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Lower School

Rudolf Steiner Education is based upon an understanding of the successive phases of development in human life. Approximately every seven years a new faculty emerges, and matures during the intervening period. This process is quite gradual, yet proceeds in clearly defined stages.

The structure of the Rudolf Steiner
School,
the content of the
curriculum, and the teaching
methods, all reflect these
distinct
phases.
The aim of the teacher is
to approach the child
appropriately within the
context of this natural
development.

Learning Through Imagination
Beginning around the child's sixth year and becoming fully established around the age of seven, ability develops to follow processes using their imagination. Whereas a younger child may have to act out or demonstrate what they wish to communicate, the 6-7 year-old begins to inwardly picture a situation and describe it in a more complex language. At this time the child enters the Lower School, where two main factors contribute towards the consolidation of this image-filled feeling for life:

  • The relationship with the Class Teacher, who has overall responsibility for the core curriculum in relationship to the child's development, ideally extends throughout the following 7 years, enabling the child to develop a feeling of trust in the situation and the teacher to develop insight into each child's particular needs, and to monitor this ongoing process of growth in every area;
  • An artistic approach to each aspect of the curriculum permeates the teaching and works directs with the feeling-imagination. Each lesson could be likened to looking through a window into a world: the teacher describes the view, pointing out salient features, and inspiring the child to enter into an enriched experience, through which specific learning objectives then can be achieved.

During this time the children will learn those skills so necessary in contemporary society: Writing, Reading, and Mathematics. Each subject is established in richly-experienced lessons which lead from the child's real world of pictures towards the abstract world of our adult consciousness.
Similarly arising out of stories told by the teacher, the study of History and Geography helps them to appreciate more fully who they are, where they are, and how they are indebted to those who have gone before. This imagination is nurtured through practice in the Arts, and through the artistic element in other lessons, to lead the faculty of wonder towards an appreciation and understanding of the Sciences.
The Curriculum and the teaching method together facilitate a learning activity through which the child develops an integrated view of human life in its individual, social and environmental contexts. Consequently, formal skills are introduced and exercised in a meaningful context which engages the child's interest and understanding.

Developing Social Awareness
Several problems seem evident in our society. One is an unbalanced intellectuality, which results in a detached technical obsession with knowledge at the expense of human interest. Another is sentimentality and emotionalism. A third problem is that of impulsiveness, an often exuberant violence erupting out of the will.
These are prevalent forms of egotism in our time. The Mission Statement of the School's Charter, that through this education the human being shall become free and responsible, establishes the development of social consciousness as a central task. This is approached quite concretely in the Lower School.
The class is a community in which the contributions of everyone are to be recognised. The giftedness of any particular child is not something to be hoarded or promoted for their own ends, but is to be developed even further through sharing. A gifted child will stay with their age-group and be encouraged to participate fully in the advancement of the group; the social ideal is to develop awareness that each individual has something to give, and has much to receive.
In another significant way, social sensitivity is enhanced. The faculty for fantasy and imagination in the young child, if cultivated, becomes a powerful social sense. Although the fear is often articulated in our society that if we do not make children aware of the `harsh realities of the real world' they will remain ineffectual dreamers, in fact the reverse is generally true. The child who is prematurely forced into this `real world' can be numbed by it, becoming apathetic, while the imaginative and often dreamy child can become someone whose imaginative faculty becomes an organ which is able to perceive the viewpoint and character of another person. Such people often are skilled mediators and facilitators in social and work situations, and in the adult sphere of management.

The Class Teacher
A unique feature is that throughout the Lower School, ideally the children are guided by a particular teacher whose task is to develop insight into the individual child's needs, to create an appropriate learning context for the group, and to be an authority in the child's life. This Class Teacher also is expected to establish an active working relationship with the child's family, to facilitate a co-operative and mutually supportive understanding of that child. In the classroom this teacher is especially responsible for the Main Lessons, and for the co-ordination of the other core curriculum subjects.

The Specialist Teachers
A number of subjects are taught by teachers who specialise in that activity. These include Handwork, Eurythmy, Physical Education, Gardening, Religion, Maori, and German. In addition, class teachers may interchange in order to offer their particular talents in other classes, for instance in art, music, and games.

Main Lessons and Subject lessons
Every morning until morning tea, a particular subject or theme will be studied for several weeks in the Main Lesson. This structure takes advantage of the fact that after a time of intensive learning, experience and skills are further consolidated at a subconscious level. It also caters for the more intensive nature of learning that occurs when interest is aroused; for that time, it is the only thing worth doing!
The content of the Main Lesson is presented by the teacher. Text books are not used. Instead, the children create their own text, called the Main Lesson Book, which may include a self-researched project as an extension-study of the theme. Characteristically these books are works of art crammed with fascinating accounts of the subject, which become prized family possessions, and reference material for further study.
 
Subject Lessons resemble the lessons taught in all schools, in that they occur regularly throughout the week as timetabled. They may be taught by the Class Teacher or a Specialist Teacher. In the Lower School the approach to these lessons is always imaginative, with the objective of developing both understanding and technical facility.
Co-operative learning is fostered in lessons, especially in the early years, with the teacher directing the process for the benefit of the whole group.

The Curriculum and Timetable
The Waldorf Curriculum is comprehensive. A broad range of subjects is studied throughout the school. Care is taken to develop subject content in a way that is truly relevant to the inner life of the child. Consequently some subjects are introduced only at a later stage in the child's development, while other subjects will be studied in depth at a very early stage. In general the more intellectual subjects are approached later, when the child exhibits the appropriate faculty for understanding.
As much as possible, the timetable is organised so that subjects of a more academic nature are studied in the morning, while artistic and practical activities are timetabled into the afternoons. However, the intention in each lesson is to balance intellectual, artistic and practical activity so that the child's whole being is involved.
The importance of rhythm in learning, through which new content is recapitulated and consolidated in subsequent lessons, is a significant factor in timetabling and structuring lessons. Effective learning occurs when these rhythms and patterns of assimilation and digestion are observed.
Because the children are 6-7 years old when entering Class 1, it must be appreciated that initially their learning attainment in formal academic learning will not be equivalent to that of peers in other schools. However, a broad foundation encompassing many skills is developed which ensures that a normally-developing child readily reaches similar standards in writing, reading and arithmetic within a few years, together with a great deal else which ultimately will take them far on the path of learning.


 


Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School
19 Ombersley Terrace PO Box 19944 Opawa Christchurch 8002
Phone + 64 (0)3 337 0514 Fax + 64 (0)3 337 0515 Email admin@ch.steiner.school.nz



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