Blog

 
May 2017

Bringing New Life to Teaching and the Land


New Developments at Madagascar School Project
Spring 2017

by Warren Lee Cohen

A year has gone by since I worked with the faculty at MSP and it is amazing to see the burgeoning growth that has occurred at the school in this short period of time. Kathy Lucking, the founder and director of the school, dropped by my office today to share the many new developments including new buildings, record enrolment, teacher education seminars and redesigned, expanded garden facilities to help feed both staff and students. They truly are working together to improve individual lives, enhance culture and re-enliven the Malagasy environment.

New Classroom Building

Thanks to the continuing generosity of the Tenaquip Foundation, the school now has another new six classroom building with purpose built science lab. This building will enable the now 720 students in kindergarten to grade 13 to have dedicated classroom spaces for their studies.

Waldorf Inspired Training for all MSP Teachers

Thanks to the generosity of stART International and IASWECE, (the International Association of Waldorf Early Childhood Educators), teams of Waldorf teacher educators will be working with the faculty over the next two years to help them enrich both their curriculum and teaching, through the insights of Waldorf education. The latest one week intensive workshop gave the 40 MSP teachers and 20 teachers from other schools in the area, an engaging experience of Waldorf pedagogy. This rich and active week was focused on how to shape the Malagasy curriculum to best meet the unique opportunities in each stage of child development. They worked with creative pedagogy and explored ways to enliven the curriculum through the arts. The teachers, who have little experience of the arts were amazed by what they were able to create. It was a lively and fun week for all. They look forward to sharing these new capacities with students to inspire their life-long love of learning.

Permaculture Garden Development

Perhaps the most far ranging and ambitious development happened in the gardens where a team of permaculture designers led by Waldorf graduates from Switzerland and Germany coordinated a team of over 320 parent volunteers to completely redesign the school’s extensive gardens, which, like most of Madagascar, suffer from the devastating effects of erosion. The aim of this project is to capture as much rainwater as possible in the land, keep fertile soil from washing away and use natural systems to irrigate food crops and restore the land.

They formed into volunteer teams that worked together for a week, completely transforming the hillside below the school to provide school lunches for the children while healing the environment and building soil. Once they had moved and terraced many tons of earth they planted a diverse range of crops including 140 fruit trees. These will help hold all of the terraces in place, to guarantee shade and fruit for years to come.

The project developed so much momentum that an NGO from Switzerland and the local Anglican Church also became interested and came to work for the week. Reflecting on this whole exciting week, Kathy shared:

“Standing up on the hill, I had a sense that something bigger than us was at work here. A diverse group of people from around the globe were lending their strength and will, to make soil fertile again to feed hungry people. Parents, teachers, church and charities from thousands of kilometres away came here, to this tiny piece of land, for a brief week, to change the landscape for the benefit of generations to come.

This was visual confirmation for me that everyone wants to be part of positive change and that Waldorf education opens the mind and engages the will for the good of the world.”

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools, Consulting  
  

New Executive Director


On behalf of the Board of Directors, our remarkable staff and volunteers, and our entire community, it gives me great pleasure to announce that James Brian will join RSCT as Executive Director beginning on Monday, May 15.

James brings RSCT remarkable knowledge, passion and skills that will help move RSCT forward in its important work of fostering cultural renewal across Canada out of the transformative resources of anthroposophy. James has extensive experience as a Waldorf school teacher, administrator and coach. For those of you who do not know James, I have included a short biography below.

Please join me in wishing James great success in his new role!

Robert McKay
Chair, Board of Directors

 

JAMES BRIAN
Executive Director
Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto

James Brian has worked in the educational field for over 30 years, with both children and adults. He spent 12 years in Germany studying philosophy and educational methods and has diplomas in Rudolf Steiner Special Education and Waldorf Teaching.  He taught at the Kräherwald Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany, for 5 years. Returning to Canada in 1988, he was a co-founder of the bilingual École Parsifal School in Ottawa, where he taught with a strong accent on using the artistic training acquired in Europe. He is experienced in teaching painting, drama, sculpture, music and drawing and believes that the artistic approach enlivens, deepens and personalizes the learning experience.
 
With a diploma in Waldorf School Administration and Community Development from Sunbridge College in New York, he has also been active as an educational consultant in advising school faculties and boards of directors on governance issues and organizational development. An experienced public speaker, he has held numerous public lectures and study groups on anthroposophy, educational philosophy and personal development.
 
From 2003 on, he worked as a consultant in organizational development, retreat facilitation and strategic planning. He is a certified professional coach (New Ventures West, San Francisco) and has worked with clients both in numerous federal government departments and in the private sector. Drawing from his experience as an educator, he is able to quickly grasp the essence of what one says and see the potential of an individual. He has the necessary analytical skills to see what is important to work on and a methodical approach to design programs allowing a client to acquire new skills, capacities and competencies.
 
Since 2003 he has been active as a mentor and trainer at the French public Waldorf school Trille des Bois in Ottawa. For the last 3 years he has trained Indigenous teachers and educators in Waldorf methods and is presently President of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education.
 
James Brian’s aim is to use his educational background and artistic training to help individuals and groups envision their goals and develop the necessary tools and skills in order to achieve their objectives. He is a life-long learner and has worked with hundreds of individuals, helping them unleash and develop their potential.
 
 

Waldorf Schools, Consulting  
  
March 2017

Teaching World Languages


July 3 to 7, 2017
with Agathe Polach and Flora Seul-Jacklein

World languages are an integral part of Waldorf Education. They support the children's individual development, strengthen their connection to other cultures and perspectives, and prepare them to meet the world with purpose and knowledge. We will unravel the secrets of successful world language teaching, look at methods and contents that reflect the developmental stages of children, and explore rhythms and routines that support world language teaching and its place in our schools. Artistic activities in the afternoons will offer opportunities for self-development as well as practical and artistic elements that you can use in your language teaching.

We expect that participants come with a wide range of backgrounds and experience, and will adapt the course to their needs. The intensive course will be led by Agathe Polach and Flora Seul-Jacklein, whose backgrounds are in teaching French and German. Experience has shown that this course can be meaningful and inspiring for teachers of other languages as well.

Depending on interest, RSCT is considering a more comprehensive certification program for World Language Teachers to be integrated into its part-time teacher development program. If you are interested in a full certification program please let us know. This summer intensive may be credited as part of this future program.

As we want to make sure we meet the needs of participants, we kindly ask that you register by May 30.

Agathe Polach teaches French at the Toronto Waldorf School. Born in Québec, she has travelled extensively over the years, reinforcing her passion for sharing languages and cultures with her students.

Flora Seul-Jacklein was a language teacher at the Halton Waldorf School. She has worked in public and private schools and at university level. She currently works as a mentor, and serves as member of the AWSNA Board of Trustees.

Click here for more information.

 

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools, Summer Festival  
  
February 2017

The Senses: Windows to the World


     Contact www.lifewaysontario.ca to register

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools  
  

Rainer Schnurre


Join us for two exciting workshops
with Rainer Schnurre:

Dynamic Zodiac Drawing and Artistic Biography Work
Dynamic Zodiac Drawing and Social Art

April 4 to 7 and April 11 to 13

Rainer was born in 1945 and in his first profession worked in film. He wrote a biography of James Dean. From there he apprenticed as a cabinet maker and met Anthroposophy through his teacher Wofgang Wegener in 1980-84 when he studied Dynamic Form Drawing with Wegener. He then trained as, and worked as, a naturopath using this form of art work both, in therapy and biography work. He developed his own unique way of working. Rainer is also deeply inspired by the idea of developing new social forms especially through Rudolf Steiner’s Three-folding. This he also explores through dynamic zodiac drawing! He’s lived in Berlin, Paderborn, Hildesheim, Germany and worked there as well as in Switzerland, Russia, Prag and now we welcome him to Canada for this special treat! Rainer is a very sensitive artist and therapist, dedicated to Life and Work and he inspires a deep interest in the Human be-coming.

 

Seminar One
Dynamic Zodiac Drawing and Artistic Biography Work
Learning to ‘read’ life experiences

In this four-day intensive the meditative qualities of ‘dynamic zodiac drawing’ by Wolfgang Wegener will form the basis of a new, innovative approach to our biography work. The fruits of an artistic practise like this will lead into learning to ‘read’ life experiences in a new way. Rainer Schnurre likes to call this kind of activity:
“To siphon GOLD from igneous rock”
Some themes and questions we will be working with:
-what IS an experience?
-how can I learn to ‘read’ it?
-what IS a biography?
-why does biography work have to be artistic? -what is the art in artistic biography work?
Arscura Masterclass - Art and Life with Rainer Schnurre
Registration:
Dates: Tuesday, April 4- Friday, April 7, 2017
Times: 9:30-3:30
Location: Community Room in the Christian Community
901 Rutherford Road, Thornhill, ON
Tuition: $ 360 – this includes HST and most art materials (more information with registration)
EARLY BIRD Tuition as well as special fee for attending both seminars
$ 310 IF PAID IN FULL by FEBRUARY 28, 2017 Pay with check, cash or Interac e-transfer
Register: with Regine Kurek regine@arsura.com or call 905-763-1003


Seminar Two
Dynamic Zodiac Drawing and Social Art
-Developing a ‘social zodiac’ - Implementing the ideal of ‘Social Three-folding’

During this three day seminar emphasis will be on the ‘birth’ of the twelve zodiac qualities in us out of an artistic dynamic MOVEMENT of the circle. This EXPERIENCE will lead to an understanding and the practise of a PHENOMENOLOGY for new community building and a ‘healthy social life’.
Themes and questions addressed will be:
-what do I say when uttering the word ‘I’? -what do you say when saying ‘You’? -what do we say when saying ‘We’?
These questions lead us organically toward Rudolf Steiner’s impulse of the THREEFOLD SOCIAL ORGANISM (1916)
Questions to focus on will be:
-what is the artistic element in the social art practise? -how can we practise this artistry in our communities?
Holy Week seminar, a collaboration between Arscura, the Christian Community and the Thornhill Group, an initiative for social networking and outreach.
Registration:
Dates: Tuesday, April 11- Friday, April 13, 2017
Times: 9:30-3:30
Location: Community Room in the Christian Community 901 Rutherford Road, Thornhill, ON
Tuition: $ 275 – this includes HST and most art materials (more information with registration)
EARLY BIRD Tuition as well as special fee for attending both seminars
$ 240 IF PAID IN FULL by FEBRUARY 28, 2017 Pay with check, cash or Interac e-transfer
Register: with Regine Kurek , regine@arsura.com or call 905-763-1003
        
SPECIAL OFFER FOR BOTH SEMINARS
EARLY BIRD Tuition as well as special fee for attending both seminars
$ 500 for both seminars if paid in full by Feb 28. Pay with check, cash or Interac e-transfer
Register: with Regine Kurek: regine@arsura.com or call 905-763-1003

 

  

Wedding at the Steiner Centre


 

The Steiner Centre is grateful to Leena (Datt) Conley and Jason Conley to offer us the opportunity to be able to host our first wedding reception in our 25 year history. Their love and commitment is a gift to us all. Thank you for sharing your joy with us and our community. We are all enriched by your love.  - ed


Leena and Jason's wedding was full of warmth, despite the wintery cold day. Their love filled the room of The Rudolf Steiner Centre with friends and family who gathered around the piano to sing and celebrate the newlyweds. Hand painted lotus-flower prayer flags draped across the room, while storyteller Dawne McFarlane shared a love story before the newlyweds cut their cake. Everyone joined hand in hand to dance and play instruments, while singing in unison to honour the beauty of a new found partnership. - April Lavine
 

  
December 2016

Update from Madagascar School Project


In the past year the Madagascar School Project's Sekoly Tenaquip has grown by over 100 students to now serve 750 rural students from the surrounding villages. The school is now embarking on building their final 6 classroom building and will then have enough space for their whole kindergarten through grade 12 school. Next they will focus on permaculture landscaping for their extensive site that includes school buildings, farm, staff housing and recreational land. This is an exciting time of growth for this cutting edge educational project. Here is the latest from their newsletter. - ed

The Madagascar School Project is working hard to bring creative pedagogy to our thriving school in Madagascar.

We are working to make education more meaningful for our teachers and students through an integrated approach that teaches to the whole body, head, heart and hands.

This is a world apart from what is common educational practice in this country, where  classes of up to 80 students spend many hours every day copying by rote information from the blackboard into their notebooks. Most schools have few other supplies.

Typically they learn facts in French, which is not their maternal language so that they can memorize these for school exams at the end of each term and for state exams at the end of Grades 6, 10 and 13. Students who do not pass these exams, need to repeat the whole year. Many never pass.

The Madagascar School Project Education is inspired from our many years of experience as teachers in Ontario and by Kathy’s  training as a Waldorf teacher.  We strive to reinvigorate the pedagogy of Madagascar with fresh, engaging and relevant education for each of our 750 students.

 They will need tolearn not only basic skills, but a great deal of flexibility of thought, creative imagining, strong communication skills and problem solving ability, if they are to succeed in the world. These students may be living their adult lives working in the fields, raising animals, or as professionals in office settings, or as entrepreneurs in a city or rural setting. A holistic approach is the only way we can prepare our students for these very different options. We strive to enliven their curiosity and imagination for what could be created with their good effort.

As part of their education the students are learning handwork skills such as knitting, crochet, embroidery and basket making. They are learning about how to take care of themselves and their future families by taking part in cooking, farming, growing trees, building, cleaning and maintaining the school. They are learning  how to communicate with each other in Malagasy, French and English. We hope one day, to also offer woodworking, and welding.

How to create the will and the confidence in a child that he/she can make a difference in the world? Well, we start with the state curriculum and add stories from the Malagasy culture and history. Our geography and science learning begins with their own country and it’s unique flora and fauna. Historical heroes and other famous people are studied to understand what motivated them and to realize the gifts they gave the world through their work. This builds a confidence in the students as Malagasy people, that has been sorely missing since Colonial days.

Then there is a need to build the imagination to envision what could be possible and to give voice to the individual. We achieve this through the arts. By giving the children the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, to sing together as a group, to try on  different roles in dramatic productions and to make beautiful art work with paint, clay from the rice fields, and materials from nature, the children have opportunities every day to explore who they are and to make their mark on the world.

Imagine, a place where few homes have even a pencil, never mind paper, to be able to bring home a water colour painting that is your creation. What joy and confidence that must enliven.

In order for our students to make lasting positive changes in their country they will have to develop a strong moral compass.  Corruption is a part of life in Madagascar and our students will need to learn to stand up for what is right. We will work at this by bringing them stories from mankind’s history and mythology, in which characters struggle with the weaknesses and temptations and where  strength, determination and compassion enable people to do great things.

One of the most important innovations we are bringing is to facilitate deep understanding of concepts they are learning through real demonstrations, practice with materials, questioning, discussing, and role playing. To achieve this we need to promote the sharing of experiences among students, the idea that mistakes lead to new learning, and that honest dialogue will help both the teachers and the students understand what learning can enable.

All these skills will be essential for this community to learn to run it’s own school and to achieve the financial success through cooperative business endeavors to secure education and a comfortable life for their children and generations to come.

Thank you for your interest and support.

 

  

Trillium Waldorf School Bread Oven


RSCT graduate Jessica Gladio built a bread oven with her class in third grade at the Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph. After many years of baking bread, cinnamon buns and pizza the oven was damaged by vandals. She and her class of now seventh graders decided to rebuild it and make it even more beautiful. So she invited me and a team of aspiring Waldorf teacher/bread-oven-builders to come and work with the class. We had a day of good fun and hard work. Now the school has a much improved wood-fired bread oven. -ed


"Hello Warren,
My class loved squishing and stomping in the cob and adorning themselves in the latest cob make-up fashions.  It was a lovely experience which brought back a lot of memories from when we originally built it back in Grade 3.  It's beautiful and we have been lighting small fires in it since you left in hopes that it will be dry enough by tomorrow to bake bread after closing ceremonies at out school.  If not it will make a lovely start to our grade 8 year!  Our class treasurer will be sending a cheque to the Steiner Centre for you in the mail in the coming days.  Thanks again for your support and expertise!

Warmly,
Jessica Gladio"


 

  
November 2016

Partnering with Parents


Reflection on the Waldorf Development Conference

November, 2016

Mhairi Gray teaches Grades 6 and 7 at the Mulberry Waldorf School in Kingston,Ontario. She recently attended the Partnering with Parents conference as Part of her Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers part-time program. Below are her reflections on the conference with inspirations and questions it has stired in her for how best to meet the needs of her students and build a stronger school culture. -ed.

"In their partnership to foster the well being of a child, the parent, teacher and school need trust, confidence and clarity of communication to avoid distrust, doubt, fear and confusion."

I found myself quickly immersed and engaged in the clear, sharp and open professionalism of Liz Beaven. Throughout her presentation, Liz moved between the role of the parent and the teacher as she brought forth the picture of the child in the centre of a triangle with each outer point represented by the parent, the teacher and the school. What do we want for our children? What drew us to a Waldorf School? What are common conflicts between parents and teachers/schools?

It is the first of these three questions that Liz presented where we found the most commonality. We can rest on the fact that all parents want their children to be loved, challenged, confident, motivated, responsible, etc..

What draws us to a Waldorf School is individual: the smell of the building, anthroposophy, the aesthetics, the look of the children, etc..  This second question made me consider how, with our exposure to a Waldorf environment, we are presented with an opportunity to develop our inner life. Regardless of how we come to it, this Waldorf impulse asks us to meet it. Perhaps we never understand what it is that we are drawn to and become fearful that it is a spiritual element that draws us? Aren’t we all on a quest to heal wounds?

Common challenges that arise between parent and teacher/school such as sports, festivals, field trips, ask for an open, responsive professionalism on the part of the teacher. Balancing the demands and concerns of the parents and community, remaining awake to the constantly changing needs of the students while maintaining the essential elements of Waldorf education in the classroom is an often overwhelming task. As Liz pointed out, the work we put into this area will never go to waste and may lead to a positive ‘living’ experience of education for parent, child, teacher and school community.

I began to wonder why the child was at the centre of the ‘tricky’ triangle. After all, we are all on a path of development and arrive in the community of Waldorf education with our own particular tasks and challenges. Parents, teachers, the school community and the child require relationship in order to reflect and develop. For obvious reasons the child needs loving authority and guidance. However, I think of children more as seasonal foliage crowning a trunk that has several arteries and deep roots. We, as adults, are present for ourselves in a school as much as we are present for the child. Perhaps some of us are not even aware of this?

I was also left with a question about specialties in the middle school. I am appreciative of the opportunity, as a class teacher, to strive intensely to meet the curriculum expectations of the upper grades. Although my class has several other teachers (French, gym, handwork, choir) I have the responsibility to carry the rest of the curriculum. I am aware of the trend in larger schools toward specialty teachers and wonder if my class might be better off with a teacher who can really inspire and challenge them in more specific areas of focused study. Is it naive to think that it is beneficial for students to sense my striving in areas that are difficult for me and to be guided toward making surprising discoveries about their own capacities?

 

  
October 2016

Partnering with Parents: Finding new ways of working in collaboration


 

Join us for our annual

Waldorf Development Conference
Friday and Saturday, November 4 & 5, 2016
Keynote Liz Beaven, EdD

 

When parents enrol their children in school, they also enrol in the educational journey. Parents and teachers share a common interest, providing the best possible education for children, yet each views the child and school from a unique perspective. The parent-teacher relationship is an important factor in a child’s experience. Building healthy parent-teacher relationships requires communication, time, and clear expectations. This presents both opportunities and challenges for parents and teachers.

We invite educators and administrators to join us for an exploration of the differing lenses of parents and teachers on the journey through school. What works, what does not work? What do parents and teachers need in order to work together? How can we build a team to support the vital needs of our children? Can we work together to transform the parent-teacher

Liz Beaven, EdD, has over thirty years experience in Waldorf education as a class teacher, parent, school administrator, researcher, and adult educator. She is a member of the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where she is working to develop programs in Integral Teacher Education. Liz is board president of the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, and is past president of Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA. She consults with a number of schools on a range of topics, including the role of parents.

Click here for more information

relationship.

  
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