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Gleanings: Our School Blog

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Information, stories, and resources from Eugene Waldorf School, part of an independent, nonsectarian school system respected throughout the world.

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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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A Case for Deferring Electronic Media in the Classroom

“We need students who can innovate and learn ANY skill quickly. We need students that can connect parts to whole thinking, properly deduce and problem solve, understand mathematical and algebraic concepts. And there are a plethora of superior, proven, offline options available to teach these crucial skills.” Read the full article here.

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No Excuses Needed

“Students in kindergarten through fourth grade, for the most part, go home without any homework assignments. And that helps them retain what they’ve heard, Waldorf educators say.

“They’ve absorbed so much after a full day of learning, and we need to give them time to digest that,” said Erika Finstad, a fourth-grade teacher at the school. “We’d rather give them time to relax and play without structure, and come back to school refreshed and ready to learn the next day.” At the Eugene Waldorf School, homework is introduced slowly during the fourth grade and increases with each subsequent grade.”

Read the full article from the front page of the local Register-Guard here.

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Mom: Why I don’t want my son to read in kindergarten

kindergartener at play

Jessica Smock is a former teacher, teaching fellow and curriculum coordinator with a doctorate in educational policy from Boston University. She is also the mom of a toddler and a five-year-old son who is about to enter kindergarten. She says, “Children’s long-term achievement and self-identities as readers and students can be damaged when they are introduced to reading and literacy too early.” Read the full article here.

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