Schoolchildren in the lower classes

Here the question is: How can we stimulate schoolchildren in ways that will enable them to build on and expand their own realm of soul experience described above? How can we establish a learning process that addresses the heart?

The process of learning to write and read provides a good example: "If we teach children in ways which one-sidedly address only their intellect and call on theme merely to acquire skills in an abstract way, their life of will and feeling will atrophy. On the other hand if children learn in a way that involves their whole being, then they will develop every aspect of their nature. In the way children draw and even in their simple paintings they unfold in their whole being an interest in what they are doing. So try to develop the shapes of the letters out of forms which take account of the children's artistic sense." (Rudolf Steiner, "The Essentials of Education", Anthroposophic Press, 1997) It is a fact that writing did indeed develop out of pictures and magical symbols. (Cf. Kárely Földes-Papp, "Vom Felsbild zum Alphabet", Stuttgart 1966; "From Petroglyph to Writing", German only.)

Being active in experience and living in experiences of pictures coupled with a rich variety of memory training are prerequisites for the intellectual understanding which will develop in the older classes. Pictures relate to experience as concepts relate to knowledge. Thus, for example through the content of stories and legends right up to historicaland biographical descriptions, children build up an innter treasure-house that will form the foundation of conceptual concerns and aspects as they grow older.

At the pre-pubescent stage their faculty of critical thinking begins to awaken. So now they need suitable stimuli for the gradual development of their own ability to form judgements. Here we have the transition from learning through memory to understanding through concepts. Jean Piaget has given us an impressive description of this transition. (J. Piaget, "The Essential Piaget", publishes by Jason Aronson, 1995.) Causality is best comprehended through examples of non-animate nature. Physics is a new subject to be introduced in Class 6. The teaching method follows the natural process of understanding: from observation of observable phenomena to comprehension in thinking. The aim is not the acqusiiton of fixed definitions but the retention of a living variety. The process begins with observation and ends with conceptual understanding. The aim is not to educate the children in a culture of answers but to maintain their interest by cultivating a questioning attitude. At every stage it is important for them to relate emotionallly with the subject since this strengtens their motivation for learning.

Zimmermann, Heinz: Waldorf-Pädagogik weltweit, Ed.: Freunde der Erziehungskunst, 2001.