Radical and Relevant Blog

May 2016

Les Black - 2016 Honorary Waldorf Fellow

The Steiner Centre is pleased  to announce our 2016 Honorary Waldorf Fellow, Les Black. Les has been a long time colleague and champion for creativity in Waldorf education. With over 30 years of dedicated service to our Toronto Waldorf School community, Les has touched the lives of hundreds of children and colleagues. His love of drama and movement has inspired us all. Les will be the keynote speaker at the graduation of our full-time program on May 30 where he will be awarded his own certificate.

Les retired from the intense life of a Waldorf class teacher at the Toronto Waldorf School in 2010. Following the graduation of his third, eight-year-cycle class, Les has nourished the slow build-up of a new career in teacher-mentoring and Foundations Studies in anthroposophy teaching through RSCT’s Distance Studies Program. He is currently assisting at L' Ecole Rudolf Steiner de Montreal, mentoring teachers, speaking to topics requested by the faculty and to topics parents in the school's community. This concept of mentor-to-school relationship will extend to the Trillium Waldorf School early in the new school year. Les also mentors many Foundations Studies students from Mohawk First Nations communities in Brantford and Cornwall. This is an unexpected and privileged turn of focus. Students from Montreal, Australia and South Korea have made up the mosaic of students he has supported in these studies.

 In 2011 Les drove across Canada, encouraging Canadian Waldorf schools to unite with a Canadian organization designed to enhance the work of AWSNA in Canada and address our common, Canadian-specific issues.

Les and family (wife, Ilse and sons, Ben, Noah and Lucas) moved to the Toronto Waldorf School  in 1983, where he took up the mantle of class teacher. Three classes journeyed with him from grade 1 through 8. For one school year he was the movement teacher for grades 6 through 12 and he subsequently completed the Spatial Dynamics Training (2nd North American Class). Les carried many leadership roles during his twenty-seven years at the school and was active in the resistance to the imposition of standardized testing by the Ministry of Education.

Les and family had moved from Fort Frances, in North Western Ontario, where he had been a public school teacher for seven years before that. He did his graduate training in education at the University of Lancashire in England in 1975. He had prior teaching experience at Crescent School and Lakefield College School.

 

 

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Waldorf Doll Making

Have you ever wanted to make one of those adorable, huggable Waldorf dolls? Well, here is your chance. This July 18 to 22 Luciana Baptista Cohen will be leading a workshop in which she will lead you through all the steps of bringing your dream into cuddly form - your very own doll. Of course you can share it if you want to, but you may just want to keep it for yourself.

Waldorf Doll Making
with Luciana Baptista Cohen

Come and make a huggable Waldorf doll. A Waldorf doll is much more than just a toy. It inspires free play, a sense for caring, and imagination. Made out of all natural materials, respecting healthy human proportions and with a simple physiognomy, these delightful dolls will become a friend close to your child’s heart. It will accompany your child through life experiences and support his or her social and emotional development. And besides all that, they are fun to make and play with! 

 

   You may even want to keep it for yourself.

 

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April 2016

Encountering Our Humanity

Dear Friends of the Steiner Centre,

We are excited to announce a North American Anthroposophical Conference “Encountering Our Humanity” taking place in Ottawa August 7 to 14th.

How is anthroposophy meeting the needs in the world today? How can we be more aware of the needs, and how can we become active in the movement? The conference will address this question. It will provide a broad scope of the fields where anthroposophy is at work, with keynote lectures that speak to Karma & Biography, Education, Medicine, Science & Biodynamics, the Arts, Spirituality, and more. We will get a sense for how these fields are interconnected, and the place of the developing human being.

Speakers from the Goetheanum and from North America will be present. There are a few keynote speakers from our community, including Regine Kurek, Kenneth McAlister, Jonah Evans, and Michael Schmidt.

The conference provides a unique opportunity to learn more about anthroposophy, to engage in artistic workshops, to hear about research that members are active in, to be inspired by each other, to meet and connect, to relax and enjoy evening performances from such artists as violinist Emmanuel Vukovich, the Spring Valley Eurythmy group, and the members of the Cambridge Music Conference.

Please visit the website  www.encounteringourhumanity.ca  for more information, and to register.

 

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In Honour of Virginia Smith

Our dear colleague, friend and alumni, Virginia Smith died this past weekend. We are saddened to have to say goodbye to her so soon. Virginia was a well respected mentor in our Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers part-time program and taught in our Summer Festival of Arts and Education. She will be missed here as she will by her friends far and wide. We send our blessings to her, her family, friends, students and peers. Her colleagues at the Calgary Waldorf School shared these fitting sentiments with their school community:

Dear Friends of the Calgary Waldorf School:

On behalf of all of us on the Faculty, Staff, and Board at the school, we are writing to you this afternoon to confirm for you and share with you in the saddest of news. Many of you will already know that our beloved friend, teacher, and colleague Virginia Smith died this past weekend. After many years of struggles with a number of difficulties and heart-breaks in her life, Virginia chose to take her own life at the end of last week. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go to everyone who grieves our loss of her. We want you to have this “Intercessory Prayer” (by Adam Bittleston) which we have been reading together this week to send our love, hope, and peace to our dearest Virginia.

Thou angel who keepest watch
Over the destiny of Virginia
Through the waking and sleeping,
And the long ages of time:
May our thoughts, filled with hope,
Reach Virginia through thee.
May she be strengthened
From the founts of will
Which bear us towards freedom.
May she be illumined
From the founts of wisdom
Which warm the inmost heart.
May she feel peace
From the founts of love
Which bless our work.

Virginia joined the Faculty of our Calgary Waldorf School in September of 1995. In these past 20 years, she has been a leading and steadfast light in our community. Virginia has filled virtually all of the key roles in our school, including Class Teacher, Interim Pedagogical Administrator, Teacher Mentor, Teacher Evaluator, Division Chair, Faculty Council member, Board member, member of Faculty committees and Board committees, leader of many faculty professional development/teacher training series, and speaker/workshop leader at many adult education events. Throughout her two-decade tenure at our school, Virginia has been the embodiment of a striving Waldorf teacher. As a true “Server of the Light”, Virginia’s deep and enduring commitment to our students, our parents, her colleagues, our school, and our community has been a gift to us all which will continue to resonate throughout the whole lifetime of our school. She has touched and will continue to touch so many lives with her compassion, intelligence,
insights, creativity, and clarity. As I write this, I have a picture in my mind of Virginia’s glow.

Our deepest condolences, affection, and thankfulness go from all of us to Virginia’s family. And we also hold Jack Searchfield – Virginia’s partner in life and teaching for so many years – very closely in our hearts, with much love. Each of us will miss Virginia terribly and in so many ways.

At the school, we have heard this afternoon from Virginia’s family about the details of the service which they will be holding this week to remember and honour Virginia. Everyone is very welcome to attend the memorial service on Thursday, April 14th at 3:00 pm at Scarboro United Church (134 Scarboro Avenue SW). A reception will follow the service, at the church, up until about 5:30 pm, which everyone is also very welcome to attend. Please know that the school will be sending flowers to the church, for Virginia’s family, on behalf of everyone in our school community. Also, many of the CWS faculty and staff will be singing at either the service or at the reception...

In losing Virginia, we know that everyone’s heart is breaking. All of us here on Faculty, Staff, and Board join you in this profound grief and sadness. At the same time, we are so grateful for all the expressions of love and care which are constantly pouring toward Virginia, her family, Jack, and the school. We’ll close this letter to you with a poem, “In Blackwater Woods”, by Mary Oliver (one of Virginia’s favourite poets), which we know Virginia has turned to for many years, in order to find solace, wisdom, and the way forward.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Yours in thankfulness and community,
Cathie Foote, School Administrator
Kathy Brunetta, Pedagogical Administrator
Mary Wyatt Sindlinger, President of the Board of Directors

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Man as Embryo

Summer Week on Embryology

Lectures, images, anecdotes and movement trying to find an answer to  questions about our prenatal embryonic existence - body, soul and spirit led by Jaap van der Wal, MD, PHD.

What do we do when we are embryo?

 Jaap van der Wal leads participants on the search for spirit in man and nature following a variety of scientific pathways. He has spent a lifetime searching for the sense, meaning, goals of our existence. The question of "What we actually doing when we are embryo?" is only relevant for the embryologist who is on the search for such qualities. An effort is made to come to the essence of spiritual being of the human embryo and to bring the relationships between spirit, soul and body to light. New perspectives are presented with an outlook on a polarity morphology, threefoldness of the human body, on microcosmos and macrocosmos, human existence in development and incarnation. The human body is considered here as a dynamic process that only can be understood as a living organism. Effort will be made to overcome the modern poor philosophical 'nothingbutterism'("the human being is nothing else than just material processes and software and so on") and to extend it to a real holistic and spiritual human biology. The approach that will be followed is a scientific one i.e the Goetheanistic phenomenology and is based upon our primary perception and experiencing of our reality. This means: NOT "I think therefor I am", but "I experience myself as a thinking, feeling and willing being, therefor I am and exist in , by and thanks to this body".

Content of the course

In studying human embryonic development we are dealing with what could be mentioned as 'still functioning in forms'. By this Jaap means that the gestures of growth and development that the human embryo is performing could be interpreted and understood as human behavior. And as a kind a pre-exercising of what later on will appear as physiological and psychological functions. It looks as if the embryo, and therefore the human being, is in a kind of empathetic equilibrium between antipathy and sympathy with the environment and the world. This polarity seems to be essential for the human being and suggests the twofoldness of spirit and matter. Phenomenological embryology helps us to see the human body as an expression body as well as mind (dynamic morphology). This search makes it possible to explore questions such as "Where do we come from?" and "What is the human being?" The approach practiced here leads to a process of morphology that may help us overcome the Cartesian thinking in anatomy: a real morphology of mind, body and  soul.  The gestures of growth visible in the embryo can be seen as an echo of the development of mankind (evolution):  in this way  becoming  human and the evolution of humanity, biography and biology come together.  Studying the embryo in this way also provides insight  in the laws and priciples of human development. The way in which the human shape gets its form in the prenatal phase is an expression of the essential feature that the human being 'is citizens of two worlds i.e. mind and matter, heavens and earth and that in this tension field the human being develops (embryology) and manifests itself (morphology).

The aim of the course is to allow the people to participate in the mighty processes that create the basis for the existence of each human individual. We aim to do this not only by means of intelligence ('head') had but also with feeling ('heart') and will. With the 'spectacles' of phenomenology it is possible to 'see' a spiritual perspective in man and in becoming human based upon the scientific facts of the prenatal life. This approach 'teaches' that human beings may be considered as beings that by means of conception, embryonic development and birth create incarnations so that the mind (spirit) can find a useful home in a body.

Procedure

Prior knowledge of embryology is not required. Diagrams, illustrations and a reader will be available. The lectures and discussions will be alternated with practical exercises like form drawing and bodily motions (‘eurhythmy’).

See Jaap's website for more information: Embryo in Motion - The Embryo in us

 

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March 2016

Importance of Birth-to-Three

Birth-to-three is a sacred time when the child is of two worlds: they are still held within the spiritual world from whence they came AND they bring with them into this earthly realm goodness, devotion, and trust.

This is the most critical period of life!

  • they are at their most impressionable, surrendering to their senses
  • all that they experience profoundly influences their physical and psychological well-being for the rest of their life
  • they acquire the three fundamental human gifts of uprightness, speaking, and thinking
  • they are devoted to what they receive as they place their complete trust into the hands of their parents and caregivers
  • they need warmth and support so that the ‘I’ can take hold of the physical body in an unhindered way

At no other time is there such a need to be protected, understood and have an advocate.  Those working in this realm learn to respect and accept the value of this phase for each individual child’s potential and for that of humanity as a whole.

Parent-and-Child work in particular needs more recognition within Waldorf school communities by seeing the teacher as a “real teacher,” through equal pay, involvement in faculty work, and professional development.

For the parents it means having an early experience of Waldorf education which will inform their ongoing understanding of the pedagogy. 

For the schools it means having informed parents and healthy children.

According to Steiner our very best teachers should be with the youngest children.

With this need in mind, the Rudolf Steiner Centre is launching a new program this summer Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators Birth-to-Three. 

Karen Weyler
Codirector Birth-to-Three program

 

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Summer Festival of Arts and Education

 

This summer's offerings are just announced!

A Summer Retreat for Adults

 

Join us for an enlivening variety of artistic and educational  workshops with  international presenters and participants. Embryology, Eurythmy, Biography Waldorf Art, and Doll Making are a few of the 21 courses on offer.

We have Waldorf grade level intensives (Grades 1 to 7) for teachers, music teachers, early childhood educators and administrators balanced by a wide range of artistic workshops that are open to all.

Evenings will be filled with our popular coffee houses, research presentations, social art and a graduation celebration for our part-time Waldorf teachers.

Human Form Divine

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine...
                       William Blake

Here we are invited to see the divine revealed in our human form, the light of love filling this vessel, the constant change that is our lives. The same forces that form our bodies are continuously at work throughout our lives. What is it that stays constant amidst all the change? What is the spark that orchestrates the show, but never quite appears on the stage? Join us and explore the wonder and the mystery, human and divine.

Come join in the fun.

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February 2016

Work We Did Together - Working with the First Waldorf School in Madagascar #5

Work we did together 

Every morning the teachers at Sekoly Tenaquip meet for half an hour before the start of school. One teacher stands at the front and shares reflections on a Bible passage that she finds inspiring. This responsibility rotates daily through the whole faculty. The teachers then sing a psalm and speak any news of the day. I was invited to speak each morning about the art of education, to inspire the teachers and to give them practical tools to enliven their teaching. Furthermore I endeavoured to help them realize their creative roles in shaping this school. It is their school after all and they are they play an important part in forming its learning culture. We explored aspects of the Waldorf curriculum that offer them direct experiences for how they can work more creatively with students in ways that enrich the learning and their lives as teachers.

Right from the very first day I observed what a miracle this school is and was able to celebrate with them all that each had done to create it. The school's existence from inception to it's extensive campus and faculty truly are a miracle on any number of levels. It is so important to take stock of all the good work that has gone into this endeavour  that lifts it well beyond the ordinary or typical. With this appreciation in place we were then able to take steps in imagining how each teacher could stretch herself to make the school even better. Our aim has to be that the children not only pass their basic exams, but that they can grow into well-rounded human beings with all the essential knowledge and skills to step into leadership positions in their communities. This latter is essential for the future of this fragile land and culture.

Clay modelling 

With the elementary school teachers we did a series of exercises with clay and storytelling over 3 afternoons. The aim was to lead the teachers through an experience of artistically integrated curriculum that would offer them a deeper understanding of how Waldorf pedagogy can be so effective, engaging and fun.

We began with two handfuls of clay from the rice paddy below the school. Each teacher was invited to make their clay as round as possible using just their hands. I reminded them that "Hands know roundness much better than the flat surface of a table." This seemingly simple exercise awakened the sensitivity of their hands and challenged each person to use their hands to find symmetry as a dynamic process. Some felt more successful than others. We then passed our spheres around the circle and were surprised to find that they all had different qualities. We tried to find language (using Malagasy, French and English!) to characterize the differences between one and another sphere. These were described as differences in warmth, density, texture, smoothness and shape. Just in the first part of this exercise we witnessed that this simple artistic activity awakened sensory perception (touch, warmth, balance, movement, sight and sound). We then raised our experiences to consciousness by reflecting on the activity. We tried to find accurate language to describe what we perceived in our spheres and others. There was no point at which we had to judge them as good spheres or not. Rather the whole awareness of what constitutes a sphere emerged between us and each embodied aspects of it.

Next we gradually transformed our spheres into eggs. We place these on tables and noticed that these simple forms, depending on their positioning, looked like a whole variety of animals from chicks and cows to owls and whales. I then challenged the teachers to transform their egg into one of these animal forms without adding or taking away any clay, just moving what was already there. I wanted them to have an experience of wholeness, just like nature, in which everything is already given. One form transforms into another and another in processes of growth and decay. Nothing is wasted.

Most of the teachers had never modelled with clay before; nevertheless, they were able to make animals and enjoy the process. They made a whole menagerie. It could have been Noah’s Ark. We went around the circle offering praise and appreciation for what each person had managed to create. It is not always easy to give or receive feedback, especially positive feedback, but this stretched people and prepared them for the next level of challenge, inventing a story.

Earlier in the year, Kathy Lucking had led some very successful work with the faculty with storytelling as a means for reviving traditional culture and engaging interest. It resonated well with the teachers, but they were looking for more skills. So, I next asked them to get together in pairs and create a story about their two animals that they had just created. There was a lot of talking and laughter. Soon the room was crackling with creativity and filled with inventive stories that the teachers had made up on the spot. These were so engaging and inventive. Everyone was eager to tell theirs and they were all very enthusiastically received.

On the following afternoons we reviewed all the steps in this whole process. We reflected on how each step challenged us and then shifted our focus to how we could use these kind of artistic activities to make our lessons more engaging for all concerned. The teachers were genuinely inspired because not only had we spoken about Waldorf curriculum, but we had practiced it together. This was an important, perhaps essential, step in their ability to begin to transform their archaic approach to teaching.

Bread Oven

The work with clay led seamlessly into our preparations for building a bread oven. In fact it gave us a few days of delicious anticipation as we looked forward to it more and more. I described this process more fully in Article #3. This again was a start to finish project in building a functioning bread oven and baking bread in it. This hands-on experience led the teachers to understand more fully how their teaching could be enlivened through direct experience, reflection and integrated lessons. And, children always love lessons that incorporate food.

Singing 

The Sekoly Tenaquip teachers love to sing and do so with great gusto. They were grateful for any opportunities to learn new songs. Equally they enjoyed learning new ways for integrating singing into their lessons. We sang a number of rounds and work songs to accompany the various activities that we were doing. This proved to be a very enjoyable part of our working together.

Geometrical Drawing

Every afternoon I met with the high school teachers and tried to offer them ways that they could step beyond their exam preparation curriculum and make teaching more interesting and learning more memorable. They were intrigued by the idea that math could be beautiful. This was completely new to them, but is so integral to the Waldorf approach to mathematics. So, I led them in doing a number of geometrical drawings that reveal mathematical relationships in beautiful ways. We worked with compasses and straight edges and coloured pencils to reveal the laws of circles and six-fold symmetry, "The Seed of Life." These are very satisfying drawings to execute. They are exacting and reveal ones skill and attention to detail or lack thereof. And in the end, if they are drawn carefully, the results are stunningly beautiful.

It is so important to see that learning does not need to be drudgery or rote. Each lesson can challenge the students on numerous levels and hopefully find a way to engage their thirst for learning. If the students are motivated in this way, then learning comes much more easily and goes in much more deeply. They will far exceed the demands of basic exams.

Creative Teaching 

We also had numerous opportunities for talking about education the value (or lack thereof) of exams. Ever and again I looked for ways to offer them inspirations for their pedagogy, to ask them why they were teaching a particular subject to their classes and how they could make it interesting for the students. Much more than just teaching knowledge and basic skills, the highest endeavor in education must be about learning to become human, learning how to think clearly, feel deeply and impart meaning to one’s life.

Truly teaching is one of the most important and demanding professions on the planet. It asks each teacher to stand before students, colleagues and parents as a striving example of what a human being can be. It demands that teachers have a broad base of knowledge, that they feel empathically for others struggles and that daily they bring their ideals into practice. It asks that teachers make themselves worthy of emulation, that they question everything and seek ever for truer answers. This level of striving demands everything. 

Much more than just a job, teaching is a calling, a vocation. Waldorf teachers need to understand that they could not accomplish this task on their own. They need the help of the whole community, colleagues, parents and students alike. Furthermore, their individual, spiritual striving is paramount. Each teacher needs to be on a path of development. Teachers need to be life-long learners. It was abundantly clear to all the teachers at Sekoly Tenaquip that their best teaching came because Jesus Christ stood right behind them. They trusted that Christ helped them to be better teachers and human beings. They are learning to trust in this support. That is right. Christ is the teacher's teacher.

 

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The Children - Working with the First Waldorf School in Madagascar #4


The Children 

 I would be remiss to write this series of articles on the Madagascar School Project and not comment on what I observed in the children whom I met at Sekoly Tenaquip. These are beautiful children filled with life, curiosity and play. It seems that Malagasy children are raised to look after themselves. I never observed a conflict arise between children, neither bullying nor teasing. They took care of one another. If any conflicts did arise, I was told that the children took care of it themselves. They do not look to adults to help them solve their problems. Because of this ability to look after themselves, they required no supervision at recess times. Literally 500 children could manage safely by themselves with no incidents. This is the norm across the country. In their typically large families siblings must take care of one another while the parents work in the fields.

The children I met were remarkably patient and well behaved. I saw no signs of hyperactivity or nervousness in the children, few of the common behavioral pathologies we witness all too often in the West. Perhaps this is because their lifestyle is highly predictable and repetitive. They suffer none of the stresses that are associated with sensory or media overstimulation. The children never have to rush about in cars or worry about being late. Most significantly they are surrounded by a beautiful and healing nature in which they feel an integral part. They live according to the cycles of the day and the seasons without artificial light. They go to bed as a family at sundown and wake up to witness the sunrise, at one with their environment. Only half of the children had shoes – flip flops. Furthermore most live simply without toys, multiple changes of clothes or the need to make decisions. Few children could express a favorite food. They ate all the rice and vegetable that were served to them and never had a choice otherwise. It was this or hunger. Nevertheless, despite their economic poverty and sometimes poor nutrition, these children appeared remarkably healthy and at peace.

It was interesting to note how differently the boys and girls occupied themselves at recess. The boys for the most part played active games of football or a version of marbles in which each boy had one precious (and well used) marble. Their play was loud and full of energy. The girls by contrast played alone or with a partner often with stones that they found on the site. The girls would rhythmically bang two stones together and tell the stories of their day. They were more or less in their own world, digesting the events of each day. Teachers observed that this activity helped the girls to outperform the boys in their school lessons.

I, the “Vazaha” (foreigner, aka gringo), always drew a crowd of children around me wherever I went. They were very curious about this strange, balding white man in their midst. They wanted to touch me - to make sure I was not a ghost. They were curious in this respect, but when I had a chance to speak with them (through translation), they displayed little curiosity about me, my family or my home country. It seemed that questioning is not highly valued in their culture. Similarly the teachers also asked very few questions of me or of themselves. They were content for the most part with the status quo and had spent little time on reflection or questioning.

And it is this very quality of questioning, of developing a thirst for learning that we seek to awaken in the children at Sekoly Tenaquip. Rote learning will only take them so far but is unlikely to give them the tools needed to redress the all too serious problems in their culture. They will need a deeper level of resources if they are to pull this country up by its bootstraps. This will require creativity, resilience and resourcefulness. These are the hallmarks of Waldorf education.

 

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Making a Bread oven with the First Waldorf School in Madagascar #3

Throughout my 2 weeks at Sekoly Tenaquip, I worked with the faculty each day to give them concrete ways to deepen their curriculum and their understanding of the role of the teacher in leading students and in creating a vibrant school. We explored a number of practical, artistic and inspirational themes to enrich these teachers and the culture of the school as a whole. Foremost amongst these themes was the building of a working bread oven for the school.

Making a Bread oven 

A significant part of the Waldorf school curriculum, in third grade in particular, centres around learning practical life skills. These include farming, cooking, house building and making clothing. These practical lessons give children a strong sense of place, empower them with fundamental skills for life and have been shown to improve neurologic functioning, coordination and health. Interwoven with these hands-on lessons are lessons in language arts, mathematics and science. All subjects derive as much as possible from direct student experience and are structured to build upon the students’ full involvement. When students are interested and engaged, learning proceeds by leaps and bounds.

In this spirit the faculty came together to design and build a functioning bread oven for the school. It should be noted that there are no ovens in any of the neighbouring communities as this is a culture based entirely on rice. Bread is exotic here. We built the oven from scratch, baked in it and then reflected upon the whole activity, looking for all the possible ways we could use such a direct experience and build a variety of meaningfully lessons around it.

We dug clay from the rice paddies below the school (with the mayor’s help!). We then kneaded the clay with rice straw and sand to make “cob”. Everyone joined right in, teachers, children, even the breast feeding mothers with their babies.

We sang work songs while we worked. We laughed and soon the mixture was ready to put on the sand-dome we had made as a form for the oven . We shaped the cob mixture into little loaves and built the oven up just as you would build an igloo.

After the oven dome was completely covered we added a second layer of cob, beat the two layers together and then shaped and smoothed the oven. We then cut out a hole for the door. Everyone wanted to decorate the oven with dancing people, sun, moon, birds, mortar and pestle and the name of the school. One teacher even made a little bread oven maker (me!) to add onto the oven.

We let the oven dry for a few days and then fired it up. It took a few hours to fully dry out, but soon it was hot enough to bake. With a group of teachers, cooks and guards we prepared bread dough, let it rise, and then proceeded to bake many, many pita breads.

It was amazing. No sooner did we start to bake bread then huge crowds began to show up. Everyone was so interested in watching, making bread and in tasting it. Hundreds of children lined up for just a little taste of this delicious bread. And everyone was so joyful, singing, laughing and salivating in anticipation of the bread to come. It was such a treat!

 

The day after we made our first pita for the community, I gathered the faculty. We reflected on our whole bread oven experience. I modelled for them how I as a teacher  have integrated such an experience with other Waldorf schools. First we remembered all that we had done to build the oven. It was important that we could recount all of the steps we took in building and baking. Then we looked at our feelings connected with these activities and lastly the thoughts and questions that we have connected with them – hands, heart and head! This was our experience and our learning. Next we looked at ways that this experience could be used as a springboard for teaching writing, reading, mathematics and science. The teachers had many excellent ideas of how they could tie this in to their lessons to make them much more interesting and engaging. This was such a wonderful process as most teachers had not before considered the possibility that they could enrich their lessons with activities. The process of building a bread oven certainly helped them imagine other possibilities to more creatively plan and integrate their lessons.

Since this first firing, the bread oven has been used a number of times and  to much acclaim. Bread baking was featured as part of the school’s seventh anniversary festival. Everyone participated. Furthermore, a community member has come forth, the husband of a teacher, who wants to start a small business baking bread and sweets for the community. This would be a wonderful step in helping the school step towards serving the broader needs of the community and helping this baker make a better living to support his family.

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