Newsletter September 2017
Waldorf 100 – What´s it about, how it works, where it’s going
we welcome you to our first Waldorf 100 newsletter that will inform you regularly about all activities around the anniversary from now on till september 2019.
Every morning, shortly before sunrise, a wonder wanders once around the world: the song of the birds, a sound of continual life and renewal. Somewhat later another wave of sound follows, not nearly as well-known, but also something of a wonder: the Morning Verse, spoken by hundreds of thousands of young people in many different languages. One hundred years of Waldorf education reflect one hundred years of an extraordinary living development, now carried on by many thousands of schools and kindergartens and related initiatives all around the world.
We will be celebrating our Centennial in 2019 with a global festival on 19 September, beginning already on 7 September with a celebration of the very first Steiner/Waldorf school at Uhlandshöhe in Stuttgart, Germany. The event will certainly commemorate the importance of the last one hundred years for our educational impulse, but even more importantly, we want to plant the seeds of a future-worthy education for the next hundred years. Let’s make 2019 the start of a new era for our movement, at every Steiner/Waldorf school, every kindergarten, our colleges and seminars – by taking a burning interest in the challenges of our time, by scrutinizing anew the principles of Waldorf education on the basis of modern research, by observing and trying to understand our students more perceptively (and not forgetting the adults in the process), and finally, by expanding our horizons and trying to grasp the big picture by fruitful exchanges and connections with others. Many of our schools and kindergartens have already begun this process, by
- ... studying the fundamental educational lectures of Rudolf Steiner
- ... enhancing the dialog on a specific child’s development (the “Child Studies”)
- ... actualizing the “Bees & Trees” project with the entire school community
Waldorf 100 thrives on a thousand small and large initiatives that are sprouting up and being implemented in countless local venues, in cooperation with others, on a single continent or around the entire world.
Waldorf 100 is also working on a few projects that have been provided to all Steiner/Waldorf students globally – our so-called “core projects”, which in contrast to many individual local projects and initiatives are being centrally coordinated. You can inform yourself about the current state of these projects on our Website.
- Metamorphoses: Compositions for school orchestras
- Drama for upper-grade classes
- Marathon around the world
- Bees & Trees
- And about all other projects, see our interactive world map
Every Steiner/Waldorf facility can post its own projects on our website, as stimulus and inspiration for themselves and others. We will post regular reports about special individual school projects in our Newsletter.
Be a part of making Waldorf 100 into a global consciousness, which is more important than ever in our time in the history of our unique life on earth. Let’s join forces to gather the strength we need to prepare our children for the world of tomorrow! The birds and our Morning Verse sing and tell us the message every day.
Waldorf 100 is an initiative of the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education. The sponsor of the non-profit organization Waldorf 2019 e.V., with headquarters in Stuttgart, maintains an office in Hamburg and is overseen by an international Supervisory Board. Waldorf 100 is sponsored and advanced by many national associations and allied partners.
Core projects – The postcard exchange has started
(HKU) 1,200 packages containing a total of 1.4 million postcards have now arrived at all Steiner/Waldorf schools on our planet, and are waiting for our students to create a joint art project that is unique on this huge scale. Now is the time to send the postcards out into the world. When all students of all schools participate, every single school will get a wonderful range of large and small works of art in exchange, which we can use to produce not only beautifully inspired global maps, but also to reflect our common effort.
Many schools have already written us about the enthusiasm with which their students engage in crafting the postcards. We will be delighted to receive photos of your best postcards, or photos of children working on this project, or when the postcards are presented at your school, so we can publish them on our website and make available to everyone else.
Some of our smaller and less richly endowed schools have asked whether parents could donate a few stamps along with the postcards, and this way solve their postage difficulty locally. But in some countries there are schools, however, whose parents have no way of contributing to the postage, because they simply don´t have the means to donate one or more stamps. For these we have set up a fund, which can be provided to by schools from richer countries. We kindly and heartily ask you to donate into this fund to help the really poor schools to participate in this project as well. Thank you very much!
School projects – Revegetation in the virgin forest of Peru
The Waldorf 100 project of the Waldorf school in Lima (Peru) is devoted to saving the rain forest. Every year the students reforest about 1,000 trees in the rain forest and thus contribute to protecting a massively endangered nature preserve.
The Panguna research and nature preserve is located right in the middle of the Peruvian virgin forest. The picturesque scenery is an extremely sensitive ecosytem with a fabulous diversity of Amazon species. There is a research station established in this tropical region, which can only be reached by foot or by boat. This station is near the central village of the Sháninka, an indigenous people of the Amazon.
Due to gold mining in the nearby Sira mountains, the entire region is extremely endangered by mercury emissions, as well as by repeated arson and illegal deforestation of the preserve.
The reforestation project began with students of the Waldorf school in 2014, and is carried out every year by 9th graders under the supervision of a designated team of teachers.
Within the scope of their Waldorf 100 project, these students plant about 1,000 trees every year, in order to regenerate areas that have been burned. The students experience first-hand what it’s like to work in open areas in the tropical heat, and also the value of what their sweat and effort means in the middle of the rain forest – a fantastic and unique ecosystem. A neighboring school is also participating in the reforestation project, which enhances exchange and communication between the students of Lima and the region. The practical experience of working together creates a mutual understanding of each other’s special skills and abilities, and what each one can learn from the other. The students also learn what is a serious threat to humans, animals, and nature throughout the region due to gold mining: mercury poisoning.
Three questions to… Michal Ben Shalom
Michal Ben Shalom, born and grew up in Israel. Co-founder of the first Waldorf school in Israel, Sep. 1989,in kibutz Harduf, where 25 years of class teaching followed. At the same time, a co-founder of the teachers seminar in Harduf, and the Israeli Forum for Waldorf education. Presently, mentoring teachers and giving lectures and workshops in Israel, as well as, coordinating a teachers training course in Katmandu, Nepal.
How are the Waldorf schools in your country doing?
Schools in Israel are having a strong momentum, 26 schools over the last 28 years, with 4 full upper-schools and over 100 kindergartens. Interestingly enough, in the complicated cultural, social and political climate, Israeli parents seek for a different education, for a more human education. Our big problem is the lack of trained teachers as demand to open more classes increases.
Does your school already have specific plans for the Waldorf 100 Anniversary?
Waldorf 100 has not taken a clear shape as yet. but it will in the next few months. Some schools already started bee keeping.
How would you describe the essence of Waldorf pedagogy in a very personal way?
Waldorf education, in it's very essence is, for me, a peace- making education. No less! It is a path of growing to accept and love the other. Of seeing the other as your fellow and brother. This is the hidden sap of our education. Therefore, it is so intimately connected with the difficult times in Israel, and is a true, yet quiet, way of healing in this part of the world.
International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education, Dornach, Switzerland
Waldorf 100@Bundesschülerratstagung, Freie Waldorfschule Kaltenkirchen, Germany
Waldorf 100@Freie Waldorfschule Wahlwies, Germany
Expecting the unexpected. How a class teacher prepares for his lesson
By Henning Kullak-Ublick (Source: Erziehungskunst 01/2016)
As a teacher, I have repeatedly made the surprising discovery that the class found the lesson all the more interesting the more I turned my attention inwardly to specific individual children as I prepared the lesson and in doing so asked them: “How can I best explain this to you in particular?” A class is a complicated social work of art that is in constant movement. Every individual child always relates to all the others.
The story of Bucephalus
When teachers prepare for a main lesson, they begin by collecting any amount of information. This search, which is as arduous as it is gripping, is made very much simpler through the rather good school books today so that there is a great temptation to use them as the main source of information. That is practical but not good because the journey of discovery into unknown territory is an important part of preparation.
In Waldorf schools, class teachers have to acquire a lot of knowledge in a relatively short period of time for each main lesson in order to be able to make progress with their class. In alternation they have to deal with geography or biology, history or algebra, chemistry or physics, German, house building or agriculture. Such diversity makes it necessary to proceed by way of exemplification and find the path from all the ones that are available which is best suited for the class, its questions and stage of development.
A key step here is to consolidate the wealth of the material into strong, characteristic pictures and develop them in our imagination in such a way that they begin to breath and speak in a living way. When we deal with Alexander in Greek history, for example, the question arises as to which events in his life are suitable for giving a fully-rounded impression of this hero who despite his short life is called “the Great” to the present day.
One story which class teachers like to tell is that of his horse Bucephalus: Alexander’s father, Philipp II, was offered the purchase of a magnificent stallion. But whenever a rider approached him it shied away and kicked out. Philipp was annoyed and was turning away when his twelve-year-old son pushed to the front and said he could tame the horse. Alexander took it by the reins, turned it around, mounted it and galloped away with the applause of the people watching.
He had observed that the horse had shied away from the shadow of the riders and turned it towards the sun so that it no longer saw any shadows. Philipp bought the horse and spoke the famous words: “Son, seek a kingdom for yourself for Macedonia is not big enough for you!” Alexander rode Bucephalus from that day on and it subsequently carried him in his great campaign to the East. When the horse drowned at the age of thirty, he built the town of Alexandria Bucephalous, Jhelam today, in Punjab (Pakistan).
It is not enough simply to read out such stories; we have to imagine the scene in such a colourful and living way that we experience everything as we tell it: the smells and sounds, the heat and the blinding sun, the faces of the people present.
To begin with it can help to practice by telling the story out loud, later on it is enough to do it in our thoughts, perhaps even for a specific child. This process is an imaginative exercise because the picture becomes transparent for connections which extend beyond the concrete situation. In this example it is the power of observation, the intelligence and the inexorable will of Alexander which come to expression once more in his father’s words.
From the picture to the concept through sleep
Then sleep comes which spreads its mantle of forgetting over all our ideas. But something happens during the night – in us and in the children. Neuroscientists speak about the experiences of the day being processed during sleep: knowledge which can be recalled is stored in the “declarative memory” while in other sleep phases the sum to experiences in the “procedural memory” is transformed into skills. When the children return to school in the morning their experiences from the previous day have changed through sleep – always assuming they were interesting enough to be taken notice of in sleep.
Now there is a further interesting observation here: the more intensively I have immersed myself in the creation of a picture the evening before, the less I have to be attached to my lesson plan, the “material” or indeed the picture itself next morning. On the contrary, something quite different happens: I become curious about what the children have brought with them from their post (night time) experience in relation to what they have learnt the previous day. In learning to listen to what they tell or the unspoken questions living in them, they inspire me not simply to carry on with the material but to explore the context with them and obtain living concepts as a result which can subsequently continue to grow.
Such listening is a resonance phenomenon with which every teacher is familiar: suddenly the content acquires a depth, colour or new dimension which goes far beyond what I had planned or what was demanded by the curriculum. The space which is formed through the enhanced attentiveness to the “how” of the pupils’ recall makes intuition possible or, to use a more common form of words, learning turns into an experience of presence of mind for everyone in which the certainty arises: it really is possible for me to understand the world!
Main lessons offer wonderful opportunities for this kind of learning and teaching because the children go to bed with the expectation that there will be more the next morning. If they can look forward to that with a certain sense of excitement, they form a much closer attachment to the content than is possible through the cognitive accumulation of knowledge alone. In a much larger arc such “forgetting” is repeated between main lessons and is recalled when the thread is picked up again.
It is one of the unexpected experiences that a class at the start of a new main lesson – for example when doing arithmetic – can often fish out a greater quantity of knowledge from their memory than they had at the end of the last arithmetic main lesson. The methodological trick practiced in Waldorf schools of moving from pictorial stories appealing to the children’s imagination, or from an experiment or active perception, to repetition through description, drawing or creation, before dealing with the matter conceptually after having slept on it overnight, creates the space for the deepening described above.
Stages of meditation
Preparation proceeds from the collection of material to the creation of the picture and from there to an enhanced attentiveness for the questions and thoughts which come from the children next morning. This can lead to the creation of an atmosphere in which the unexpected happens – presence of mind. This triad leads to a qualitative enhancement in the development of cognition and not to an indeterminate mawkish sentimentality.
These methodological steps cannot, however, be acquired just like that. They are a training path which has the benefit that the important thing is not only the result but also the process itself. And that starts with the first try. The road from the material via the picture to “listening” as far as presence of mind corresponds to the higher knowledge which Rudolf Steiner described with the terms imagination, inspiration and intuition. He said of them that they exist as a predisposition in every person even if it requires particular attentiveness to develop them in a purposeful way. It is nevertheless the case that these three stages of knowledge are much closer than we might initially assume.
The meaning of the word imagination arises already out of the preparatory path in which it is a matter of finding living pictures which are suitable for giving us an inkling of something of the spiritual substance of things. In a meditative context this can be reflecting on the relationship between wisdom and love and light and warmth, or contemplating the picture of a rose as the image for the purity gained on a thorny path.
More deeply anchored in feeling is inspiration, of which the enhanced attentiveness to the unspoken questions of the children is a preliminary stage. It goes further than imagination. When I become aware of what the children experience or have experienced in the pictures, I no longer have a feeling (just) of myself but of the world which speaks to me through the children. Feeling becomes purified into an organ of perception.
With intuition, of which the experience of presence of mind is the preliminary stage, the separation of subject and object which is necessary and common in our day-to-day consciousness is removed; recognition and what is recognised are no longer opposites. Many mystics describe this. Dostoyevsky says succinctly: “Love makes us sighted” – as does Steiner, by the way.
In a religious context this corresponds to communion, to which Rudolf Steiner refers in his Philosophy of Freedom with the words: “Becoming aware of the idea in reality is the true communion of human beings.” If we summarise the stages of meditation, the path starts with a consciously constructed picture in which the meditating person immerses themselves. If they succeed in feeling this picture inwardly and increasingly to direct more attention to these feelings than the picture, this can eventually turn into an experience of the intrinsic reality of the spiritual world. What we normally only experience selectively in art or in the encounter with a beloved person expands into cognition of the world.
Fusion reactor or star of love
One morning, a class 4 pupil came to me and said with a challenging look: “The sun is a fusion reactor!” On the previous day I had told the amazed children how the whalers and Jamaica-bound sailors in earlier times had found the way back to their home ports with the help of the stars. When he had told his father about it, his father had shown him a popular scientific film about astronomy.
Now the definition of the sun as a fusion reactor represents a mechanistic reduction for a ten-year-old child which not only kills off the imagination but also demands too much of them intellectually: when I asked him what a fusion reactor was, I learned that small crumbs are baked together. So much for the reality of the way that model was represented…
What to do? I neither wanted to negate the model nor cast doubt on the authority of his father. But I could clearly feel how the boy hoped that I would help him out of his existential fix. Until the day before the sun had still been a mighty being, now it had turned into a mechanism. So I had to find a picture which would encompass all of that, and I had to do so quickly because the conversation was taking place right now.
So I asked him where he noticed it when he was fond of someone. He pointed to his heart. We spoke about the way we had a warm feeling when we were fond of someone. Finally I added: “The sun has so much love that its light and warmth is enough for all the animals, flowers, fishes, birds and all people. And whenever a person is fond of another person and is good to them they fetch a little bit of it down to earth until in the future the earth itself will have become a star.” Such a small imagination can grow without contradicting explanatory models which can be grasped by the analytical thinking which awakens later on.
Freedom is often mistaken today for the ability to keep one’s distance. But that is only the prerequisite for a deeper freedom which creates new connections out of our own volition. In order for children to be able to go their own path to achieve understanding when they start from the already existing, finished knowledge of adults, they need pictures as the stimulus to think for themselves.
Freedom is a balancing act between arbitrariness and randomness, with which it is all too often confused. An education which has dedicated itself to freedom would do well to practice maintaining its balance because the skill of always finding our balance anew as we stride forward is not only the basis of every good education but also of every art of living.
And it is precisely this art which saves us from ossification or fading away – both in school and in life.