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A Waldorf Education R

udolf Steiner, a leading figure in the cultural life of Central Europe until his death in 1925, was the

founder of the firstWaldorf School, in Stuttgart, Germany. Steiner, who be- lieved that children should be received in reverence, educated in love and sent forth in freedom, would be delighted to see that his mission is still being carried out at the RiverValleyWaldorf School in Upper Black Eddy. Here, the school’s goal aligns with Steiner’s objective: developing free human beings who are able to impart purpose and meaning to their lives. Today, more than ever, the world of learning needs what River Valley Master Teacher Laura Birdsall describes as a curative education that brings balance to the lives of children. Always working to harmonize and

bring a child into balance,Waldorf ed- ucators are taught to observe a student carefully and reflect in a meditative way that allows them to gain insight into each child’s full potential. “In order to support their destiny, we have to work with more than what meets the eye,” advises Birdsall, an educator of 30 years. She notes that because younger children are natural imitators and soak in their environment, teachers of pri- mary grades take to heart that their own speech, posture and gestures must be worthy of imitation and that the class-

room environment should be beautiful.” Planting the seeds of

reverence for life, nature and the human experience, as well as for all that brings beauty to the soul, starts early in aWaldorf education and is accomplished through a curriculum that honors the arts and the developmental stages of children as under- stood by Steiner. Teachers model, and

students learn, love and kindness; freedom through inner guidance and social responsibility; honesty and humility; diversity and unity; dedication and cooperation; gratitude; health; respect for other; and stewardship of the land. Educating the whole child—head, heart and hands—is accomplished by stimu- lating the mind with a full spectrum of traditional academic subjects; nurtur- ing healthy emotional development by conveying knowledge experientially, artistically as well as academically; and working with the hands throughout the day, both in primary academic sub- jects, in two foreign languages and in a broad range of classes including artistic handwork, woodwork, music, and painting, as well as drama and move- ment. “Learning becomes much more than acquisition of quantities of infor- mation; it becomes an engaging voyage of discovery of the world and oneself,” enthuses Birdsall. The world is changing so rap-

idly that we can’t possibly know what specific skills our children will need in the future. But if they are parented and educated to be vibrant, well-rounded, curious, imaginative human beings with a diversity of different interests and capacities, they may be better equipped to deal with the future. “The world today needs children who have drawn

pictures, sewn, danced, sang, made music, knitted, created books, played cooperative games, recited poetry and acted in class plays every year in order to stretch every one of their human capacities,” remarks Birdsall. By the timeWaldorf children graduate, they have created approximately 80 books in which they have written entries and drawn illustrations which both reflect the richWaldorf curriculum content and their the inner experience of their education. “AWaldorf education devel- ops children with the goal of helping them to find their truth path, where they can use their well-rounded capacities,” she says. In today’s tumultuous times, what

could possibly be more important than young people who are imaginative, well-balanced and connected to their heart force; who act with their head, heart and hands; and who are excited to go out into their communities and do good things? “What we really endeavor to do is nurture human beings so that they can become well-rounded, fully de- veloped world citizens,” advises Birdsall.

River Valley Waldorf School, 1395 Bridgeton Hill Road, Upper Black Eddy 18972. Call 610-982-5606 or visit River-

natural awakenings August l 2010 25

Educating the Whole Child: Head, Heart and Hands by Linda Sechrist

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