Radical and Relevant Blog

November 2014

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.

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools, Family, Summer Festival   Add Comment
September 2014


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


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.  


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Waldorf in Japan

Fushimi Inari, Shinto Shrine, Japan 2014


“The best way to educate children is with teachers. Computers have little to teach us about being human!”


This is my first visit to Japan and I must say that I have been swept off my feet by the kindness and generosity of my hosts, the Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. They have invited me to be part of their Annual International Education Symposium. I am giving lectures to their teacher education classes, speaking at their International Education Forum, visiting schools and eating the best sushi I have ever imagined. It is a treat to my senses and a nourishing experience on any number of levels.

I spent the first weekend with an old friend, Professor Brian Bresnihan, whose eldest son Joshua was part of my class at the Olympia Waldorf School. Brian led me on exciting  explorations of two of Japan’s most famous historic cities Kyoto and Nara. There is so much there to drink in: Shinto Shrines, Buddhist Temples, side by side with rice paddies all linked by amazingly organized rapid transport trains. Each town and region in this area has preserved its own distinct regional character, foods and crafts. They each have regional delicacies or products for which they are renowned. Each has an identity, a unique quality that is preserved with pride. This same regional quality is so much harder to find in North America and is likely connected with their remarkable cultural conservatism.

In Japan Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples stand side by side, sometimes almost on top of one another, yet they do not appear to compete with one another. They represent two strong historic belief systems in Japan that have intermixed over the ages and now for the most part are preserved more for tourists than for their vital spiritual functions. People go there to walk through the gardens and take pictures not to sit in meditation or contemplation of the eternal or transitory. These temples are magnificent, powerful edifices, exquisite examples of skilled craftsmanship and the Japanese artistic esthetic. While they are known as centres of religious training they also appear to be every bit as much centres of power. Their architecture imposes a certain sense of calm fierceness that lets everyone know who holds the power.

sketching at buddhist temple

Waldorf Science Curriculum

The next afternoon I went to visit Waldorf teaching colleagues at the Kyotanabe Steiner School. I was invited impromptu to speak and sing with the grade 10 English class, which much to their credit have a very high level of language proficiency. I then spoke with the faculty about some of the core ideals that inspire the Waldorf science curriculum. Phenomenological science, Goethean or experiential science best describe the Waldorf approach to science. Here we strive to engage students actively with archetypical phenomena that help them to see more deeply into the workings of nature and to encourage them to take more interest in the natural world. It is a deeply ecological way of studying science as it is inherently a whole systems approach that includes the questioner as an essential element of any investigation. Thus rather than alienating students from the world of science, this phenomenological process invites them right into the heart of the research so that they can make their own discoveries, not just regurgitate what the teacher/experts say are the answers. This approach to science empowers the questioner and leads to a deeply integrated knowing.

The timing of the curriculum is also important as it engages children deeply in the natural world before and during their inner journeys through puberty. As we are all well aware puberty can be an all consuming time of acute self awareness, inner angst, change, new interests, especially in the opposite sex and often an emotional rollercoaster. The Steiner teachers and I looked at the positive effects of a phenomenological approach on adolescents going through this inner revolution of puberty. It can bolster their confidence, ground their passions and help expand their interests beyond the narrow bounds of their own change. We further explored how the Waldorf curriculum employs of art and science in a symbiotic way such that scientific precision and artistic nuance work hand in hand. Yes, a Waldorf teacher must be equally a scientist and an artist. These offer an essential balance to the curriculum and to the teacher. Lastly we discussed how each teacher needs to form an authentic relationship to the subject matter and equally to the students to create a healthy learning environment. We need to find a way to be interested in all aspects of the world and to take an interest in each student. It is no small task, yet these teachers showed that they are remarkably dedicated. Their students are clearly well engaged with the task of learning and their work is beautiful. What a pleasure it was to be in such a well humming school.

Kobe Shinwa Women’s University

The next few days were spent with Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. Kohei Yamane, the university Chairman, Yuki Ishioka, one of his talented professors who has been doing research in Toronto at the Toronto Waldorf School and Midori Sakurai, my translator extraordinaire, have been taking such good care of me, making sure that I have everything I need, delicious meals, excellent lodging and plenty of inspiration.

Kohei took me to visit a public school in Kobe that educates 600 students from grade 1 to 6. The principal met us and proudly showed us around. The school was spacious and well kept with large rooms for music, physical education, library and an in school kitchen which cooks fresh food for all the children. There was even a computer room, which we were all pleased to see was empty and looked relatively unused. So while the curriculum here is highly prescriptive and leaves little room for creativity or individuality to emerge, at least the ravages of modern computer bombardment have been kept in check. Most of the classrooms did not have screens of any kind. We saw teachers engaging children. And when we saw that the school did in fact have a computer lab, but that it was empty, the principal said, “The best way to educate children is with teachers. Computers have little to teach us about being human!”

I will share other thoughts about my visit and describe the International Education Forum in a later post.
Warren Lee Cohen
Codirector RSCT

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June 2014

Dorothy Olsen Honoured at RSCT Graduation

Dorothy Olsen was this year's recipient of the honorary Waldorf Education Certificate at the graduation ceremony for our Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers and Early Childhood Educators full-time programs on May 28, 2014. She was recognized for her enormous contribution  to the work of Waldorf early childhood education in Canada over the past three decades.  Although she was not able to be here in person, her presence was felt in the hearts of many who were,  and in the hearts of other early childhood educators who have been inspired by her work.

In the early 1970s, Dorothy was the lead kindergarten teacher of the newly founded Vancouver Waldorf School, where she remained for most of a decade. In 1984 she became the founding kindergarten teacher at the Halton Waldorf School  when it started in Campbellville, Ontario. In 1990 she joined the core faculty of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, where for 11 years she led the early childhood focus of the full-time Waldorf Teacher Education year. Returning to the west coast, in 1996 she co-founded the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy, where she was a lead teacher until her retirement.

At the graduation ceremony, Jan Patterson spoke about the privilege of working with Dorothy  and expressed special gratitude for her support when she passed on her early childhood work to Jan in 2002. "When we started our part-time early childhood program in 2010," Jan added, "I was again able to ask Dorothy for her blessing and mentoring in the development of this new program." 

Jan Ney Patterson
Co director RSCT
Director Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Educators full and part-time

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Gene Campbell is the director of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy - distance at the Steiner Centre. Gene is a pioneer in her own right, a teacher, a counselor and a long time student of anthroposophy. She clearly was impressed by this workshop. In her words, "It is a great pleasure to learn so much in such a short period of time about something that I have studied diligently for thirty-four years!" Below are Gene's reflections on the weekend.

Dr. Robert Gilbert of the Vesica Institute recently offered a three-day workshop in Toronto on Spiritual Science.  It has left thoughts that need digesting over the coming months and exercises that need to be undertaken to strengthen new capacities.

It is enlightening to realize, as Dr. Robert Gilbert points out that much of what we do in our very busy lives has no direct contribution to the development of our own human capacities or of mankind for future generations.   Centred in the work of Rudolf Steiner as the first initiate of this current age of Consciousness Soul development, Dr. Gilbert reminds us that we each participate actively in the shaping of human nature.  Our thoughts, feeling, and actions set forces in motion that affect not only ourselves and those around us but also the collective consciousness of our age.   He further founds his work on the three pillars of the Rosicrucian Oath: meaningful service to others, self-transformation on all levels, and dedicated striving to complete our true spiritual destiny.

Steiner assures us that, without our conscious and steady effort, our higher human capacities will lie dormant.   It is easy to imagine how even one life that ends with little new development is a loss we all experience.  To avoid this, we need a plan of action:


The day cannot be stretched but we can make better use of our time.  The same twenty-four hours are given to each of us.  A good first step is to do an inventory on how we are spending our time and where the opportunities are to free up time for our self-development through becoming more efficient at meeting necessity, more skilled at interpersonal communication to maintain healthy boundaries, and more conscious of our priorities by infusing our lives with purpose and direction.


Steiner asks us to bring the discipline of science to the study of the spirit.  Good science is founded on a search for truth, objectivity, conscious explorations, original research, holding hypothesis, aligning with new truths as they are revealed to us, as well as subjecting our current perspective to peer review.  Our starting point, then, is conscious, clear thinking.   This can be developed and strengthened and will serve all aspects of life.

Through it, the difference between discernment and judgmental thoughts becomes self-evident.  It’s equanimity offers us the best opportunity to determine what is inherent in a situation and what we ourselves bring to it that ‘muddies the water’ unnecessarily.   Dr. Gilbert recommends as a first step to study the core concepts of spiritual science.  They are founded on the wisdom of the human being and can therefore be tested by each person out of life itself.


Wherever we direct our attention, will determine our reality.   Step by step, as our higher values begin to direct our attention, service to others, development of new capacities, and  our unique destiny will unfold.


As a spiritual scientist, we take what has first been received through clarity of thought and we begin the task of digesting and experiencing what it is we now understand in order to develop new habits, capacities, and perspectives.  We must plumb the depth of its wisdom and experience it in everyday life.


On-going self-assessment is not a process of self-judgment but rather an on-going method of course correction. The more objectively we regard our shortcomings, the more we are able to set to work to develop the practices that will strengthen them.   The more we will slip past the part of us that ‘wants to behave badly” as Dr. Gilbert points out.


Under Dr. Gilbert’s leadership, exercises were offered for those of us, not yet disciplined enough to undertake them for ourselves, to experience the fruits of our next stages of development.  He calls it ‘progressive spiritual weightlifting’.   As you can imagine, we felt the burn but appreciated the new vistas!

Once experienced, there is no going back.  We know the truth of what we have experienced.  And yet, the work clearly lies ahead. Thoughts need digesting and exercises need doing for our own capacities to be developed.

Gene Campbell
Program Director: Foundations in Anthroposophy – Distance


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