Introduction to Waldorf Education
“We are not to ask ourselves what the human being needs to know and know for the social order, but what potential is there in man and can he develop in him? Thus it will be possible to contribute to the social order new forces coming from the young generation. In this way he will always survive in this social order what the integral men who join the same do of him and the new generation will not do what the social order wants to make of it. ”, By Rudolf Steiner.
An education that grows with the student
When children relate what they learn with their own experience, they feel full of interest and life, and what they learn thus becomes something that is their own. Waldorf schools are designed to promote this type of learning.
Waldorf education has its roots in the research of Austrian thinker and scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). According to Steiner's anthroposophical philosophy, man is a trimembrated being - he has body, soul and spirit - whose abilities unfold over three periods of development in the march towards adulthood: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.
In April 1919, Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The German nation, defeated in the war, was debating the edge of economic, social and political chaos. Steiner spoke to workers about the need for social renewal, to find a new way to organize society and its political, cultural and economic life (social tri-formation).
Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, asked Steiner to organize and run a school for the children of the company's employees. Steiner agreed but with four conditions, all of which went against what was customary at the time:
that the school be open to all children; that it was for both sexes; that he understood until the 12th grade; that those who are in real contact with the children, that is, the teachers, had the pedagogical conduction of the school, with the least possible interference from the state.
On September 7, 1919, the first Waldorf school opened. Thereafter, the Waldorf educational movement spread through Germany and other countries, but in the 1930s it was banned in Germany by the Nazi regime. At the end of the Second World War, the Stuttgart school reopened its doors and there was a proliferation of schools of this type throughout the world.
There are currently around 900 Waldorf schools scattered in many countries. In Argentina there are 6 schools in the Buenos Aires region, the oldest of which is already more than 60 years old. In the province of Córdoba since 1998, El Trigal has been operating with kindergarten and primary school - the first in the interior of the country. There is also another primary school in Villa General Belgrano. Since 1989 a Waldorf Pedagogical Seminar has been operating in Buenos Aires for the preparation of teachers in this method.
There are no two identical schools; All are administratively independent. However, the visitor can notice characteristics common to all of them.
Early childhood (0-6 years)
Young children are totally dedicated to their physical environment; they absorb the world basically through their senses and respond with the most active form of knowledge: imitation. Imitation is the ability to identify with the immediate environment through active will.
All-anger, love, joy, hate, intelligence, stupidity-comes to the little boy through the tone of voice, physical contact, body gesture, light, darkness, color, of harmony and disharmony. These influences are absorbed by the physical organism that is still forming and affect it for a lifetime.
Those who care for a young child - parents, nursery teachers and kindergartens - have a responsibility to create an environment that is worthy of imitation, since the child imitates without discrimination. The environment, then, must offer the child abundant positive elements to be imitated and opportunities for creative play. This supports him in the central activity of his early years: the development of his physical organism. To divert the child's energies from this fundamental task, to meet premature intellectual demands deprives him of the health and vitality he will need for his future life. By pushing him towards intellectual activity at this age, it ends, in the long run, weakening precisely the capacities of judgment and practical intelligence that he seeks to develop.
In the kindergarten children play to cook; they disguise themselves and become fathers and mothers, kings and magicians; They sing, paint and color. Through songs and poems they learn to enjoy the language; they learn to play together; they listen to stories, they see puppet theaters, they knead the bread, they make soup, they model with wax, they build houses with blocks, boxes, fabrics and wood. Surrendering fully to such activities is the best preparation for life; develops the capacity for concentration, interest and a lasting love for learning.
Middle childhood (7 to 13 years old)
When children are ready to leave kindergarten and enter first grade, they are eager to explore the whole world of experiences for the second time. In the previous stage, they identified with that world and imitated it; now, on a more conscious level, they are ready to meet him again through imagination - that extraordinary capacity of the cognitive faculty of man - that allows us to "see" a picture, "hear" a story, and "guess" meanings within the apparent.
During the elementary school years, the educator's task is to translate everything the child needs to know about the world into the language of the imagination, a language that is so accurate and responds so much to reality like intellectual analysis in adults. The legacy of other less intellectual periods, traditional discounts, legends and mythologies, which express the truth in parables and images, becomes an inexhaustible treasure chest for the teacher. .
Seen through the lens of imagination, nature, the world of numbers, mathematics, geometric forms, and practical tasks of the world, are food and drink for the soul of the child. The four arithmetic operations, for example, can be introduced as characters from a play that first grade children will act enthusiastically giving expression to their temperaments.
Everything that goes to the imagination and really feels shaking and activates the feelings and is remembered and learned. The elementary school years are the time to educate intelligent intelligence . It is only after the physiological changes of puberty, which mark the virtual completion of the second great phase of development, that imaginative learning undergoes a metamorphosis to emerge as a rational and abstract capacity of the intellect.
Adolescence (14 to 21 years old)
Throughout the glorious turbulence of adolescence, personality celebrates its independence and seeks to explore the world once more differently. Inside, the young person, the human being to whom the years of education have been directed, is maturing silently. In the end the individual will emerge.
According to Steiner's conception, this essential being is not a product of either inheritance or the environment; It is a manifestation of the spirit. The ground on which it is affirmed and in which it sinks its roots is the intelligence that, from the matrix of will and feeling, has borne fruit in clear and experienced thinking. In traditional wisdom, it is this being who becomes ma older than 21 years of age and is then ready to undertake the true task of education the self-education that distinguishes the adult from the adolescent.
In the classroom
The school day begins with an extended class, which can reach two hours, in which you work in depth on a subject. This extended class, called the main class, allows the teacher to develop a wide variety of activities around the topic being addressed. Rhythmic exercises with body movements that activate circulation, harmonize the group and stimulate concentration are included. In addition, one works for times, that is to say, that the main class is dedicated to a single subject during a whole period that covers several weeks. This allows the child to concentrate on a subject of learning and work on it thoroughly. Then, the subject is in reposo while working with another subject. Knowledge thus has the opportunity to be processed and decanted, to be refloated later, after a while, in the next period of the same subject.
After the main class, we work with special subjects: languages, music, painting, gymnastics, handicrafts, orchard, etc. The teachers of the special classes work in close collaboration with the grade teacher trying to articulate their subjects around the topics that are discussed in the main class.
Grade teachers accompany their children from the first to the last year of primary school. This allows the teacher to get to know their students deeply and be able to grow and develop with them. Having to prepare for new issues every year favors renewal and prevents stagnation. The child offers a feeling of unity and a reference that provides security.
The study program of a Waldorf school can be equated with an upward spiral: as children mature, they connect with each subject at a different level of experience. It is as if every year they reach a new window in the ascending spiral from which one looks at the world through the lens of each subject.
All children participate in activities regardless of their personal skills. The objective of studying the different subjects is not to become professionals of the same-mathematicians, historians, biologists-, but to awaken and educate the capacities that the human being needs to develop harmoniously and fully.
The arts and practical activities
The arts and practical activities play an essential role in the educational process in all grades. They are not considered as secondary activities, but as fundamental elements for growth and development.
Waldorf education does not conceive the human being only as a brain, but as a being that has a heart and limbs, that is, feelings and will, as well as intellect. To ensure that education does not produce unilateral individuals, atrophied with their emotional health and volitional capacity, these less conscious aspects of human nature must be constantly exercised, fed and guided. It is there that the arts and practical activities make their greatest contribution, exercising not only the heart and the hand but also, in a very real way, the brain.
Art, on the other hand, is not relegated to specific subjects (drawing, painting, music, etc.), but is part of the teaching of all subjects. The teacher must face and transmit everything he teaches in an artistic and imaginative way.
Children who have worked throughout their education with color and form, with tone, music, dramatic acting, language, with clay, wood, wax, watercolor, wool, with Earth and plants have not only worked creatively activating, clarifying and strengthening their emotions, but they have put their thoughts and feelings into practice and exercised their will. And that is the aspiration of Waldorf education: to educate the whole human being: his head, his heart and his hands.