Download the article: Educating the Movement Body and A Drum
Steve Spitalny's article on the twelve senses, as indicated by Rudolf Steiner, describes the individual senses and their importance for human development. Our work in early childhood particularly focuses upon supporting the senses of touch (tactile), life, self-movement (proprioceptive), and balance (vestibular). While sometimes also called the "lower senses: they are in no way inferior to or less important than the better-known senses of smell, taste, sight, and hearing. To the contrary, they are literally the foundation upon which other sensory—not to mention academic and emotional—development depends.
The completeness and maturity of each of these sensory systems heralds how fully other skills related to these domains may unfold. For example, the sense of self-movement/proprioception gives the child her first "map" through the experience of body geography. Which are my shoulders, my elbows, my hands? What is their order in my body? Do I know them so well that I do not need to see where hands and arms are to put on my jacket? Can I sense how hard to pull to zip it up?
Download the article: Childhood as an Impulse for Integrated Human Development
The International Early Childhood Conference took place on July 4-8, 2010, in the Escola Rudolf Steiner in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The theme of the conference was Childhood as an Impulse for Integrated Human Development. The Escola Rudolf Steiner is one of forty Waldorf Schools in the Sao Paulo area; it is hard for us to imagine so many schools in one area, but Sao Paulo is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of 20 million people.
Waldorf education first came to Brazil in 1957, but as with so many other anthroposophic endeavors in Brazil, it has spread rapidly. There are now 73 Waldorf Schools in Brazil, twelve of them with high schools. Fifteen teacher training seminars exist, training 450 new teachers at present, and there are 2,050 Waldorf teachers throughout Brazil. In 2008, Brazil became a member of IASWECE (The International Association of Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education), making it the first country in South America to have representation on the Council. Sylvia Jensen, from Florianapolis, is the representative to the Council from Brazil.
Download the article: The Lakota Waldorf School
The Mid-States Shared Gifting Group awarded AWSNA a grant that would provide two visits to the Lakota Waldorf School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. The visits to this school were to determine the status and the level of sustainability of this school and to find helpful supports for its future development. Tom and Laurie Clark, long-time grades and kindergarten teachers at the Denver Waldorf School, received a call from Patrice Maynard, the Outreach and Development leader of AWSNA, to see if they would be interested in participating with her in such a project. They were in the midst of planning a half-year sabbatical and were honored to add this to the list of plans they had in place already, including Mexico and China. Theirs was not to be a restful sabbatical but a busy one full of lively adventures.
The first visit was in October of 2009 for three days. When they walked into the classroom, they met Verola Spider, the Lakota teacher. Verola spent these days working with Laurie Clark to make the room more inviting, and discussing the needs of the young child. Verola has many years of teaching experience and was taking the Lifeways training in Boulder, Colorado. Laurie and Verola were quick friends, comfortable with one another immediately; and they found commonality in their love of being with small children. Both shared humor and flexibility. These days of mentoring and coaching Verola in the classroom had Laurie demonstrating circle, cooking and baking, coloring, beeswax modeling, and story time. The children are given a hot breakfast, lunch and a snack each day before they go home at three pm, so there is a lot of cooking to be done! After the children left on the school bus, these two teachers would review the day together and plan for the following. They marveled at the strength and energy that the children had despite the destitution, the disruption, and the want that are part of all the children's lives at Pine Ridge. They are unusually beautiful children—open, and unburdened by material possessions.
Download the article: Book Review
by Renate Long-Breipohl (WECAN, 2010).
In August, 2008 at the international conference in Wilton, a colleague from Australia took me aside to share the collection of photographs that she had brought with her. We spread the photos out all around us and I could not tear myself away from them. Here were children indoors and out, playing in ways that Pauline described as illustrating the whole history of humanity, in ways that I could never recall having seen.
I was filled with joy to see the fruits of her years of teaching in this artistic outpouring, but all I could think was that others as well as myself deserved the opportunity to experience these wonderful pictures. It's a book, I kept telling her, you must make them into a book!
Spring/Summer 2010, # 58
Articles in this issue include:
Letter from the Editors by Stephen Spitalny
Deepening Our Capacity to Meet Children in Our Care by Nancy Blanning
Observations of Children Under Three in Kindergarten by Lisa Gromicko
The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood by Nancy Foster
A Story for the Evergreen Garden by Joan Almon
Thoughts on my Visit to North America by Helle Heckman
Getting Over Easy by Cynthia Aldinger
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child by Andrea Gambardella
Reflections on Working with Parents by Kimberly Lewis
Wawa Munakuy Nursery Kindergarten by JoAnne Dennee and Joyce Gallardo
Clean-up Time: Chaos or Co-Operation? by Barbara Klocek
The Importance of Touch by Laurie Clark
Book Review: Awakening to Child Health reviewed by Stephen Spitalny
Download the article: Letter from the Editor
More and more it becomes clear that it is all about the will!
The challenges we face as early childhood educators are, by and large, the result of the diminishing will capacities of young children. One of the causes is the proliferation of technological gadgets that are promoted as necessary for modern life, and specifically those marketed for children. Consumer culture has conspired to create products that deliver to young children exactly what is most detrimental for their development, while advertising wizards spin same products in such a way that parents line up in droves to make sure their child is not left out. The gadgets take children away from their life of will activity.
Similarly, the so-called "food" given to so many children is lacking in nutritional value and life energy. Food is the substance the digestive system, the metabolic system, has to work with. This is the sphere of the will in the physical body. Another factor is the way young children are related to by most adults, especially in the realm of verbal communication. Adults offer explanations, instructions, and questions, questions, and more questions to the young child. This prematurely awakens the child in his thinking, and diverts him away from the developmental relating through the will. We see children who don't imitate, who haven't achieved mastery of their own bodies, and who don't (or can't) seem to do anything.
Download the article: Deepening Our Capacities to Meet the Children in Our Care
The content which follows comes from lectures presented by Dr Gerald Karnow at the 2010 East Coast Early Childhood Conference in Spring Valley, NY, on Feb. 12-14. This presentation concluded a three-year consideration of the young child's journey into incarnation of the "I" and how we can observe this unfolding.
Secretly, began Dr. Karnow, we should consider early childhood as the most important work in Waldorf education. The experiences in early childhood provide the foundation for all of life and are most crucial in facilitating healthy incarnation of the human being. Last year the work in our kindergartens was characterized as "priestly." A picture from Steiner's Cosmic Memory describes a grove where the priestess sings her listeners into becoming the vehicle for the incarnated spiritual "I." Her priestly deed was preparation for the human being to be able to say "I." Likewise, the task of Waldorf early childhood education is incarnation of the "I" in the children.
Download the article: Observations of Children Under Three
The benefits of mixed-aged kindergartens are many, especially today with smaller families and frequently unsettled family dynamics. One important benefit spoken of is that young children will have fewer caregivers in the early years, if they have been included at earlier ages in the kindergarten. As younger and younger children come into the kindergartens in our schools today, many questions have arisen. This year, I had the valuable opportunity to experience and learn from the addition (due to school necessity) of several youngest children to my kindergarten class.
The primary questions that I carry now are: What is the long-term health impact for children under three years old, of the "kindergarten" experience? Shouldn't children from birth to age three, have an age-appropriate experience instead, because of their critical life stage? What does "kindergarten readiness" really mean, in this age of inclusion? I feel that we need to earnestly revisit this question, in particular.
Download the article: The Seasonal Festivals in Early Childhood
Seeking the Universally Human
One of the wonderful, and wonderfully challenging, characteristics of Waldorf early childhood education is that there is no curriculum. Unlike the education for older children, there is no specific outline of subjects offered by Rudolf Steiner for these early years. Rather, it is sometimes said that "the curriculum is the teacher." To that I might add two other elements, forming a threefold curriculum: the teacher or caregiver, the developing child, and the social and cultural community, including the parents, surrounding the school or program.
The teacher or caregiver, striving inwardly and outwardly to be worthy of imitation, creates an environment in which each child may feel recognized and held in a mood of dream-consciousness. The child, developing according to lawful, archetypal stages, yet a unique individuality, leads the deeply-observant teacher or caregiver to provide nourishing surroundings and activities. And the school community, offering its particular mix of culture, race, religion, ideals, and questions, all within a specific geographic location, provides a social context within which the teacher and children are active together.