Radical and Relevant News

December 2014

TV Lobotomy


These drawings come from a french book called TV Lobotomy, written by a neurologist.

  1. The first line of drawings were drawn by 5 to 6 years old children that watch television for less than 1 hour a day.
  2. The second line of drawings is from similar children that watch television for more than 3 hours a day.
  3. The third line of drawings were made by children that have had traumatic experiences watching television without supervision.

The differences between the images are striking. Detail and connectedness are lost in each successive row. If television were not a factor, one might assume that these children are much less mature than the first row children. But, this is not the case! They simply are watching more television and being traumatised to varrying degrees by it. The research is broad based and clear. Television is not healthy for young children. It inhibits healthy neurological development, decreases physical activity, limits the imagination and leads to obesity.

 

 


 

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Remembering Georg Locher

Georg Locher died at 5:20  this morning (UK time). The funeral is scheduled for this coming Friday,  December 19. Other memorial services are planned, including one in Wilton New Hampshire on December 28.

Georg Locher was a Waldorf graduate. He studied music in Zurich, Switzerland (his country of origin) and became a concert cellist before training to be a Waldorf teacher in England. He taught at Michael Hall Rudolf Steiner School for 25 years (class teacher, foreign language, religion and High School visual arts teacher) and was director of Steiner Waldorf Teacher Education at Emerson College, England for 14 years. He has served as a wise counselor to many schools and teachers throughout the world.

Georg touched many souls on both sides of the Atlantic as a genial mentor and advisor to countless Waldorf teachers young as well as seasoned. As the successor to Francis Edmunds (his father-in-law), Georg was a mainstay of the Waldorf teacher education program at Antioch University New England, as well as being a regular feature of both the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto and, in its day, the Rudolf Steiner Institute. And all of that activity was during his time off from his "day job" in England as teacher and mentor at Michael Hall and at Emerson College. He will be warmly and lastingly remembered here as in Europe and beyond.
 

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November 2014

Waldorf in Guatemala

RSCT Mentor and Lecturer Elyse Pomeranz just returned from a visit to  Guatemala where she worked intensively with one of her mentees, offered support to the Escuela Caracol Waldorf school and a number of other creative endeavors in the community. Her reflections are nothing short of inspiring. The illustrations are by the author, inspired by her study of the local flora and fauna - Ed.

I made my way along a path. On one side I heard the sound of rushing water, on the other side I saw trees and bushes much of it new and unfamiliar and in ecstatic bloom. Under my feet is a path of earth and rocks. I arrive at a wooden door and stand at the threshold of Escuela Caracol. I push the heavy door open and what I see takes my breath away.

The trees, bushes and flowering plants are abundant and healthy. They are clearly tended with great care and attention. There is a cobble path that winds and curves gently among the buildings. The buildings themselves sit comfortably amongst all that is living and growing. In fact they seem as if they “grew” there as vital and alive  as the plant life. There are butterflies of different sizes and colours playing joyfully, freely flying in the “inner” spaces of the open walled meeting room, kitchen,  community gathering space and open classrooms.  There are other classrooms added recently which are enclosed . These new buildings are simple and beautiful. They were carefully imagined and work harmoniously with the rest of the campus.

I notice the kitchen. There are two women moving easily around the counters, sinks and wood burning stove. The roof, supported by wooden posts, provides a space without walls, open to the beauty of the abundant gardens and the sounds of the children having lessons or playing. It was quickly clear to me that this wonderful open kitchen is the heart of the school. The cooks, some of the longest standing members of this community are preparing fresh , healthy and delicious snacks and lunches for ALL THE MEMBERS of the community; children and adults are all fed.

Sitting in the Grade Four/Five classroom at snacktime and lunchtime I am touched by the enthusiasm of the students for their food, for sharing the meal and also conversation that ranges in topic from school related questions to speaking about their diverse lives at home. This is a relaxed and respectful space.

I was also aware of what was NOT in the room…the stress of the parents and teachers to prepare and pack food that would travel well and be edible even if it returned home after 10 hours uneaten. The stress of refereeing the culture of lunch swapping between children where some parents would be upset if their child ate something forbidden. The stress of communicating with parents and enforcing the school policy around sweets and candy etc. The wastefulness of garbage and packaging that is involved in sending the food with the children in lunch bags.

So much is freed up and so much rich social fabric built up with this important central activity. It is a great challenge for the school to continue to support this program as it is costly. I heard how the cooks travel to special weekend markets to get the ingredients they need for the week. I am so heartened by their efforts to ensure this continues! I am sure that help for the program would be welcome.

Examining the food program offers a way into understanding what is so beautiful and nourishing about this school. There is a grounding, a healthy respect for basic needs and for care of the body and sense experiences that makes it possible to work with other very challenging aspects in the cultural and intellectual realm.

The students come from a diverse set of circumstances at home. Culturally and also socio-economically there is a wide variety in the classes. They join together and share the world of story, painting, sculpting, handwork, singing, recorder, guitar, drawing, writing, reading, games and drama. This is Waldorf education at its best.

The teacher of grade five told me that at the end of a block on Ancient Egypt the children crowded around a map of the pyramids that showed the location of the Sphinx. Behind their teacher the blackboards were full of beautiful chalk images from the stories. The children were all discovering that these places they heard about are real, they exist in the world to be seen/heard….after a pause for a moment one student declared…”Does that mean that the gods are real too?!”

There is certainly an aspect of contemporary culture that permeates this remote village on the Lake Atitlan. There are cell phones in teachers pockets and the children hear western music blasted over loud speakers at a village wide end of year school festival( not an event that was organized by the Escuela Caracol but they were in attendance, a way to stay connected to the village community) and yet there is an openness and amazement and receptivity to nature, to story and to the artistic experiences that seems to be a special gift in these classrooms. The teachers are devoted, enthusiastic, clear and strong individuals who live and walk their talk.

My brief visit to Escuela Caracol has opened my mind and heart. I am inspired and grateful!

Elyse Pomeranz
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

 

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The Turning Point of Time and Waldorf Education

Waldorf Development Conference

Waldorf education fosters the recognition of the "Universal Human" in each of us. It urges us to transcend nationalism, religious fundamentalism and sexism. Patrice will describe the practical aspects of our spiritual nature which we can apply in our daily work. Can we make a distinction between the inherent spiritual side of human beings and the call to a religion?   The esoteric roots of Waldorf education as they manifest in the curriculum can nourish all.

We invite Waldorf educators and administrators to join us for two days of working with this important and timely theme.
Friday and Saturday, November 7 & 8, 2014
Waldorf Development Conference
Keynote Speaker Patrice Maynard

 
Patrice Maynard, MEd, is the director of Publications and Development for the Research Institute for Waldorf Education. She has a deep and broad experience with Waldorf education. For nine years she was a leader in AWSNA and before that a Waldorf class and music teacher. Patrice helped to found Merriconeag Waldorf School in Maine and taught at the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in New York.

Suggested reading: On Earth as it is in Heaven by Roberto Trostli

For more information please contact the Steiner Centre:

9100 Bathurst St. #4, Thornhill, ON, L4C 8C7  905.764.7570  info@rsct.ca

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October 2014

Why play is important to us all!

Here is an entry from the Lauren Laverne column in the The Observer, Sunday 5 October 2014. We recieved this article through our colleague Blondine Maurice, a powerful creator of play in her own right who will be leading Playful Presence Inner Clowning, July 13 to 17 in our Summer Festival of Arts and Education.

Life is a serious business. But new research shows that the way to get the most out of it is to be more playful. So get out there and have some fun! !

‘Play is indispensable to human progress and good for individuals.’ I’ve always been the playful type. Honestly, my Wildean it’s-too-important-to-be-taken-seriously view of life has not always gone down well. Convent school was a nightmare. Then I got really into music, but didn’t fit in at Radiohead concerts. Now social media (where only binary emotions are permissible) is problematic.! !

Nonetheless, I choose to remain experimental. We are all explorers. I must pursue adventure my own way, even if Twitter sometimes makes me feel like Ferdinand Magellan, lowering himself crotch-first into a river of hungry piranhas. How cheering, then, to discover that neuroscience supports my approach. Play and a playful attitude are not just enjoyable, they’re an essential ingredient of good mental health.! !

Let’s define our terms. In English, “play” is the opposite of “work”. But the act itself is more complex. As psychiatrist Dr Stuart Brown puts it: “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” Dr Brown has spent decades taking “play histories” from patients, after discerning its absence when studying a group of homicidal young men. He believes that play (of any kind – there are seven different types, from “object play” to “narrative play and storytelling”) is essential
to brain development. “Nothing,” he says, “lights up the brain like play.” !

We know this instinctively when it comes to bringing up children. But research shows that adults need to play, and be playful, too. Prioritising it might seem frivolous – we live in a planet-sized tangle of problems and injustices, after all. But problems need creative solutions. What if play could help us find them? What if play was one of them? Dr Brown is just one scientist who suggests it is. Einstein was another. In his words: “Play is the highest form of research.” There is, the theory goes, a reason Archimedes shouted “Eureka!” in the bath, not the laboratory.! !

We’re all convinced we’re too busy to do it, and that’s no accident. Our culture values busyness – it is how we measure goodness. Take political language: the Victorians distinguished between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor along religious lines; these days politicians differentiate in terms of productivity: “jobseekers”, “the hardworking poor”, “hardworking families” – busyness has replaced godliness, but the new language is just as unhelpful as the old.! !

Play isn’t slothful, it’s useful. It is recreation with the emphasis on the last three syllables. Play is indispensable to human progress and good for individuals. A culture that encourages it will enjoy cumulative benefits. Denmark – officially the happiest country on earth – is an example. Flexible work and affordable childcare are the norm, which means more free time. In addition, there is greater gender equality and a work-to-live culture that includes the expectation that people should pursue private interests (even – gasp! – mothers).! !

In the workplace, an experimental approach – to tasks as well as the structure of the working day – can boost productivity and profits. Forward-thinking economists, scientists and employers know this. Google and Pixar led the way with their infamously groovy work practices, but other employers are joining in. Last week Richard Branson announced unlimited holiday for his staff at Virgin Group. “Smart” not “hard” is the new way to work. (For more on the benefits of play, see Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time).! ! We all need to play, especially those of us who think we are too busy. Five minutes a day will make a difference. Why not start now? It is the weekend, after all.

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September 2014

Michaelmas


Verse for Michaelmas

There is a knighthood of the twentieth century
Whose members do not ride through the darkness of physical forests of old,
But through the forests of awakened minds.
They are armed with spiritual armor.
And an inner sun makes them radiant.
Out of them shines healing-
Healing that flows from the knowledge of the image of man as a spiritual being
They must create inner order, inner justice, peace and conviction
In the darkness of our time.
     Karl Konig
 

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Metamorphosis in Song

You never know how your actions may touch others. And this summer we were blessed with a beautiful song that was inspired out of one woman's experience of our Summer Festival of Arts and Education. Margaret Moncrieff is the choral director at the Mulberry Waldorf School she wrote and then shared this song at our evening Coffee House. Waldorf teachers are an inspiring crowd to say the least and we are most grateful for Margaret's generosity in sharing her creative efforts with all of us.  - editor

Metamorphosis

Catching glimpses of the ligh
of the brand new day
A soul ready to take flight
            Searching for the way
Studying world religions
Putting faith in stars above
            And finding….

Struggles on the doorstep waiting to be transformed
A little closer to love
Meeting trials face to face
            Finding a way through
Seeing joys along the way
            Joys that know the truth
Seeing God in every heart
Knowing that there’ll be…

Struggles on the doorstep waiting to be transformed
A little closer to love

Walking with each other
            Never alone
Living and striving
            In this earthly home
Nurturing each journey
So we can meet…

Struggles on the doorstep waiting to be transformed
A little closer to love

A little closer…

Copyright © Margaret Moncrieff, 2014

 

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August 2014

International Education Forum at Kobe Shinwa Women's University


  Shinwa University Chairman Kohei Yamane holding "Mayumi" a Waldorf Doll custom crafted for this occasion by Luciana Baptista Cohen.

The ninth annual International Education Forum brought together educators from Canada, Italy, China and Japan to explore the theme:

What is the essence of early childhood education?
- Inquiry from global perspectives
- How can we integrate the ideals of education and childcare to heighten the quality of early childhood education?

I was invited as a Waldorf educator and a teacher of teachers to offer a perspective on how Waldorf pedagogy can help address the changing picture of education in Japan and around the world. When asked if I would be bringing a PowerPoint presentation, I hesitated knowing how deadening these presentations can be. After some thought I decided that it would much more engaging to bring a Waldorf Doll that I could use to demonstrate in a lively way core principles of Waldorf education - what better way to speak about Waldorf early childhood pedagogy than to engage the participants' senses and the imaginations. So, I brought a beautifully hand crafted Waldorf Doll that my wife, Luciana made just for this occasion. The Doll, Mayumi, has dark hair and eyes and is dressed in a hand-knit sweater, dress and pants. Mayumi loved the forum and seemed equally well loved by the crowd that cuddled and caressed her.

After introductions by the university, Elizabeth Morley, the principle of Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, Toronto, gave a keynote address. She offered an inspiring presentation on the Foundations of early childhood education based on her years of experience (and research) at ICS. Good foundations have to be built for the rest of education/life to be fruitful. These foundations are based upon caring for the whole child with respect, interest and openness to their unique unfolding. This requires parents and educators, school and home working together. She emphasized helping children to develop healthy physical, social and cognitive capacities over developing specific skills (e.g literacy, numeracy, computer skills...). These other skills will follow on naturally once strong foundations are laid. These foundations need to be resilient enough to last for a lifetime and their success involves the whole community. Everything she said made my Waldorf teacher's heart sing.

I then spoke about how Waldorf early childhood educators strive to work with children's active imaginations as they help them to develop healthy bodies, trusting relationships, purposeful hands and clear thinking - all capacities children need to become adults. I carefully unwrapped Mayumi and described how children have played with her as a baby, as a sister, a friend and even a teacher. Her simple features allow her to become whatever a child can imagine. She is soft yet firm, delightful to hold, squeeze and cuddle. I then passed her to the university chairman. Surprised at first, he smiled and then cradled her with unaccustomed hands. He then passed her on to the university president who held her with much delight. He then passed her on to the person sitting next to him. And so from hand to lap Mayumi travelled from around the entire auditorium of 250 people. Many examined her delicate features, the workmanship of her cloths, the subtle stitching of her sweater. Some even peered under her dress. But mostly she was greeted with smiles and tender caresses. The love of dolls it seems is universal and this knowledge is important for educators and carers to consider as they strive to make wholesome environments for young children. Play for a young child is their work. They are exploring how to be human. In their play they literally reenact many of the significant moments in their days. They process many of the details and relationships, roles and responsibilities, language and postures. You could say that children digest their experiences through play. It is through play that children learn how to fully become human. And as we as educators are all still in the becoming, it is equally important for us as adults to find outlets for play as well. Perhaps that is why Mayumi was so well received. She gave all of the participants an opportunity to reconnect with that little piece of child in each of them that helps them to be more present for the delightful, spontaneous vulnerability that lives so naturally in children.

The International Forum was a wonderful opportunity to connect with educators from other countries and educational systems. I am grateful to Kobe Shinwa Women's University for inviting me and hope that some day I may be fortunate to return.

Warren Lee Cohen
Codirector Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto

Background information from the Forum

Japan is currently working to integrate "nursery care centers" and "kindergartens" which are presently under the jurisdiction of two different ministries.  They are about to be integrated into Certified Children's Centres.  Japanese educators who are involved in either kindergarten or nursery care are interested in how best to bring together these two different arenas, one focused primarily on care and the other on education, in order to best create these new integrated centres.  Traditionally Japanese nursery care is thought as a part of social welfare system that has been established to support working mothers, and hence, its focus has been on childcare rather than on education.  On the other hand, kindergarten has been a part of education system along with elementary and secondary schools.  Their focus is squarely on education more so than on care. This includes a strong focus on early learning. Although historically they have been thought as different sectors, there is much overlap in their missions. Through hosting the Forum on this theme, the university hopes to help the ministries involved to focus on the essential principles in early childhood development and education that best serve the overall needs of young children.

 

 

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July 2014

What is Metamorphosis?

Metamorphosis describes more than just a process of change, it is a process of transformation in which an inner lawfulness (often unseen) orchestrates the genesis of one form from another. The following poem was composed by a participant in "Honey, Healing and the Heart" in our Summer Festival of Arts and Education. ed.


Honey, Healing and the Heart participants at a beeswax art installation at the Koffler Gallery by Penelope Stewart "Vanitas"

What is Metamorphosis?
Where do we find the strength to be transofrmed?
The possibility for change is never ending.
To take in warmth, light, air, substance and have it be reborn into something new.
Movement and rhythm give calm and comfort.
Nurturing through healing elements.
Each day a gift of rejuvination and forgiveness.
A chance to bring some change.
To work together without fear and to understand
and feel responsible for the other,
We are the caretakers.
Our participation is full of potential.
Each moment a gift.
Can we bring to fruition all of our hopes.
When will we make time for the metamorphosis.

                             S. Leidy-Briggs

 

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Anti- Spam Legislation

Organizations across Canada are concerned about new anti-spam legislation coming into effect this month. They are communicating with all the people on their mailing lists and making sure that they still want to receive regular email contacts from the organization. While we have heard from some people that are relieved to receve less emails, it is so affirming to receive reponses expressing gratitude and affirmation of the work we are doing, like the one below. Thank you!  - Ed.

Hello all, 

I hope I will get a chance to visit the Steiner Centre while I am in TO in August for a few days.   If not, please know that I love receiving your newsletters and I always feel so inspired when I read of everything you are doing there at the Steiner Centre.   I still feel as though I live in a "Steiner Dessert" here on the Central Coast of Australia. 

I am grateful that I am only an hour and half from Sydney but still,  you have SO much more to offer there in Toronto!!!   i had no idea how lucky I was when I lived there -  THANK YOU for all that you continue to do to promote  Steiner Education and Anthroposophy !!   Your letter is always an inspiration for me while am here DOWNUNDER.  

I have actually accepted a teaching position in Saudi Arabia starting on 14th August so my life is about to change drastically!!  I will keep you posted.
I hope to see you in August.  

Regards,
A.

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