Inside and Outside Our Classrooms

A Curriculum Update Twice a year our teachers share a brief summary of what’s been happening inside their classrooms. As you read through these curriculum updates, you can sense how a Waldorf education actively engages the body, mind, and will, allowing the students to grow and unfold their inner capabilities. Nursery By Caroline Mercier We are now in the thick of our rain and mud season.  However, the children come well prepared, covered from head to toe in their waterproof gear. There are puddles to splash in; mud-cakes, muffins, and stews to make; holes to be dug; hills to climb; horses to care for; wagons to pull; and buckets of water and mud to be carted here, there, and everywhere! This week, we left buckets and wheelbarrows under the dripping roof to catch the rain drops in the morning, and it is was such fun to come back after lunch to see how full they got. Every morning, we share a sunflower seed and apple snack at our picnic table, and every day the chickadees gather up above, waiting for us to finish. When we are done and sometimes before we are done, these sweet little birds come and pick up the seeds that have dropped, while we quietly watch. But one day, something very special happened… After many patient days of trying, one little bird was brave enough to eat out of our hands. What a joyful surprise that was. Our nature walks are getting longer as the children grow and their stamina increases. One of our latest walks took us through the “magic forest” to the babbling...

An Example of How Handwork Supports Math Learning in Waldorf Schools

By Heather Collis-Puro, Handwork Teacher At Waldorf School at Moraine Farm, beautiful geometric drawings are often what come to mind when we think about math in sixth grade.   Many of us have purchased the notecards that Mr. Yoors’ (sixth grade) class sold at the Holiday Fair last year.  I have a hard time using them!  Working with accuracy and patience to create these incredible forms is just developing in the 12-year-old, and understanding symmetry gives a basis for grasping further mathematical concepts like algebraic equations that are taught later in middle school.  In handwork, the students work with symmetry and geometry starting with knitting in first grade, creating simple animals from knitted squares and rectangles.  In sixth grade the students make dolls, using the mathematical concepts of the Golden Ratio in order to create a symmetrical pattern for the body of the doll.  Creating a doll by hand takes accuracy and skill, and the students spend the year honing their ability to be precise.  Often the students will take a break from regular project work to take up some other craft around a holiday or vacation, and this year, the sixth graders created these star lanterns at the new year. These lanterns are made in the form of a dodecahedron. The dodecahedron form is one of five platonic solids, each solid assigned by Plato to represent the one of elements and the universe.  Plato’s theory was a bit premature, only a first step to understanding the chaotic world of earth, air, fire and water.   Although we are not learning about these shapes in order to further our understanding about science,...

Waldorf Alum Joins Staff of Cape Ann Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy Center

We are pleased to announce that Philip Kobus, a 2005 graduate of our former Cape Ann Waldorf School, has joined the team at Cape Ann Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy Center in Manchester, MA as their newest physical therapist. Congratulations, Philip! After graduating in 2009 from Manchester-Essex Regional High School, Philip earned his Bachelor’s degree in Health Science Studies and his Doctorate in Physical Therapy, both from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Working under Jodi Llacera-Klein, founder and owner of the orthopedic rehab practice since 1988, Philip plans to continue developing his abilities to use advanced manual techniques as part of his treatment plans. He is highly regarded for his passion for providing the highest quality care for his patients, partnering with them to encourage their determination and steadfast commitment to their course of treatment. Philip volunteered as an assistant boys’ basketball coach at our school during his high school years. He continued his interest in youth sports during college and graduate school as well, earning his certification as a referee from the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO). He also worked as a Graduate Assistant and supervisor in the Quinnipiac Intramural program, and volunteered as a skiing instructor for children with physical disabilities. He was honored with a “Behind the Scenes” award from the university for his work in the Athletic Department. Philip continues to appreciate his connection to our school, having recently participated in an Alumni Panel discussion along with other former students, including his sister, Marisa (class of 2003). He is excited about the opportunity to use his skills to serve the North Shore communities...

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm’s Science in Nature Program: Our Students as Scientists

“Science is not flat knowledge, formulae, names. It is curiosity, discovering things, and asking why. . . We must always begin by asking questions, not by giving answers . . . You can teach only by creating interest in what is around you, by creating an urge to know.” —Physicist Victor Weisskopf In Waldorf schools, science education begins with experiencing and observing phenomena. Children are natural scientists—constantly exploring, observing, asking questions, and experimenting to understand the world around them. Young children in a Waldorf school acquire the basis for later scientific thinking through rich, sensory experiences, a variety of physical activities, and opportunities to observe and explore the natural world. Teachers share stories—fairy tales, animal fables, and nature stories—that help develop children’s imaginative relationship to the kingdoms of nature. As they reach the older grades, children are beginning to develop a more objective relationship to the natural world. Students in main lesson blocks, such as botany, chemistry, and physics learn to carefully observe phenomena, and then engage in active thinking to discover order, patterns, and relationships; draw comparisons; refine observations; and experiment.   The science curriculum, like all aspects of Waldorf education, works with children’s developmental stages. For example, a third grader begins to feel him/herself growing up, gaining independence, and becoming part of the outer world. The third grade science curriculum—which includes farming, building, and measuring—gives students the opportunity to learn about three essential requirements for all of humankind: how we work with nature to provide ourselves with food, clothing, and shelter. These practical activities resonate with the children as they develop and solidify students’ scientific knowledge.   In...

Exploring math education at the 1st International Waldorf Math Conference

Last October was the first International Waldorf Math Conference at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, at which 38 countries were represented. Rebecca Rugo, seventh grade class teacher at Waldorf School at Moraine Farm, attended. Most of the participants were high school math specialists in Waldorf schools, but the issues and concerns discussed were relevant to math teachers all over the world. This first conference was a time to plant seeds for discussion and growth; time was spent listening to math teachers from around the world share their struggles and successes and beginning an ongoing dialogue regarding inspiring math teaching that meets the needs of our children today.  It is hoped that this meeting will be the inaugural conference for Waldorf math teachers. This conference came at a time in which many educators are struggling with teaching high-quality math to students, and many of us (inside and outside of Waldorf schools) are feeling the societal pressure for students to conform to what is dictated by standardized testing and expectations of students as they prepare for high school and beyond. The stakes are higher than ever before for the students to “get ahead” and “do well” – yet many of us are becoming acutely and painfully aware of the sad cost of this unhealthy level of pressure on students. In the math realm, it often seems that this pressure trumps the time and space required for creative math explorations. Most importantly, the conference participants noted that a main goal of Waldorf education is to work in concert with child development, bringing what is healthy and right for children at each developmental stage....

Why is Waldorf math education unique and powerful?

Waldorf education lays the foundation for each individual to experience the internalization of mathematical thinking.  Like all Waldorf curricula math lessons are carefully planned to meet the needs of the developing child. Math lessons are brought through many subjects and modalities, while mindfully educating and experiencing math through the hands, heart and head.  Waldorf math education involves movement, music, rhythm, art, form drawing, language, creativity, curiosity and wonder, creating a truly multi-sensory approach to mathematics. As a result, Waldorf students acquire a deep mathematical understanding that they carry throughout their lives. Below is a brief overview of how math progresses through the grades. Math Through the Grades The rhythm of the day, of nursery rhymes and poems, and the social considerations of how many friends need a place setting or a swing are all integral parts of the youngest child’s day in a Waldorf early childhood classroom. In first grade, students learn that numbers exist everywhere in the world, especially in nature. Through this holistic approach to learning math, the special significance of the number one is discovered (as in one universe, one human being) and students explore the numbers that are found within each being (each person has two eyes and two ears, four limbs, and so on). In this way, the mystery of numbers is introduced and is further explored through the grades. In first grade, the four math processes are taught simultaneously because they reinforce each other (multiplication is fast addition, division is fast subtraction) and while learning math facts we begin to develop a general number sense which is so important for subsequent work in...