Kimberton Waldorf School prides itself on being a strong and close-knit community. Our curriculum and our teachers help our students develop empathy and the ability to appreciate others, and to work together in teams. Learning to sing in a chorus, play a musical instrument in an ensemble, produce a play with classmates, work on a group project for a class assignment, or cook meals together on a class camping trip all help our students to develop these important social skills. Learn more about the role of empathy in education here from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America:
At Kimberton Waldorf School the arts are integrated into the whole curriculum and often are part of the experiential approach to academic subjects as well. Research has shown that artistic activity develops important capacities such as problem-solving. Read more about the role of the arts in Waldorf Education here from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America:
21st century skills are more important now than ever as employers seek diverse thinkers who are knowledgeable in a wide range of fields and who are able to creatively solve problems.
Competencies commonly associated with 21st century skills include critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, perseverance, self-direction, collaboration and teamwork. The rapidly changing world requires students to be equipped with cross-disciplinary skills in order to be successful in furthering their education and to meet the challenges in the workplace.
For almost 80 years, Kimberton Waldorf School has been providing a multimodality, integrated education with a curriculum based on the developmental needs of the child, validated in scientific research. Our unique approach to education utilizes movement, music, arts, and handwork to strengthen academics and help develop motor skills, focus, perseverance, creativity, and critical thinking.
Emphasis on the breadth of skills and opportunities that we value in childhood and in adulthood provides a reminder that education needs to be designed to produce holistically developed learners who are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of life in the 21st century.
Studies demonstrate that the arts develop neural systems that produce a broad spectrum of benefits ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance – the driving force behind all other learning.
Creativity is nurtured as students learn to approach tasks from different perspectives and to think “outside the box.” Artistic creations are the result of problem solving. Students’ typically ask themselves: How do I form this clay into a sculpture? How do I step into my role in the play? How will my character react in this situation? How am I going to learn this piece of music?
Movement activities in younger grades, such as circle time, handwork, string games, or playing on a balance board may appear as simple play in the classroom are actually promoting growth toward skills acquisition. The same regions of the brain responsible for movement are also involved in higher level thinking such as problem solving, creating, designing, and anticipating outcomes.
Observational learning is another key component in skills acquisition. When students contemplate a phenomenon with deep curiosity, they are able to hypothesize potential outcomes before testing for the actual answer. Divergent, creative thinking occurs, which is essential for innovation and solving problems.
The goal of Waldorf education and the curriculum at KWS is to provide students with opportunities and training to become autonomous, creative thinkers with the ability to accelerate their ideas into actions. An education that asks students to develop the capacities for collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving is an education that prepares students for what lies ahead.
Read more in our article Equipping Students with Skills for Lifelong Success
Critical thinking is essential in health sciences.
Creativity leads to ideas and innovation.
Perseverance is found in entrepreneurs, lawyers, and journalists.
“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced.”
Jeffrey Goldstein, Ph.D., author and research associate at Utrecht University also says, “Play seems to have some immediate benefits, such as aerobic conditioning and fine-tuning motor skills, as well as long-term benefits that include preparing the young for the unexpected, and giving them a sense of morality. How? Learning to play successfully with others requires ‘emotional intelligence,’ the ability to understand another’s emotions and intentions.”
Click Here to Read More in “Play in Children’s Health, Development and Wellbeing.”
Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education. They integrate the arts in all academic disciplines for children from preschool through twelfth grade to enhance and enrich learning. Waldorf Education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.
To learn more watch this video produced for the 100th Anniversary of Waldorf education.
Wonderful college news has been arriving in mailboxes and inboxes! Congratulations to our accomplished seniors!
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle
We are not an art school but every senior at KWS paints a self portrait. This not only represents the culmination of the Waldorf painting curriculum, but requires students to engage with the deep questions of identity: “Who am I?”, “How am I seen?” and, most importantly, “What is my place in the world?”
In high school, a new questioning about life and the personal search for truth and self-knowledge emerges and students are ready to confront good and evil, questions of destiny, evolution, and identity. Through the self-portrait project students are challenged to really look at themselves closely to create a physical likeness but to also look deeply at who they are in this world.
Our high school curriculum encourages students to look at themselves, reflect back on their lives and go out into the world and contribute to it from the sense of who they are.
When students graduate from Kimberton Waldorf School, they leave with not only a strong academic foundation but with a sense of who they are, the ability to think for themselves, and the confidence in their capacity to learn and do whatever they put their minds to.
“The senior portrait class represents the culmination of the Waldorf painting curriculum, making use of all the years that come before it in the pursuit of a meaningful piece of art that students and their families can take with them and cherish for years beyond graduation. Pulling from drawing tools introduced and sharpened in 9th grade, painting technique developed in 10th grade, and color theory explored in 11th grade, seniors work for about two months to produce a self portrait that expresses their inner spirit coming into harmony with the external realities of their body.
“The potential for such a portrait is boundless, and seniors are often at first a little daunted. First of all, there is the hard work of really looking at themselves, of being objective and making measurements about things that often times they don’t want to dwell on. Throughout the course, students have to learn to be comfortable with how they look, and in doing so they come to understand that they themselves are beautiful despite what they think of as imperfections. The second daunting task comes in dealing with the number of choices they must make. Do they paint a realistic skin tone, or one that expresses some quality of themselves more metaphorically? Do they choose a background that puts them firmly rooted in the world, or do they paint one that uses color to make it, as we like to say in the painting room, “pop”? How do they pose for their initial photo session, which determines the basic structure of their drawing? The best way to answer these questions is always to jump right in, to do something fearlessly and know that mistakes are where the good stuff happens — learning, growing, correcting. One choice leads to another, which leads to another, and eventually the final outcome looks as if it couldn’t have been painted any other way.” – Todd Stong, KWS Painting Teacher
This is EDUCATION THAT MATTERS.
Unique to Waldorf schools, form drawing is an approach to geometry that begins with simple repetitive ribbon forms in the first grade and becomes more complex by fifth grade. Its effectiveness is realized in the process, not in the product. It is the act of drawing that educates, not the result.
In the early grades students begin to draw a form with physical movements before they draw the form on paper. Children trace a form in the air with their arm or in the air with their eyes closed or by walking out the form in the grass. From the very first core forms of straight lines and curves, form drawings address spatial orientation, body geography, inner visualization and observation. To walk a form and then draw it, to keep lines straight, curves smooth, angles sharp, to begin a line in the right place, and stop it exactly where you mean to and to center the form on the page are demanding tasks for the 6 year old. These lead to foundations for writing and reading by training the eye and hand to work together.
In the later grades, geometric forms further math skills and spatial orientation and running forms help with small motor and body geography skills. Woven forms are introduced and work with forward-backward, estimation, self-movement, balancing the parts, spatial orientation. This type of kinesthetic form drawing encourages visual spatial skills, visual motor skills and body awareness. It is a definite challenge for kinesthetic awareness.
In the high school, 3 dimensional sculpture circles back to the form drawing work of the earlier grades, working with negative and positive space, and helps to develop more complex skills of inner visualization and design, strong self-movement, flexibility in thinking and balance.
This form of multisensory learning has long lasting benefits for children. They include a sense for beauty, harmony, and proportion; problem solving and critical thinking skills; creativity and self-confidence.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
~ Albert Einstein
Why play-based learning?
The right brain develops first and does so by the time children are 3-4 years of age. The left brain, on the other hand, doesn’t fully come online until children are approximately seven years old; hence the first seven years being recognized as such a critical period in child development. Play-based education fits the developmental needs of children.
The left brain’s functionality is one of language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time. It is the logical, calculating, planning, busy-bee part of us that keeps us anchored in the pragmatic world, and in past and future. The right brain, on the other hand, is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity. It is where we wonder, dream, connect and come alive. Through the right brain we dwell in the space of no-time, in being absolutely present and our boundless sense of being. Being is primary; hence the right brain developing first; hence, human being, not human doing.
The play-based approach
Children are naturally motivated to play. A play-based program builds on this motivation, using play as a context for learning. In this context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways.
A play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to stretch their thinking to higher levels. Teachers take an active role in guiding children’s interactions in the play. Children are supported in developing social skills such as cooperation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating, and resolving conflicts.
Play also supports positive attitudes to learning. These include imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence. The type of learning processes and skills fostered in play cannot be replicated through rote learning, where there is an emphasis on remembering facts.
The skilled early childhood teacher highly values and nurtures the child’s fundamental creative and imaginative nature with countless opportunities and environments for exploration and play. Play can provide children with the opportunity to develop social, emotional, physical and creative skills in addition to cognitive ones. Preschool and kindergarten programs that strike a healthy balance between stimulating work and engaging play prepare the child for success in primary school and beyond. They empower these individuals to go beyond functioning in a competitive world to making valuable changes in that world.
Children with stronger social skills do better in school, in the workplace, and in life. Child-directed play and modeling of helping behaviors are key to the development of social skills and need be prioritized in early education. We agree with the research that indicates that social skill development should be an intentional outcome of all educational experiences for children from preschool through elementary school. Getting along with others, being helpful and cooperative, and demonstrating empathy certainly make for better community. Additionally, a child’s early skills with building positive relationships with peers and with adults are correlated with positive life outcomes overall.
Research on the brain demonstrates that play is a scaffold for development, a vehicle for increasing neural structures, and a means by which all children practice skills they will need in later life. Because play often involves physical activity, it is encourages the development and refinement of children’s gross and fine motor skills and their body awareness. As children vigorously and joyfully use their bodies in physical exercise, meaningful work and unstructured play, they simultaneously refine and develop skills that enable them to feel confident, secure, and self-assured.
Planning, self-awareness, and self-control—what psychologists refer to as “executive functions”—predict positive school and life outcomes. Studies show that children develop executive functions through experience. Children use components of executive functions when they make decisions and interact with peers in everyday classroom settings. For example, they use planning to generate ideas for what to play, while working memory and inhibitory control help with remembering and following the rules of play. As children get older, they will need an efficient working memory to process all of the information that they encounter in the upper grades.
The need for developing skills of complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are essential for 21st century learning. These skills are built and enhanced by learning through play across the lifespan.
How does play-based education build the foundations for learning?
Play-based education embodies a plethora of activities integrated in the day that encourage school readiness, build academic capacities and create a lifelong love of learning.
An important literacy skill for reading is acquisition of language, as shown by children’s vocabulary and capacity to articulate their thoughts. The depth of a preschooler’s language skills—like early conceptual mathematics—is more predictive of long-term reading than simple measures of early literacy like letter recognition.
Hands-on experiences in art, science, and making – such as cooking, playing with sand and sticks and natural materials, painting, knitting and building –are terrific, and developmentally appropriate, ways for young children to build their fine motor coordination and the musculature for later writing.
A powerful indicator and predictor of long-term success with mathematics—and with other academic domains—is early conceptual mathematics. By helping children see mathematics in the world around them, using rich mathematical language as we work with children, building a growth mindset in mathematics by modeling our own use and learning of mathematics we create strong foundations for mathematical capacities.
Resources on play and play-based education
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“Projective geometry has the capacity to open minds and broaden thinking. I learned about things like perspective and duality, and all of this came together at infinity to create an understanding that I knew I didn’t have at the start of this block.”
Problem Solving and Perspective
The central point of mathematical activity in the Waldorf high school is problem solving. The important thing is learning how to solve problems, not what the answer is. With this as the focus, high school mathematics builds on both bases of mathematics: inspiration (induction) as a beginning and logical conclusion (deduction) at a later stage in the mathematical activity.
The most important aim is to develop the students ability to think with a wide range of approaches until they get to the logical conclusion, and to give them confidence in themselves and in their thinking. Another important goal is to prepare the students to apply calculations methods to everyday life and also to give them the foundation for further education.
Geometry is the mathematical discipline that deals with the interrelations of objects in the plane, in space, or even in higher dimensions. More than any other mathematical discipline, the field of geometry ranges from the very concrete and visual to the very abstract and fundamental. In one extreme, geometry deals with very concrete objects such as points, lines, circles, and planes and studies the interrelations between them. On the other side, geometry is a benchmark for logical rigor, the elegance of axiom systems, logical chains of proof, and the parallel world of algebraic structures.
In tenth grade, students study the projective properties of geometric figures
In high school, children reach a new stage of development where an individual’s inner life confronts the outer world in a relationship that still has to find a form. In an integrative education, even geometry has its place in the deep work of young adults. The deeper concepts of mathematics around perspective, infinity, transformations, angles, boundaries, and duality lead to new insights and broader understanding of not just geometry, but of life.
Introduction to Projective Geometry from a student’s main lesson book:
The Euclidian geometry we have worked with up until this point has dealt with the finite, the measureable. In the consciousness of the ancient Greeks, even the realm of the gods was considered in finite terms. Of course this finite or measureable nature implies ideals; for in actuality we can never be exact. As soon as we try to represent a point or line on paper, it is only an approximation, or rather a two-dimensional representation of the ideal. A point, as defined by Euclid is that which has no part, and a line is breathless and thus can never actually exit in the physical.
Projective geometry takes the elements of Euclid but stretches them in space toying with the idea of infinity. This geometry has seen application in the perspective drawings done already during the Renaissance by such artists as DaVinci and Durer. Projective geometry challenges Euclid’s elements asking us to see points as lines of infinity and whole planes becoming points. The mysteries of infinity order the random and obscure the ordered.
This block is an exploration of space, projecting lines and points to infinity with geometric nets and conic sections, observing the phenomena as they occur. We can wrestle with the ideas, but this course also gives us the opportunity to step back and relish the beauty and magic of these lines and points as we strive for exactness and perfection.
Students need to develop an intuitive understanding of geometric relationships and how to manipulate them. Learning how to do geometric proofs with compass and straightedge is an essential part of developing that knowledge. That knowledge will be used by an architect in many ways, from the creation of complex computer models to hand-sketching. In fact, one of the first things they teach in architectural perspective drawing class is how to use basic geometric principles we all learned in 10th grade geometry to quickly draw realistic and correctly-proportioned perspective images.
The relationship between mind and hand through pencil and paper is very direct (same with sculpting clay, for that matter). You lose that direct connection when a computer interface is involved. Once you know and have intuitively internalized the principles, the computer allows you to magnify that knowledge in practical applications.
I insist on seeing a demonstration of hand-drawing skills even for prospective employees who will only be doing computer drafting or modeling. What they can do with a pencil shows me in a very direct way how their brains work and whether or not they really understand what they’re doing when they try to graphically represent spatial concepts and systems,
So, yes, I think it’s important that students still learn how to do geometry the old fashioned way. Even though a computer will automate a lot of the calculation and construction for you, you still need to understand the geometric principles at work in order to use them. – Archinect
Geometry holds a central place in Waldorf education’s mathematics curriculum and emerges out of form drawing which students begin in Kindergarten. In sixth grade, students move from creating flat two-dimensional geometric designs to kinesthetic art with curve stitching, which creates circles and curves from straight lines. They are colorful and beautiful and very visually interesting but do you wonder what they have to do with math?
Artistic, but also Technical
In order to construct and shade those drawings or string designs, the students need to have learned many things, including a knowledge and understanding of circles and polygons, how to use a compass and ruler with competence, and how to bisect an arc or a line or an angle. The students learn how to construct straight lines from a curved line by drawing exact polygons within a circle as they learn how to divide a circle into 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 24 divisions. Line and string designs show them the many ways that curved lines can be constructed from straight lines. The drawings done in sixth grade represent foundational Geometric concepts, presented beautifully and artistically, that are carried into the high school when students learn about Conic Sections, Trigonometry and Projective Geometry.
Engaging the Hands Creates a Deeper Understanding
Use of string art in learning geometry is a powerful method to ‘experience’ the facts and laws of geometric forms. The precision and beauty of these geometric forms lead the children to a deeper understanding of mathematics as they use their hands to illustrate concepts and develop skills.
These constructions offer abundant opportunity for students to learn mathematical vocabulary and concepts, and the ability to follow directions. String designs helps to improve spatial perception, encourages students to experiment, enriches their learning and lays a foundation for advanced Projective Geometry and the three-dimensional graphs and surfaces encountered in Calculus in high school and college.
The brain discovers what the fingers explore.
In sixth grade, geometrical rules are sought and formulated:
Geometrical proof of sums of angles of triangles
Construction of angles using compasses, bisecting angles
Congruent triangles and the four principle cases for congruency
Movement properties of triangles and quadrilaterals
Congruent shapes, construction of similar angles, complementary, supplementary and other angles
Construction of triangles, with altitudes, and angle and side bisectors
Why We Teach This Way Matters
THIS IS EDUCATION THAT MATTERS
We had our kids in a private school before that was based on common core curriculum. Watching our kids approaching different assignments, seeing them being constantly stressed about grades, tests and overall performance, we asked ourselves if this is what we want to give them. Seeing their schooling as a very stressful race from one test to another, with lack of common sense in many assignments, lack of logic in many homework tasks, constant push on repetition instead of encouragement to free thinking, and finally suppressing our kids’ freedom to ask questions, was very concerning.
Having four kids, we don’t know who they will become as adults, but we certainly want them to be people who aren’t afraid to question the status quo and find their own ways towards happiness and fullness in their lives. Common core education didn’t give us the perspective nor tools to help them grow as individuals who discover themselves and the world around, rather it was a process of creating stressed, tired and discouraged young souls who were not interested in learning as an adventure. It was seeing education as a system, an artificial way of possessing enough short-term knowledge necessary only for purposes of tests.
Waldorf showed itself as a journey, where kids are approached according to their age and current state of being. Where even complex matters can be explained in accordance with kids’ natural way of understanding, processing and absorbing information. Waldorf appeared to be the answer to help kids to fall in love with learning, reading, counting and discovering beauty of the world without unnecessary stress and encouraging a long-term interest in expanding their interest in many topics instead of the “learn-pass test-forget” process.
The amount of time the kids spend with nature, from feeding goats to getting dirty in the woods, is absolutely wonderful! As Eastern Europeans we missed this at our previous school. The emphasis of art being largely incorporated into Waldorf curriculum, in our eyes, was a very important factor in helping kids become fascinated with education. No electronic devices policy: what a relief it is. Since we came to KWS my kids don’t even mention anything about cellphones. We decided to completely give up on TV a couple years ago, so we have great evening times together, more time for fun, reading, discussions, games, Torah studies, or simply to be together. It is a very liberating experience. – Current KWS parent
Every year our 12th grade students take a week-long trip to Hermit Island in Maine. They join about 100 seniors from other Waldorf schools for a week-long course on invertebrate zoology. They take daily trips to the tide pools and mud flats to investigate sea plants and animals. They discover creatures only visible in tide pools and under the microscope, as well as sea urchins, squid and sea stars. There are opportunities to experience the glowing of comb jellies and bioluminescence in the ocean. The students hone their observational skills by identifying various species of crabs and snails living in this vibrant ecosystem and come together as a group to discuss the week’s theme of earth as an organism.
As with all great Waldorf curriculum, learning is multi-modality and integrated. Students balance the scientific with the artistic through sketching organisms and watercolor landscape, to writing sea-based poetry and stargazing. And as always, they had fun and made new friends.
What an amazing opportunity for our children!
Our 9th grade was recently “away” on their Agricultural Practicum. We use the word away loosely. They were away and here at the same time. Students worked all week at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, helping them harvest in the CSA, herb garden and orchard. While there, the students participate in the life of that community, work and share meals with villagers and co-workers. They also get a taste of work in the cow barn and in general farm maintenance. All of this plus staying overnight in the Garden Building! While there, they work with Celia Martin in the evening preparing beef jerky for their backpacking trip in the spring. Kimberton Waldorf students are introduced to a variety of complex issues around food and nourishment through the Agriculture Practicum, our gardening program and through exploring topics around food justice and food insecurity.
There is a widely-held belief that if we just start teaching children to write, read, and spell in preschool, they will become better writers, readers, and spellers by the time they reach the first and second grades. This is, however, not true. The truth is that children only should be taught to write, read, and spell when their neurological pathways for writing, reading, and spelling have fully formed. There are many neuropsychologists, developmental specialists, occupational therapists and teachers who are concerned that our current trend in this country of pushing “academics” in preschool and kindergarten may increase attentional problems and visual processing types of learning disabilities.
The Proprioceptive System
In order for children to be able to sit still, pay attention, and remember abstract shapes, like letters and numbers, they first need to have developed their proprioceptive system.
The proprioceptive system is strengthened by physical movements, like sweeping with a broom, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying groceries, emptying the trash, pulling weeds, or hanging from monkey bars. When children do these types of activities they stimulate pressure receptors within their muscles, tendons, and joints, thereby allowing their minds to make a map of the location of these various pressure receptors within the body. A connection is made between the mind of children and the various parts of their physical body. In this way children develop a sense of where their body is in space (proprioception), and even if their eyes are closed, the children will be able to feel or sense the location of muscles, joints and tendons within their trunk, arms, legs, fingers, and toes. In addition, as the children move their arms, legs, hands, and feet forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right, they will start to gain a sense of the spaces around them. Now, when these children look at the shapes of letters and numbers, their eyes will follow and track the lines and curves. The memory of these movements will then imprint upon their mind. They will have the capacity to make mental pictures or images of these numbers and letters. They will easily remember the correct orientation of numbers like 2 and 3 when they are writing.
Reading, Spelling, and Writing
Our current educational system is teaching children to read in a way that doesn’t make sense developmentally. Children in preschool and kindergarten are expected to memorize letters and words before their minds have developed the necessary pathways to identify letters, easily read words, and comprehend what they are reading. We are asking these young children to read, when the only part of their brain that is developed and available for reading words is the right hemisphere.
The right hemisphere first develops for reading, usually around four to seven years of age. This right part of the brain allows children to recognize words by sight. It enables children to focus on the first and last letters in a word and the overall length and shape of the word. It allows children to guess at words without paying much attention to spelling or matching sounds to letters (phonics). In contrast, the reading center in the left brain and the connecting bridge-like pathway between the left and the right brain don’t start developing until seven to nine years of age. It is this reading center in the left brain that allows children to match sounds to letters and enables them to sound out words phonetically. Now they can remember more accurately how words are spelled.
Because the reading center in the right brain sees abstract forms like letters and numbers as pictures, it makes sense to first teach children to read by relating the shapes of letters to actual pictures that children can relate to and draw. For example, the letter “M” can be represented by two mountain peaks with a valley in between. As teachers we can tell children that the sound “M” is the first sound one hears when saying the word “mountains.” Other examples might include drawing a king out of the letter “K,” a bunny out of the letter “B,” or waves out of a “W.” What doesn’t make developmental sense is expecting children to just memorize the abstract shape of the letter “F,” or memorize phrases like “F” as in the word FOX, “B” as in the word BOY, or “C” as in the word CROCODILE. These words do not make any visual sense to the reading center in the right brain. The letter “F” doesn’t look like a FOX, the letter “B” doesn’t look like a BOY, and the letter “C” does not look like a CROCODILE.
When we push young children to read when they only have access to their right hemisphere for reading, we create learning problems for them in the future. Since children using the reading center of the right hemisphere look at the first and last letters of a word, the length of that word, and then make a guess, they will look at a word like “STAMP” and may guess that the word is “STOP” or “STUMP.” If you show them the word, “TGOEHTER” they may read the word as “TOGETHER,” but will not realize that the word is misspelled. Words like “FRIEND,” “FIND,” and “FOUND,” as well as “FILLED,” “FILED,” and “FLOOD,” will all seem the same.
It takes a lot of mental effort to read words using only sight memory. Sight memory was meant to be used for only small words. Children who are reading using only their right hemisphere often are exhausted after reading just a few paragraphs, and can only parrot back words or sentences by memory. In addition, their minds are busy deciphering each word and therefore are not free to create the pictures and actual scenes associated with the words they are reading. This limits their overall comprehension. This may lead to difficulty being able to summarize, condense, or comprehend ideas very easily.
For all of these reasons, many experts are recommending that reading should be taught in school only after children have developed both their right and left reading centers. This will enable children to use sight memory for small words and the more efficient method of phonics for larger words. In addition, children need to have developed the “bridge” pathway that connects the two reading centers together. When children have developed this connection between the right and left cerebral hemispheres (bilateral integration), they can access both the right and left reading centers of their brain at the same time, and therefore can decide at any given moment whether to read a word by sight, if the word is short (a right hemisphere activity), or sound out the word phonetically if the word is long (a left hemisphere activity).
A physical sign that children have developed bilateral integration and can now read both by sight memory and phonics is shown by their ability to do cross-lateral exercises such as crossing the midline in form drawings, knitting or cross-lateral skipping which require both brain hemispheres to communicate. Children who can simultaneously access their reading centers in the right and left hemispheres of their brain will read easily and will create visual images and pictures in their mind related to the content of what they are reading and will have an easier time understanding the meaning behind the stories and books they are reading.
First grade is the time to introduce form drawing, learn the capital letters (as pictures that children can draw), and practice cursive writing. As the majority of children in the classroom strengthen their proprioceptive skills and integrate their right and left hemispheres (as evidenced by their ability to stand on one foot with their eyes closed, remember the shapes that are drawn on their backs, jump rope forward and backwards by themselves, and easily perform the cross lateral skip), then children are ready to read and write.
It is time to remove the desks from kindergartens and preschools. Our preschools and kindergartens need to fill their curriculums with play consisting of lots of sensory integration activities that will strengthen fine motor movements, visual motor abilities, balance, muscle tone, proprioception, as well as strengthen children’s social and emotional development. Activities like imaginary play, climbing, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, walking the balance beam, playing circle games, singing, playing catch, doing meaningful chores, painting, coloring, playing hand-clapping games, doing string games, and finger knitting will strengthen their minds for learning. Children need these healthy, harmonious, rhythmic, and noncompetitive movements to develop their brains. For it is the movements of their body that create the pathways in their mind for reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, and creative thinking.
Adapted from an article by Susan Johnson, M.D., a Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician in Colfax, California.
Every day where we work, we see our young students struggling with the transition from home to school. They’re all wonderful kids, but some can’t share easily or listen in a group.
Some have impulse control problems and have trouble keeping their hands to themselves; others don’t always see that actions have consequences; a few suffer terribly from separation anxiety.
We’re not talking about preschool children. These are Harvard undergraduate students whom we teach and advise. They all know how to work, but some of them haven’t learned how to play.
Parents, educators, psychologists, neuroscientists, and politicians generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to preparing very young children for school: play-based or skills-based.
These two kinds of curricula are often pitted against one another as a zero-sum game: If you want to protect your daughter’s childhood, so the argument goes, choose a play-based program; but if you want her to get into Harvard, you’d better make sure you’re brushing up on the ABC flashcards every night before bed.
We think it is quite the reverse. Or, in any case, if you want your child to succeed in college, the play-based curriculum is the way to go.
In fact, we wonder why play is not encouraged in educational periods later in the developmental life of young people — giving kids more practice as they get closer to the ages of our students.
Why do this? One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and — relatedly — who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn.
Psychologists calls this the “theory of mind”: the ability to recognize that our own ideas, beliefs, and desires are distinct from those of the people around us. When a four-year-old destroys someone’s carefully constructed block castle or a 20-year-old belligerently monopolizes the class discussion on a routine basis, we might conclude that they are unaware of the feelings of the people around them.
The beauty of a play-based curriculum is that very young children can routinely observe and learn from others’ emotions and experiences. Skills-based curricula, on the other hand, are sometimes derisively known as “drill and kill” programs because most teachers understand that young children can’t learn meaningfully in the social isolation required for such an approach.
How do these approaches look different in a classroom? Preschoolers in both kinds of programs might learn about hibernating squirrels, for example, but in the skills-based program, the child could be asked to fill out a worksheet, counting (or guessing) the number of nuts in a basket and coloring the squirrel’s fur.
In a play-based curriculum, by contrast, a child might hear stories about squirrels and be asked why a squirrel accumulates nuts or has fur. The child might then collaborate with peers in the construction of a squirrel habitat, learning not only about number sense, measurement, and other principles needed for engineering, but also about how to listen to, and express, ideas.
The child filling out the worksheet is engaged in a more one-dimensional task, but the child in the play-based program interacts meaningfully with peers, materials, and ideas.
Programs centered around constructive, teacher-moderated play are very effective. For instance, one randomized, controlled trial had 4- and 5-year-olds engage in make-believe play with adults and found substantial and durable gains in the ability of children to show self-control and to delay gratification. Countless other studies support the association between dramatic play and self-regulation.
Through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment. By allowing children to imagine walking in another person’s shoes, imaginative play also seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.
The real “readiness” skills that make for an academically successful kindergartener or college student have as much to do with emotional intelligence as they do with academic preparation. Kindergartners need to know not just sight words and lower case letters, but how to search for meaning. The same is true of 18-year-olds.
As admissions officers at selective colleges like to say, an entire freshman class could be filled with students with perfect grades and test scores. But academic achievement in college requires readiness skills that transcend mere book learning. It requires the ability to engage actively with people and ideas. In short, it requires a deep connection with the world.
For a five year-old, this connection begins and ends with the creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing that characterize play. When we deny young children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world. By the time they get to college, we will have denied them the opportunity to fix the world too.
Article by Erika Christakis and Nicholas Christakis – Originally published at CNN.com
Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH, is an early childhood teacher and former preschool director. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, is a professor of medicine and sociology at Harvard University. Together, they serve as Masters of Pforzheimer House, one of the undergraduate residential houses at Harvard College. CNN article
Although First Lady Michelle and President Barack Obama certainly could provide their daughters, Malia and Sasha, the latest in digital devices, the Obama parents have chosen to raise their kids in a low-tech home environment. A recent New York Times article looking at Mrs. Obama’s parenting style reveals that her girls don’t use the computer for entertainment or watch TV on school nights. And on ABC’s The View, President Obama declared that his daughters have grown up with strong limits on their phones. Why do Mr. and Mrs. Obama set such tech rules, especially amid a culture that is ever quicker to hand kids gadgets? The First Lady says that the TV and computer (unless school-related) are “a privilege that we don’t value deeply.” Also, the Obama parents’ high education level (e.g., both attended Harvard Law) likely plays a role, as the children of college graduates tend to spend less entertainment time on screens than kids whose parents aren’t college grads.
When educating students for the future, preparing them with 21st-century skills that are critical in our information-based economy, together with a rich and rigorous curriculum, are instrumental. In our ever-changing world, employers desire more than just workers. They favor diverse thinkers who are knowledgeable in a wide range of fields, who are able to creatively solve problems. Individuals must be innovative and collaborative and possess strong communication skills. The majority of today’s business leaders report that creativity is the most important skill they seek when hiring. Read more about how Kimberton Waldorf School prepares students for the future in our feature article in Chester County Life magazine.
The senior year at a Waldorf school is designed to be a synthesis of the students’ education and a preparation for their next step in life whether it be college studies or professional life. A highlight of the senior year at Kimberton Waldorf School is the Senior Project. The Senior Project is an opportunity for students to show personal initiative and independence in a study or work of their choice. Students must design a project that includes a research component, artistic or practical component and stretches their abilities mentally, physically and/or emotionally. Teachers step back while the students work under the guidance of a mentor. This creates a space for growth toward academic freedom.
Mirabelle Kunz is a senior at Kimberton Waldorf School. Mirabelle has been working on designing and creating a line of clothes that highlights her love of fashion and is full of color and texture. “I chose to make a clothing collection because I am interested in studying fashion design. My goal is to present my collection by holding a fashion show in the spring.” As part of her preparation for her senior project presentation, Mirabelle recently did a photo shoot in New York City to highlight her clothing line. “I planned a photo shoot to take pictures of my collection that I can now use in my college portfolio. I like fashion design because I enjoy the individuality that clothing can give a person!” Mirabelle hopes to study fashion design in New York City in the fall.
Past senior projects at Kimberton Waldorf School have included photography exhibits, pottery collections, mastering a foreign language, dance, building a 3-D printer, creating mobile phone apps, music and art. 2016 graduate, Hannah Wolfram flipped a house for her senior project. After purchasing a house in need of repair, Wolfram spent every weekend and holiday working on the house. Hannah worked to repair a leaky roof, replaced the kitchen and bathroom, updated electrical and plumbing, dry walled, sanded floors and painted. Learning the importance of budgets, timelines, inspections, collaboration and planning became a secondary level of education during her project.
Students can spend more than 100 hours working on their projects. They encounter real life problems as they work to overcome challenges, dead-ends and unexpected complications. They learn to persevere through difficulties, find new resources, and examine the subject from multiple perspectives. In the spring of their twelfth-grade year each senior presents an extensive written report and an oral/visual presentation of their work. The project is presented to a committee of faculty and outside community members, and before the entire school, families and friends. Students learn valuable public speaking skills as they explain and defend their work before a group. For many of our students, the senior project is one of the most challenging, memorable and ultimately valuable experiences they have in their senior year.
Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education. They integrate the arts in all academic disciplines for children from preschool through twelfth grade to enhance and enrich learning. Waldorf Education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.
“The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.” Ashley Montagu
Over thirty years of working with children, families, and teachers in Waldorf kindergartens all over the world, I have observed one overwhelming similarity: creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy young children. It helps children weave together all the elements of life as they experience it. It allows them to digest life and make it their own. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity, and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With creative play, children blossom and flourish; without it, they suffer a serious decline. – Joan Almon
Waldorf schools take an unconventionally nurturing approach to learning, making them a unique approach to education. Initially, some viewed the schools as emphasizing play over learning, but now a growing number recognize that the Waldorf model supports educational and personal habits which often go overlooked and under-appreciated in traditional schooling.
Following from a philosophy that attends to the development of human behavior, Waldorf schools help students learn and grow through uniting mind and body. Fashioned by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf education is one that focuses on the individual student’s strengths rather than catering to a large group and assuming that all students learn in the same way.
Teachers are the main source of strength in Waldorf schools. With a heavy focus on the importance of hands-on experience for their students, rather than standardized testing, Waldorf teachers help their students to explore curricula through diverse activities, with plenty of room to customize lesson plans. The fluidity of this approach provides extensive engagement that leads to lifelong connections with the material taught, the teachers involved and the bigger questions at the heart of each subject.
According to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), Waldorf schools are highly attuned to the quest to establish each child’s own level of academic excellence. The International Conference on Education of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization endorses the Waldorf method, saying it “places the development of the individual child in the focal point, convinced that the healthy individual is a prerequisite for a healthy society.”
With this mindset, Waldorf schools and educators encourage their pupils to truly thrive in a healthy environment where their opinions and differences are respected rather than stifled or rejected.
A distinction of Waldorf teachers is their passion for individuality and commitment to nurturing individual student’s mind. This philosophy also deems the relationship between Waldorf teachers and their students very much akin to that between mentors and mentees, so that involvement extends beyond the classroom.
Jeff Moore, a past Waldorf educator at the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz, NY, stuck with his small class through the foundational year of first grade all the way until eighth grade graduation. “When somebody asked me what Waldorf education was like, part of me always wanted to respond, ‘it’s a lot like that salad of the same name: full of fruits, nuts and flakes,'” Moore jokes when asked about his experience. Since he taught the class all of the primary subjects (with the exception of foreign languages), he fostered a connection with his students that paved the way for lifelong mentorship and mutual respect. “One of the great strengths of Waldorf education is, I feel, its use of story to communicate the lesson,” Moore says. He adds, “this is most evident in the earlier years of the pedagogy, when Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s fables and a variety of legends and mythologies from around the world become a vehicle for presenting ideas and concepts in a living way.”
Moore says his experience at Mountain Laurel is one that cannot be described briefly. The school was powerful for him and for his class due to the depths of creativity: “it requires a good deal of creative flexibility on the teacher’s part, but the result is seen in the smiles and even the slack-jawed, sometimes awestruck faces of the children during the lesson. The material resonates on deep levels. I would need several pages to begin to do justice to my experience at the school.”
The effect of such educators as Moore leaves a significant mark on the future education and life choices on students. Remy Baglieri, a Mountain Laurel graduate in 2008 and a former student of Moore’s, has only positive and appreciative things to say about Moore and her Waldorf education. “Many people I know have told me they don’t remember their elementary school teacher. Luckily, I don’t think myself (or anyone) could forget Jeff Moore as an educator,” Baglieri says. “In a Waldorf environment, learning is expected to come naturally, and each pupil is given their own time to digest all of the knowledge. Mr. Moore knew this and followed a lesson plan, but would also interweave his love of art, stories and personal experiences in every school day. He made learning — dare I say it — enjoyable. He guided us in our own understanding on what it means to learn, grow and become thoughtful human beings. I don’t know a man that could raise 12 kids for 8 years, but I’m extremely grateful that Jeff stuck it out for that long. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if he hadn’t,” she adds.
Although the Waldorf approach to education has expanded to great lengths, especially in Europe, there are some who question the seemingly test-less teaching approach. Because Steiner’s philosophy incorporates the most profound understanding of human development, it can be difficult for conventional thinkers to accept the ways in which Waldorf directs students away from the standardized testing train that consumes much of K-12 education. However, according to the AWSNA, a staggering 94 percent of Waldorf graduates attend college, 89 percent expresses great satisfaction with career choices, and 90 percent place high value on the importance of tolerance of other viewpoints.
With bright, capable students and teachers wholly committed to both what occurs in the classroom and after, the Waldorf model flourishes. The immense quality of thinking and roundedness that comes from a Waldorf education is vital to today’s society.
In 7th grade, there is a growing awareness of fact with an active outer prospective. Science and mathematics come together with work on perspective and drawing with the art curriculum. Exploration of light and shadow reflect these changes within a middle school student.
Fables play a vital role in role in the Second Grade. From retelling the stories to the child-generated writing, fables reflex the awakening of children’s awareness about their own qualities and those of others. From characters that have less desirable qualities to those that embody the ideal, second grades bring them into their learning and their play making to create a strong picture of morality and responsibility.
Last Friday, March 4, the 10th grade finished their Physics block on Mechanics with Mr. Haut. In this block each student works with a partner to create a projectile launcher that can be calibrated to go specific distances. In spite of the snowflakes falling, the class went out in front of the high school to test their launchers. Many teachers came out to watch this yearly spectacle and competition. There was an amazing array of styles and sizes of launchers; there were catapults, a crossbow, and spring-loaded launchers with tubes. Each pair demonstrated their ability to calibrate correctly (having learned the math in the block!). Then Mr. Haut set a bucket at 23 feet, not a setting they had to accomplish for the test of their launcher. Each pair had three tries to calibrate and aim to get a marble in the bucket. Sadly, no one succeeded in the first round. A second round began and after everyone had gone three more times, only one team – Jorin Volke, Andy Qu, and Simeon Dancey – was able to get the marble in the bucket. Congratulations, boys!
From First Grade, Waldorf students begin their study of geometry with simple lines and forms. By Eighth Grade, students see shapes not as simple forms but with unique qualities in the pattern of nature, much like the students themselves.
Waldorf High School students travel through time and cultures in their language and history curriculums. There art reflects those journeys. Students learn
to see artworks of each culture as symbolic of the consciousness of the people in
a particular place at a given time. Students work with a variety of mediums to create landscapes reflective of their thoughts and ideas.
Reflecting back on a rich journey through the grades, this project captures the relationship of science, art, and writing that embodies an immersive curriculum. In their Zoology books, seniors showcase how subject areas come together and how writers of fiction can reflect facts from the world around them.
The Reformation is not studied as just a religious event in Eighth Grade but as political and cultural one as well. The ideals of universal rights are brought back from previous history lessons integrating with the observational skills of portrait drawing.
POTTSTOWN, PA — When Hannah Wolfram, a senior at Kimberton Waldorf School, was trying to come up with an idea upon which to base her senior project, she decided to defy expectation.
“Anything performance-based was kind of what the expectation was,” Wolfram said. “I decided I’d go out on a limb and do something I had never done before that was completely unexpected.”A lover of the performing arts who enjoys contributing her singing and acting talents to the private school’s theater productions, Wolfram decided she wanted to take on the challenge of flipping a house as the focus of her project.
“My parents had flipped houses before,” she said. “I painted and chipped in, but not quite so hands-on.”Senior projects at Kimberton Waldorf School in Kimberton, Chester County, are based on individual research and exploration of a topic over the course of the senior year.
After getting faculty approval to go ahead with her house flipping project, Wolfram set out with a family friend who was a real estate agent to find a property that matched her budget.
“I was working on a very limited budget,” she said. “I was looking at foreclosures that needed a lot of help. My parents guided me in helping with the initial search of the properties.”Around the start of the school year, she stumbled upon a property on King Street in Pottstown.”I had gone through a dozen houses before that,” she said. “I made settlement Oct. 5.”Wolfram, who lives in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, discussed the state of the house upon purchasing it.”Everything needed to be gutted,” she said. “It was an hour before settlement, and that’s when I found the copper pipes missing. The police had to come because there was a break-in. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I getting myself into.’ I almost had a heart attack. It was a fun start.”The brick, semi-detached home is in a historic district just one block off of High Street.”It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood,” she said. “There is an absolutely amazing vegan place across the street called iCreate that I go to all the time.”
Devoting free time
Ever since settlement, when she purchased the three-bedroom/one bathroom home for just under $30,000 with the help of an investor, she has devoted almost all of her free time to her project.
“I have spent just shy of every weekend working on the project,” she said. “I spent almost every day of Christmas break working on it. I had my family there working on Christmas morning.”In addition to her family, others have also chipped in, such as recently when she needed some extra hands to move the bathtub.”I have had friends who have come over to help,” she said. “I’ve had numerous people helping me off and on, but the bulk of it has been just me.”Wolfram has been diligent about keeping track of her expenses.”It has been a lot of resource shopping, like Habitat for Humanity for new kitchen cabinets and things like that, so I’m able to do it as inexpensively as possible,” she said.She shopped at Habitat’s ReStore shop in West Norriton, Montgomery County, which sells new and used furniture, housewares, appliances, tools and building materials to the public at discounted rates.
Most gratifying project
The most gratifying project thus far involved work she did on a mudroom addition that had been put on the home previously.
“The outer wall was rotted out,” she said. “I had to redo the wall and put in a new back door. That was probably the most gratifying, just because it was start-to-finish done, and it looks so much better having it complete. A lot of the other things I’ve been ripping out, but not finishing yet because of where I am with my work at this point.”Despite her being allowed to hire contractors according to Kimberton’s senior project rules, she has been intent on doing as much as she can herself.”I’ve done pretty great with the knowledge my parents have and some of my friends have that they are able to share with me, and I haven’t needed to hire anyone,” she said.Recently, a family friend with plumbing experience donated his time to show her how to rerun the plumbing.”It’s all connected in the basement, but it hasn’t been run through the floors yet because I don’t know exactly where I want them to run since I just ripped out the bathroom and kitchen,” she said.She also has a plan to add a second bathroom to the house.
In addition to saving money by doing everything she possibly can by herself, she also sees the benefit of her gaining the experience of learning how to do it.
“It’s going to benefit me later in the life to have done all of this,” she said, “to learn how to do it all.”Wolfram said that in addition to learning some new skills, she has learned a lot of life lessons through the project as well.”I think a lot of it is self-discipline,” she said. “I know I have to get up early in the morning on the weekends, the little things to keep me moving, that motivation to keep moving even when it’s cold out. I have one little heater in there, but it’s not warm.”Wolfram has been documenting her project with photos to enable her to show the before and after at her senior project presentation in April. She also posts her progress on her “Hannah’s Senior Project” Facebook page in addition to posting messages seeking volunteer helpers on specific days.”People have offered different bits of knowledge,” she said. “They are also offering to lend a hand and general encouragement, which has been nice.”For safety measures, Wolfram has one person working with her at the house. It’s of particular concern when she uses power tools.”It’s more so accidents I’m alone if an accident would happen,” she said.Wolfram said she has no regrets about choosing such an ambitious project that has consumed so much of her time on top of her already-demanding schedule between school and her involvement in the high school musical.”There have been little things along the way that have made me realize, ‘OK, I’m getting somewhere. This is the light at the end of the tunnel,’ ” she said. “When we ripped up the carpet it was all hardwood floors. That was one of those moments I was like, ‘Yes, this is beautiful. All I have to do is refinish them and it will kind of tie the house together.’ “
The house doesn’t have to be sold by project presentation time given the size of the endeavor. The requirement is that the house must reflect an increase in property value.
“I think it would be lovely for any young family or young couple,” Wolfram said. “The neighborhood has a slightly hipster feel to it, and I think that appeals to younger people.”After selling the property and paying back her investor, Wolfram plans to use whatever money she makes toward her college education.”I want to be a theater major in college,” Wolfram said, sharing she had just paid a visit to New York City to audition at The Juilliard School. “I’m looking at Fordham, Barnard, Yale, and I just got into Ursinus.”Wolfram said she hopes to make a memorable impression when she presents her project in the spring.”I have seen senior projects in the past and there are always a few that stick out that are absolutely incredible,” she said, recollecting a student who hand-carved a totem pole and another who created a clothing line and put on a fashion show. “I think it’s a great opportunity to explore interests you have never been able to do before. It’s a unique opportunity that I’m not going to really have the chance to do again.”
Scratch-board art from the 8th grade at Kimberton Waldorf School.