. plant in a school gardening program),
have not only worked creatively to acti
vate, clarify, and strengthen their emo
Are you concerned about curriculum fragmentation and tions, but have carried thought and
pressures to "cover content"? Then attend this ASCD feeling down into the practical exercise
mini-conference and examine powerful models for of the will.
curriculum integration. You will also have the option of When the Waldorf curriculum is car
attending a six-hour hands-on session in which you will ried through successfully, the whole
create actual lesson plans for integrated thematic human being head, heart, and hands
instruction. has truly been educated. D

Presenters: Fee: Author's note: For more information


Frank Betts, Jack Bowsher, Member $295, about Waldorf Schools, write Association
Vicki Hancock, Heidi Jacobs, Nonmember $325 of Waldorf Schools of North America,
Bena Kallick, Susan Kovalik, Materials Fee: 3911 Bannister Road, Fair Oaks, CA
Rick Lear, Ann Rosa, Please add $60 to 95628.
and Pat Wasley your registration fee.

Register by calling ASCD or see page 15 of the 1991-92 Professional Henry Barnes is Chairman, Board of
Dev&ofnnent Annual Catalog for more information. Trustees, Association of Waldorf Schools
frvT of North America and President, Rudolf
Steiner Educational and Farming Associa
tion, Inc., RD2, Ghent, NY 12075.

EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
Copyright 1991 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. All rights reserved.