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 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...

First Grade at Waldorf School at Moraine Farm

We’re not exactly Finland, but we do agree that first graders need a balanced day (see link, below). First grade at Waldorf School at Moraine Farms starts with half days for the first six weeks. Full days start after Columbus Day, but afternoons are filled with painting, gym, nature walks, and even free play. If this sounds what you’d like your child’s first grade to be like, please call Erin Milner, Admissions Director, at 978-927-1936. Link: First Grade in Finland: Every Day is a Half-Day – Taught by...

Let the Kids Learn Through Play (Op Ed by David Kohn, New York Times, May 16, 2015)

We keep reading articles that emphasize the importance of play in early childhood education.  This one stands out for being well supported and succinct.  Waldorf schools emphasize play in the early years and do not formally introduce reading until 1st grade. From the article – “Reading, in particular, can’t be rushed. It has been around for only about 6,000 years, so the ability to transform marks on paper into complex meaning is not pre-wired into the brain. It doesn’t develop “naturally,” as do other complex skills such as walking; it can be fostered, but not forced. Too often that’s what schools are trying to do now. This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t increase access to preschool, and improve early education for disadvantaged children. But the early education that kids get — whatever their socioeconomic background — should truly help their development. We must hope that those who make education policy will start paying attention to this science.” http://nyti.ms/1EOrycG...

Waldorf Community Association – Upcoming Events

From the WCA, Our School Parent Association The Waldorf Community Association (WCA) is looking forward to a full 2015.  Please take advantage of these offerings and please consider getting involved to help move the WCA into 2016 and beyond. Winter Festival Feb. 28  Yes, our first ever Winter Festival! A hot fire, warm soup, perhaps some cross-country skiing and/or a winter walk, and more. We’ll make snowmen if King Winter obliges. Please plan to join us for weekend fun here at school. Talk: Parent-Teacher Relationships at a Waldorf School Torin Finser is the chair of Waldorf teacher education program at Antioch University New England and is author of several books, including School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class, and his most recent book, A Second Classroom: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School, which was written with the help of our very own first grade teacher, Ana Reiselman. Please join us in March (date to be determined) for a presentation and discussion with Mr. Finser. Foundation Studies: Delving into Waldorf Education This is an invitation to participate in an extended inquiry into the ideas and practices of Waldorf Education. In this twice-monthly class, we will look at curriculum, try our hands at painting, music, movement, and other arts, and read some of the texts central to the Waldorf philosophy. September 2015 through June 2016 (with year II to follow). Please contact Colleen Ryan or James Kennedy today and look for more information in future Newsletters. Contact: cryan@waldorfmoraine.org and newsletter@waldorfmoraine.org. Lazure Workshop: Ensouling Your World With Color The WCA is working with artist Charles...

Winter Wonderland

Two feet of snow fell on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving the children not one, but two snow days! Here is how the campus looked on Wednesday night, all ready for a day of school on Thursday....