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Eugene Waldorf School

Gleanings: Our School Blog

Why Waldorf Works: From a Neuroscientific Perspective

This engaging article is about the neuroscience we now know support Rudolf Steiner’s educational methods we see in Waldorf schools around the word. The author, Dr. Regalena Melrose, highlights three fundamental foci of Waldorf education: holism, play, and nature. These foundational elements of Waldorf education create what she calls “the optimum zone of arousal”, where children learn best, over long stretches of time and maintain of love of learning. This love of learning prioritizes long term academic, emotional and social benefits over immediate academic results. She sites powerful findings on the benefits of play and nature immersion. Read the full article here.

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The Educator as Artist

” Art teachers get to have fun. They teach through play, spread joy, and get their students’ creative juices flowing. While we may acknowledge, theoretically, that joy, creativity, and learning are related, the daily reality of teaching appears to leave less room for artistic values and persuasions.” Read the full article here.

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A Circle for Giving and Receiving Saves our Playground

By Megan Bassett, Funds Development Coordinator, Eugene Waldorf School

I had the pleasure of representing Eugene Waldorf School in the very first Pacific Northwest Shared Gifting Circle hosted by RSF Social Finance. A pool of $50,000 was to be divided among eight anthroposophical organizations located in the Pacific Northwest. Each group wrote a proposal and sent a representative to the one-day gifting circle event, held in Portland on February 6, at McMenamin’s Kennedy School. The other groups included four Waldorf schools, two Waldorf inspired charter or cooperative schools, Portland Eurythmy and Branch Road Farm, Andhi Reyna’s Biodynamic farm near Cottage Grove.

The EWS proposal was a request for funds to repair our first grade playground which had been damaged by the falling of our beloved branching oak tree in December, 2016. Here is how the process works:

1) Selected participants are asked to review one another’s proposals in advance of the meeting;

2) At the meeting the participants share personal stories and organizational biographies;

3) There is an open session to discuss each other’s proposals;

4) Each participant then determines how much to grant to the other participating organizations.

The Shared Gifting Process is designed to be both economically simple and socially constructive. In an innovative and unusual twist on traditional grant making, participants are both grant recipients from and grantors to each other. Competition becomes collaboration as participants build community among themselves.

After a day of conversation designed to deepen our connection to the work of each organization, it was clear that in spite of a wide range of challenges unique to each organization, we had in common a sincere dedication to education, children and our collective human future. I wished I could give every one of the participating organizations all the money they were requesting. When it was time to allocate the funds, the total $50,000 was divided as follows. Each representative was asked to keep $1,250 for our own organization to ensure the day had been worth our time. The remaining amount was apportioned among each representative to distribute. We each took 15 minutes to meditate on how we would divide that $5,000 among the seven other deserving programs. One by one, I read aloud to each representative the amount of money, I, on behalf of Eugene Waldorf School, would grant them and why. One of the facilitators from RSF tallied the results for each organization. In the end, Eugene Waldorf School was granted $6,393.21 toward the repair of our dear playground.

After the allocation of funds, we continued our conversation about resources and a natural sharing of ideas flowed with the intention of supporting the specific challenges each group faced.

The experience was humbling and clarifying. I left the circle with new friends, some practical ideas and an expanded sense of the perspective of potential donors. The greatest impact on me, however, has been an… Read more »

Experiential Education – Why Students Should Learn by Doing

Experiential learning is an active approach to a subject’s lesson; “active” meaning an approach to material which uses different senses, tactics, and manipulatives to stimulate multiple forms of intelligence, as defined by Harvard researcher and professor Howard Gardner. At its heart, experiential learning is a very natural and intuitive way to learn vs. the passive, lecture-and-note style of learning most children experience. Simply look at how lifelong learning happens everyday for those not in a classroom. They learn in workplaces and at home by doing; and the learning is always directed towards something.

…experiential learning goes beyond an active methodology. Experiential learning is about cultivating a keen awareness of the lesson’s meaning and relevance to the individual… it is about bringing lessons from the abstract to the concrete.

Read the full article from waldorfeducation.org here.

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Teach Children to Seek Significance Over Success

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”

– David Orr

Read this full Essentials in Education blog post here.

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In Praise of Kindergarten

“The heart of the Waldorf method is that education is an art – it must speak to the child’s experience. To educate the whole child, his heart and his will must be reached, as well as the mind.”

– Rudolf Steiner

Speaking to a child’s experience and level of development is the key to reaching students, and teaching well, in all grades. But nowhere is this more essential than in kindergarten. Children ages four to six experience their world with their will. They are the center of every action and activity, and they move through their day by the force of their self-centered, self-driven curiosity. Keep reading here.

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First Grade Readiness

At the Eugene Waldorf School, like all Waldorf schools around the world, we understand that first grade readiness encompasses so much more than a birth date. The Waldorf School of Philadelphia recently wrote an article identifying both the specifics and the essential aspects of the learning that happens in a child’s first seven years, as well as the limitations of restricting first-grade readiness to academic factors alone.

This can be counterintuitive to those considerations used in mainstream education, which often fast tracks gifted children to prevent boredom. In looking at this reasoning, the Philadelphia Waldorf School reflects, “It is not the grade level of academic instruction that bores bright children, but the way in which, and at what depth, any level of academics are taught.”

One of the noteworthy aspects of Waldorf education is that we look at each child as an individual. Here at EWS, we do use Memorial Day as a birthday guideline to determine whether a child will go on to first grade. However, the process itself has built-in flexibility that allows us to consider each individual in their physical, social and cognitive development.

To read the full article and learn more about the essential learning that does happen before first grade, click here.

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Deepening our Roots and the Social Mission of Waldorf Education

The following is an excerpt From Deepening our Roots and the Social Mission of Waldorf Education, written by Marti Stewart, Administrative Director at the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Rudolf Steiner shared a verse that has been entitled the Motto of Social Ethics and reads this way: The Healing Social Life is found—When, in the mirror of each human soul —The whole community finds its reflection—And when, in the community— The virtue of each one is living.

The social mission of Waldorf education is related to this verse. One aspect of the social mission is to support our students in becoming human beings who take real interest in the world and in other people and who understand, in a fundamental way, the relationship and interconnectedness of all of humanity in a time in which there is a rise of isolation, divisiveness and polarities. Another aspect of the social mission is to assist our students in developing the capacities of objective judgement and discernment; to discern what is real and truthful in an age where we are confronted by a multiplicity of conjectured truths—and manufactured images—and are immersed in virtual realities. A third aspect of the social mission of Waldorf education is to awaken within our students the will to work on behalf of others—to put the welfare of the earth and humanity before their own self-interests and to work in service to a greater good. This includes developing the desire and ability to cooperate and collaborate with others to achieve more than they could achieve on their own.

But the social mission of Waldorf education can perhaps best be found at the very heart—or within the essential purpose—of the education, which is not to prepare your children for a successful high school or college or professional career—though they will be well-prepared for all of those experiences. We have a different end game. I would say a much bigger and more important end game. Waldorf educators have the very tall task of recognizing, awakening, and nurturing the full extent of human capacities within each child so that each child is free to fulfill their unique and individual purpose or destiny. Rudolf Steiner said of the task of Waldorf education: Our endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. You can imagine that when human beings are living into their highest capacities they inevitably make a mark upon their communities. They see and bring out the best in others, they share and collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways, they become the change that we all want to see, they are courageous in bringing their gifts to the world, and they are happy and fulfilled because of the quality in their living. This outcome is at the heart of our greater social mission.”

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The Unexpected Effects of Knitting

PBS has offered comprehensive entertaining video insight into the many benefits of knitting. Knitting is a regular part of Waldorf school curricula. All students learn in first grade and continue with knitting projects at least through fifth grade. The video reveals, “activities like knitting also use several areas of your brain involving functions like paying attention, planning, processing sensory and visual information, storing memories, and coordinating precision and timing of movement.” Watch the three minute video on the PBS video website.

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Want happier, calmer kids? Simplify their world.

“Too much” is overwhelming and stressful, whether it’s too much stuff, too much information, too many activities, too many choices, or too much speed – always hurrying from one task to the next, never a moment to relax or play. Having and doing too much can overwhelm a kid and lead to unnecessary stress at home and in the classroom.

Simplifying a child’s routine and cutting down on their information and activity overload, as well as excessive toy and clutter piles, could help overstimulated kids become less argumentative and disruptive. When you simplify a child’s world, you make space for positive growth, creativity and relaxation.” Read the full Green Child article here.

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