As early childhood teachers, we strive not to "teach" but to be. We provide opportunities for developmentally appropriate experiences that will allow the gifts and strengths of each child to unfold without isolating the intellect from the whole.
Northridge, CA (PRWEB) August 31, 2012
As part of a back-to-school conference, Highland Hall Waldorf School faculty and staff spent three days living in the science curriculum to prepare for the year ahead and rediscover why the Waldorf play-based pre-school and kindergarten curriculums form the foundations for later learning through the grades.
At Highland Hall, in Northridge, CA, the nursery and kindergarten classes are where the science curriculum begins. Early childhood teachers introduce science at a tender age through play, story, song and movement. This approach provides an interactive, experiential way for children to live what they are learning, and offers parents an alternative pre-school and kindergarten option to the academic approach of fact memorization practiced in other schools. Current research has shown that an early learning approach that emphasizes knowledge retention can cause stress and lead to learning disorders and attention difficulties as children move up the grades and beyond. Highland Hall’s approach seeks instead to arouse interest and curiosity in the natural world, develop imagination and creativity, and then put those creative talents to work answering the basic questions in science, “Why is that? How can it be so?”
As part of a three-day back-to-school conference focused on science, the entire Highland Hall faculty and staff were invited to begin the day in the kindergarten. "The conference was designed to provide a deep understanding of the science curriculum throughout the grades. The place where it all begins is in our early childhood classes," offers Lynn Kern, administrative director for the school.
The warm and inviting play space of Highland Hall's early childhood classrooms includes beautiful and natural handmade toys and has been created to support sensory development and integration, gross and fine motor skills, as well as language and social skills – all important foundations for later learning through the grades.
As part of the conference, faculty and staff participated in a kindergarten "circle time" song and lived in the shoes of children learning about life, or natural science, and the various plant, animal, earth and human "kingdoms." Through movement, rhyme, and the use of their imaginations, they went apple picking, learned about the taste, smell and colors of apples, and how to care for the horse they rode through the orchard.
"For all activities, it is important to remember that the point of beginning is the young child's body...his physical organism, still developing and not yet under his full command. Body geography, planes of space, physical awareness of others, rhythm, gross motor movement, fine motor movement - these are all developed during the rhythm of the day." says Laura Ferris, lead kindergarten teacher.
On the second day, the staff navigated a series of planks, low balance beams, and wobbly boards to experience physics. "These sorts of games support the child's developing vestibular and proprioceptive systems. They give the children an opportunity to learn where their body ends and another one begins," explains Sheila Sandray Branagan. "As early childhood teachers, we strive not to "teach" but to be. We provide opportunities for developmentally appropriate experiences that will allow the gifts and strengths of each child to unfold without isolating the intellect from the whole."
The last day focused on chemistry. For this, everyone enjoyed grinding wheat, kneading dough, baking bread, chopping strawberries for jam, shaking cream for butter, and most of all...eating the bread.
"Chemistry is transformation," adds Elizabeth Shahbazi, parent and child program teacher. "When we bake bread the children can see the change, feel it and taste it. In a way the change literally becomes part of them when they, at last...eat it!"
About Highland Hall: Highland Hall Waldorf School is located in Northridge, California. Founded in 1955, it is the oldest Waldorf school in the western United States and offers an independent alternative to public and other private schools, providing the Waldorf Curriculum from Early Childhood through High School graduation. Its mission is to guide students in the unique Waldorf curriculum, striving to endow each student with discernment in thought and action, a joy of learning, and a sense of wonder and reverence for life.
Highland Hall's students graduate with a solid academic foundation, the ability to think creatively, a sympathetic interest in the world, self-confidence, and an abiding moral purpose. They move on to renowned colleges and universities of their choosing and continue onto accomplished careers in their chosen professions.
Further information may be obtained at http://www.highlandhall.org. 818-349-1394 x 233