A wonderful description of class meetings from Spring Garden Waldorf School:
This type of community building makes a Waldorf community and classroom like no other in education today. Ideally, the children, teacher and parents will be together through elementary school for eight years. Throughout those years, there will be many celebrations and some challenges, but regular class meetings help parents come together and remember the common cause that brought them into each others’ lives — the education, care and love of the children.
Having class meetings several times per year is also pragmatic. While teacher/parent conferences focus on one child and his/her social and academic progress, class meetings can deal with class learning goals and social dynamics. Understanding what the children are learning when and why, can help parents relate to a child who often reports that a day was, “fine.” And knowing the ins and outs of academics helps parents assist children in their homework tasks or in areas that need attention.
Class meetings also give parents ample opportunities to ask questions of the teacher and also to share their experiences with other families. Often parents find that their peers have the same questions, struggles and successes with their own children. It is so good to know your experiences are not yours alone!
And finally, coming together builds the parent community as families get to know one another over the years, not just through their children, but by relating to one another at these meetings and through volunteer opportunities and social engagements.
National Coverage of Waldorf Education on CNN
Recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN did a segment on The Waldorf Way. For those who watch it, please note that the guest expert does not represent Waldorf education. A touch screen does not meet the definition of “engaging all the senses” but she does agree with how movement facilitates learning.
Enrollment up in no-test, no-tech school:
Waldorf education has long advocated for introducing ideas, concepts, and tools with great care and consideration in relation to a child’s natural development. Dr. Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and Co-Director of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, wrote the article “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery” which addresses Waldorf’s stance on media and screen time. The excerpt below is taken from that article. Read the whole article here.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery | By DOUGLAS GERWIN, PhD
Herein lies the key: give a child a tool early on in life, and it will supplant the very skill it was intended to supplement. In other words, tools become prosthetics, or crutches, if introduced too soon. Their use also tends to become addictive.
The same case can be made about any piece of technology, to the degree that it enhances a human skill or way of doing something. Electronic media are no exception. The fundamental questions remain the same:
- Which human skill are these electronic “tools” designed to assist or even mimic?
- At which age will children have developed these skills sufficiently so that these “tools” can serve rather than subvert them?
Let’s take television, perhaps one of the more controversial examples. Television mimics the human ability to create pictures. According to Rudolf Steiner, children learn to think by inwardly creating mental pictures and mental images. If pictures are outwardly supplied ready made, they rob the child of the opportunity to build the “imaginative muscle” needed to become independent thinkers. Since the ability to think unfolds gradually, the age at which children can benefit from television, rather than become slaves to it, will vary. A general guideline, though, will be: the later, the better, recognizing that we cannot shut off our children from all exposure to these kinds of tool.
Indeed, Rudolf Steiner cautions against banning tools of technology outright. In a lecture given shortly after the outbreak of World War I [“Technology and Art”, Dornach 28 December 1914], he declared: “It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves . . . by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice.” [emphasis added]
Instead, Steiner goes on to say, the more we expose ourselves to technology (rather than flee from it), the more we need to strengthen in ourselves––for instance, through the arts–– precisely those human capacities that technology mimics or supplements.
In our present time, attention is turning to the appropriate use of computers in schools. Paradoxically, we read about kindergarten teachers who are encouraging the use of computers and tweeting in pre-school while some university professors are banning them outright from their lectures and seminars. In this hotly contested field of enquiry, the same questions suggested above can be posed:
- Which human skills does the computer mimic or supplement?
- At which age will children have developed these skills sufficiently so that the computer can assist rather than hijack them?
More Than Honey – A Documentary on Bees
In the last few years, Tucson Waldorf School has established a great relationship with The Loft Cinema. We feel deeply fortunate to have the unique opportunity of collaborating with this Tucson gem: a local, independent, art house cinema that is a non-profit organization supported entirely by the community.
We accepted the offer to co-present this film because it portrays a very important and timely topic. More Than Honey is one of many films that have recently illuminated a variety of perspectives on Colony Collapse Disorder. In 1923, Rudolf Steiner – Founder of Waldorf Education – predicted Colony Collapse Disorder and in the 20′s, published a series of lectures in a book called Bees. Research continues to be conducted worldwide in efforts to pinpoint the factors causing the widespread destruction of bee colonies. Studies reveal again and again that a high prevalence of multiple pathogens in Colony Collapse Disorder bees suggests that a compromised immune response is at play.
But why? The film, More Than Honey, makes the statement that there is no one cause but that a complex set of factors are to blame. Among them are pesticide use, Africanization of the honey bee, and modern industrial beekeeping practices.
Steiner offered this in one of his lectures on bees:
“Observing things in this way, one is able to say — in the whole inter-relationship of the bee-colony — of this organism — Nature reveals something very wonderful to us. The bees are subject to forces of Nature which are truly wonderful and of great significance. One cannot but feel shy of fumbling among these forces of Nature. It is becoming increasingly obvious today that wherever man clumsily interferes with these forces he makes matters not better, but worse. He does not make them worse all at once, for it is really so that Nature is everywhere hindered, though notwithstanding these hindrances Nature works as best she may. Certain of these hindrances man can remove, and by doing away with them can make things easier for Nature. For example, he seems actually to be helping Nature when he makes use of bee-hives which are conveniently arranged, instead of using the old straw skeps.
But here we come to the whole question of artificial bee-keeping. You must not think that I am unable to see — even from a non-anthroposophical point of view — that modern bee-keeping methods seem at first very attractive, for certainly, it makes many things much easier. But the strong holding together — I should like to say — of one bee-generation, of one bee-family, will be impaired in the long run.
Speaking generally today, one cannot but praise modern bee-keeping; so long as we see all such precautions observed of which Herr Müller has told us, we must admire them in a certain sense. But we must wait and see how things will be in fifty to eighty years time, for by then certain forces which have hitherto been organic in the hive will be mechanised, will become mechanical. It is not possible to bring about that intimate relationship between the colony and a Queen that has been bought, which results naturally when a Queen comes into being in the natural way. Only, at first these things are not observed.
Of course, I by no means wish that a fanatical campaign in opposition to modern bee-keeping should be started, for one cannot do such things in practical life. To do so would be rather like something I will now tell you. It is possible to calculate approximately the time when there will be no more coal in the earth. The coal supply of the earth is exhaustible; one day it will come to an end. Now it would be quite possible to limit the amount of coal taken out of the earth, so that the supply would last as long as the earth itself. One cannot say that we ought to do so, for we should have a little faith for the future. One says “Well, of course we rob the earth of its coal, that is we rob our descendants of coal, but they will be able to invent something else so that they will not need coal any longer.” Naturally, one can say the same about the disadvantages of modern bee-keeping!
Still, it is well to be aware of the fact that by working mechanically we destroy what Nature has elaborated in so wonderful a way. You see bee-keeping has at all times been highly valued; in olden times especially, the bee was held to be a sacred animal. Why? It was so considered because in their whole activity, processes reveal themselves which also take place in man himself. If you take a piece of bees-wax in your hand you are in reality holding something between blood, muscle and bone, which in man’s inner organisation passes through the stage of being wax. The wax does not however become solid, but remains fluidic till it is transformed into blood, or muscles, or into the cells of the bones. In the wax we have before us what we bear within us as forces, not as substance.” – Rudolf Steiner