Community Events to engage the head, heart, & hands

Waldorf in the News

Technology: Hinderance or Help to Creative Learning?

Waldorf Schools are getting a lot of national media attention these days as the leaders in a growing trend in education for a sensible approach to limiting technology exposure to younger children. A recent Sunday New York Times front-page article profiling a Waldorf school in the heart of Silicon Valley promoting this perspective has sparked a nation-wide debate over the role of technology and its value in educational institutions. (Note: links require you register–for free–with the New York Times for e-reading their articles.)

Since their founding over 90 years ago, Waldorf Schools have always subscribed to a “limited and developmentally-ready” approach to using technological tools–and now digital media–in the school environment. This means in more recent years a “restricted media” policy for the pre-K, kindergarten and early grades and an absence of computers, laptops, smart media devices, pop-culture media imagery, videos and other digital media in classrooms (until computers are introduced in age-appropriate High School classes).

Studies of technology in the classroom have not produced compelling evidence of it being an enhancement to learning, and many schools relying on media and technology aids have show a stagnation of test scores and other performance metrics. The Waldorf approach to restricting media and technology is based on many research supported studies that show that physical movement, social interactions and activities of independent self-authorship with manual, artisanal, and traditional forms of communication, creative expression and interaction provide the most invigorating and engaging learning environments and have distinct benefits on child development and learning.

Finally, Greg Simon, a Waldorf parent, succinctly expressed this view in a letter to the New York Times saying:

As one of my favorite Waldorf teachers has written, “Waldorf is a choice that earnest parents have made, parents who have confidence in technology, who see it as part of their children’s future, but who feel that the natural creative and imaginative capacities of children can best be developed through an immediate connection with nature, art, storytelling, movement, music and drama.” Case in point: My own Waldorf-educated son is graduating with a degree in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania this year…There will be plenty of technology later in children’s lives. Why not let them begin life experiencing the magic of the world and their own imagination rather than holding a mouse and watching electronic magic unfold before them?

– Letter to the Editor, NYT, Oct 27, 2011

See this latest coverage of this debate from NBC Nightly News. You can either click on the image to the right or follow this link to view the MSNBC news broadcast.

The networks are clamoring to cover the Waldorf School in this ongoing news story.

(Monday Dec 5th)…and now this just added: CBS News has also profiled Waldorf Schools and their “news-making” approach to technology. See the CBS2 News broadcast at this link or click on the video image below.

In it Waldorf English teacher, Deborah Newlen–reflecting on the Waldorf human interaction-centered perspective–says, “A computer is a good tool, its a fun toy, it can even be a tutor, but its NOT a teacher.” Interestingly, the news anchors at the start of the piece are calling this a movement that has “gone retro,” not realizing that this has been a consistent core value of the Waldorf education for nearly the last 100 years. This model has withstood the test of time because it works.

And here is another NBC News profile that has interviews with Waldorf students and teachers talking about their views on the value of technology and its place outside of the classroom.

It matters not if the debate of the value of computers and hi-tech in education is unresolved as long as the desired learning outcomes are clear, and as these students demonstrate, they are confident in their education. The interview ends with a student making a compelling point that “Waldorf is the future for education. Because Waldorf really focuses on skills that we’re going to need for the 21st century, skills like analytical thinking, creative thinking, and having imagination…” – Jack Pelose, Waldorf student


Why Free Play is Essential for Learning & Growth

Peter Gray, Professor of Psychology (emeritus), Boston College stresses the importance of Free Play

A Waldorf education places great emphasis on the role of free play in a child’s development — play being the ‘work’ of a young child. The October issue of The Atlantic echos this important truth. Author and M.D. Esther Entin examines play-based research conducted by Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D.
Gray argues that the decline of free play among children has resulted in higher suicide rates and increased behavioral issues. He suggests a return to basics like extra time on the playground or a reduction in organized activities to help children grow into happy, well adjusted adults.

Doctor Gray enumerates the FIVE WAYS PLAY BENEFITS KIDS

When children are in charge of their own play, it provides a foundation for their future mental health as older children and adults:

1. Play gives children a chance to find and develop a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.

2. It is through play that children first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self control, and follow rules.

3. Children learn to handle their emotions, including anger and fear, during play.

4. Play helps children make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.

5. Most importantly, play is a source of happiness.

As Ms. Entin commented, “For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults…”

Click here to continue reading this insightful article in the Atlantic.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. This article originally appeared on

Rocket Club Alumnus: A Boy and His “Bottle Rocket”

Chicago Waldorf School alumni Jackson Lubin (grade school class of 2011) and current parent Judy Lubin were featured on the Science Channel in a show called Large, Dangerous Rocket Ships. Over Labor Day weekend, Jackson and Judy travelled to Kansas to take part in a national rocket launch and “odd rocket” competition. The challenge of the competition is to turn an ordinary object into a rocket.

Making an “odd rocket” is much more difficult than making a regular rocket; ordinary objects are not meant to fly!

As the main engineer and design expert on the team, Jackson put his skills to the test for this project. The team started with a 5 foot tall, 2 foot wide garbage can & recycling container shaped like a soda bottle. After 10 months of hard work, the finished rocket weighed over 100 pounds and was skillfully engineered to be aerodynamically stable. With the help of 10 pounds of solid rocket fuel, the soda bottle soared to over 4,000 feet and clinched second place in the competition. To learn more information about the project, visit Science Discovery and JLRockets.

Sumbitted by Judy Lubin, Chicago Waldorf School Parent/Rocket Club Advisor / Photo by Sather Ranum

Janet Oliver- The Eight Primary Reflexes

Full Day Workshops: Sat & Sun, November 5th & 6th

A former Montessori Pre-school teacher, with a Masters in Human Development and over a decade of clinical experience, Janet Oliver will present a workshop on the eight primary reflexes and their development and integration. Primary reflexes are instinctual movement patterns which help us to survive. These include the finger grasp reflux of a newborn or the startle ‘Moro’ reflex of a baby. They are not meant to last a lifetime, but rather organically integrate into our central nervous system. Children and adults who still retain elements of these reflexes can be frustrated because they are constantly being subverted by interfering instinctual responses. These reflexes may affect a person’s learning, behaviors, and well being.

This workshop is for any parent who would like insight into their child’s neurological development.

Janet L. Oliver has been in private, clinical practice in neurodevelopment and reflex integration for thirteen years. As a certified HANDLE Practitioner, her passion is in sharing the sensory motor developmental model for lifelong learning and efficient functioning. She works with public, Waldorf and Montessori Schools for teacher trainings and helping students with developmental delays.

The Janet Oliver workshop will take place at the Chicago Waldorf School in the Upper Eurythmy room. It is designed to assist body workers, occupational and physical therapists, teachers, parents and caregivers. Follow this link for the registration form for this workshop. For more information, please contact CWS Educational Support Teacher Cynthia Trevillion.

Researchers Offer More Support: “Respect for Recess”

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, authors Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang discuss the connection between the modern rise in near-sightedness and our increasingly indoor lifestyle:

Researchers suspect that bright outdoor light helps children’s developing eyes maintain the correct distance between the lens and the retina — which keeps vision in focus. Dim indoor lighting doesn’t seem to provide the same kind of feedback. As a result, when children spend too many hours inside, their eyes fail to grow correctly and the distance between the lens and retina becomes too long, causing far-away objects to look blurry… (read the entire article at its source)

Further evidence that kids benefit from outside play!

Sandra Aamodt, is a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University. They are co-authors of the forthcoming Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College.

High School Beautifys the Rogers Park Neighborhood

During the last two Community Service Days in Spring and Summer, a group of CWS High School students worked on painting a mural at the CTA underpass on Albion and Lakewood. Most of our grade school children, and even some of the Early Childhood students, use this underpass on their way to Albion Beach. The project idea was to paint a mural recreating a forest path in the city. Work continued on the mural over the summer, and the completed portions are ready to be enjoyed by all who pass by.

Enjoy these student-made murals in our neighborhood.

Interested in the project? Contact CWS teacher, Sr. Alberto Correa at

Slide Show of CWS at Pride Parade

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Chicago Waldorf School celebrates at the 42nd Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday June 26th, 2011

CWS Marches in 2011 Chicago Pride Parade

This past Sunday, over 50 CWS parents, faculty, staff, alumni and students from 1st grade through High School donned rainbow capes, facepaint and waved flags and placards as they marched through the center of the city in the 2011 Pride Parade. The spectacular weather swelled spectators to well beyond the 450,000 that were counted at last year’s parade.

Our students enjoyed the enthusiastic support and admiring responses from the crowd that included high-fives and cheering as the students displayed their pride and demonstrated skills such as jumping rope (double-dutch no less), twirling streamers and cheering back to the crowd.

New Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel–who led this year’s parade–visited & chatted with the CWS students.

The CWS Bus (decorated with rainbow banners and signs) and parent marching band accompanied the CWS marchers and made quite an impression on the city of Chicago. The CWS contingent was covered by ABC 7 News, WXRT Radio, Windy City Times and mentioned in numerous other media reporting stories, perspectives and blogsites. As the Windy City Times reported, “PFLAG was as popular as ever, with parents and friends marching along with LGBTs. Nettlehorst and Chicago Waldorf School also marched to great response. Both are [local] schools, showing just how far Pride has come since the 1969 Stonewall protests in New York.”

CWS & Nettlehorst “are showing just how far Pride has come since the 1969 Stonewall protests in New York.”

Overall the students and families had a great experience and were glad to show their support for ALL kinds of families, regardless of their orientation or structural makeup. The LGBT community and the larger city of Chicago opened their arms and welcomed our schools participation in this energizing and historic event along with the CPS Nettlehorst School and Chicago Teachers Union.

Very Special Thanks to:
Jennifer Zielinski- the master event-coordinator and communicator for our parade participants.
Mark Miller, Heath Jansen and Donald McGhee- for creating our new Parent Marching Band.
Brett Johnson (our Development Director’s husband)- for rigging our bus with an excellent sound system to add music to our bus/float.
Carly Garcia & her dad, Carlo- for loaning a generator for powering the sound system.
The Muskovin Family (Naomi & Dru)- for sewing rainbow capes.
The Greenberg Family (Maci & Meka)- for dyeing and painting capes and banners.
Cathey Stamps & Laurie Oswald who travelled all the way from Denver, CO with family to march.
All the families, faculty and staff who participated in this year’s parade!

The parade, now in its 42nd year, celebrates the diversity of Chicago’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender individuals and families. It supports the notion of family in all forms including the significance of LGBT community family members. Chicago Waldorf School is proud to support our LGBT members both within our school community and within the City of Chicago at large.

Take another opportunity to show your school pride in this weekend’s July 4th Parade in Evanston!

Invididuals interested in marching in the July 4th parade should contact Jennifer Zielinski at 773-392-1496.

-submitted by Jason Greenberg
CWS parent & Pride Event Participant

Promoting a “Less Is More” Approach To Learning

A Princeton Professor Champions a Waldorf-style Model for Innovation & Experimental Thinking

A recent perspective piece in CNN World (in partnership with TIME Magazine) promotes the values at the heart of Waldorf pedagogy, to wit, the philosophy that creative time and open-ended structures foster experimentation and innovation in ways that regimented training for achievement cannot. Anne-Marie Slaughter,the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, offers her perspective:

Rebellion of an Innovation Mom

Call it the rebellion of the mother of two adolescents against the Tiger Moms, but what this nation needs to be innovative and entrepreneurial is to ask our kids to do less.

Innovation requires creativity; entrepreneurship requires a willingness to break the rules. The jam packed, highly structured days of elite children are carefully calculated to create Ivy League-worthy resumes. They reinforce habits of discipline and conformity, programming remarkably well-rounded and often superb young people who can play near concert-quality violin, speak two languages, volunteer in their communities and get straight A’s.

These are the students that I see in my Princeton classes; I am often in awe of their accomplishments and teaching them is a joy. But I strongly suspect that they will not be the inventors of the next “new new thing“.

Creativity requires a measure of random association and connection and substantial periods of down time, where the mind is allowed to run and turn over seemingly disconnected bits of information, images, and ideas. Richard Florida, author of The Creative Class (follow him on Twitter at @richard_florida), observes that “many researchers see creative thinking as a four-step process: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification or revision.”

To nurture young people who are willing to persevere in the face of deep skepticism or outright opposition, we must reward them or at least allow them to be rewarded for breaking the rules…

Incubation is “the ‘mystical’ step,” one in which both the conscious mind and the subconscious mull over the problem in hard-to-define ways.” Hard to define, yes, but not hard to foster, as long as chunks of the day or the week are left open for relatively random activity: long walks, surfing the Internet, browsing a bookstore, household chores that don’t require too much thought, watching the birds at the birdfeeder and gazing out at the ocean.

Creativity gurus often suggest ways to add randomness to your life. Left to their own devices, teenagers are masters at drifting from fad to fad, website to website, and event to event as their fancy takes them, but that seemingly aimless, random wandering is exactly what we are programming out of them.

Entrepreneurship means undertaking something new, something that you create or make happen that does not exist in your space. It does not have to require breakthrough innovation; successful entrepreneurs can borrow ideas that are succeeding elsewhere and transfer them. But our most famous entrepreneurs have a vision and follow it in defiance of conventional wisdom.

One of the nation’s leading entrepreneurs recently listened to me pitch a new idea and patiently told me the many reasons it was unlikely to work and/or that I was the wrong person to make it happen at this point in my life. But at the end of our conversation, he smiled and said: “Of course, every successful entrepreneur started with an idea that other people said would not work but persevered anyway. So go for it.”

To nurture young people who are willing to persevere in the face of deep skepticism or outright opposition, we must reward them or at least allow them to be rewarded for breaking the rules, not meeting our expectations by jumping through an endless series of hoops.

Remember that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to follow their passions.

Can we really imagine kids who have done absolutely everything expected of them both in and out of school being willing to ignore their college courses and their parents’, teachers’, and coaches’ expectation to suddenly pursue their own path?

The U.S. higher educational system recognizes the value of challenging authority; that is what “teaching critical thinking” is all about. I wrote in 2009 that the U.S. was primed to remain an innovation leader precisely because we give A’s for the answers that challenge the teacher’s thinking and B’s for the answers that echo it….(Click here to read the rest of the article at its source.)

Note: Author, Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Follow her on Twitter at @slaughteram.

Special to CNN posted on June 5th, 2011

Congratulations to CWS Student Liam Gorzen

Chicago Fire Department Awards Student Scholarship

8th grade student, Liam Gorzen, was very excited when he learned that he is to be a recipient of this year’s Chicago Fire Department’s Gold Badge Society’s High School Scholarship. The Gold Badge Society advocates for firefighters and paramedics, offering financial, emotional and operational support for members of the Chicago Fire Department as well as offering outreach to families on the national level.

This specific monetary award supports High School and College scholarships for children of active, retired, and disabled or deceased firefighters and paramedics from the Chicago Fire Department. Scholarship recipients had to be nominated by community members and demonstrate academic achievement supported with institutional documentation.

Liam attended the recent awards ceremony on Sunday, May 15th at the Chicago Fire Department’s Monthly Mass at Holy Family Church on Roosevelt Road.

Congratulations Liam, on a job well done!

CWS Parent Executes High Profile Public Art Project

Thomas Melvin’s Art Extends To Many Areas

The Melvin family have been active members of the Chicago Waldorf Community for many years. In fact artist Thomas Melvins’ creativity has been on display at CWS before. His work has been profiled in the Sound of Thunder’s Community Artist Profile, and suites of his woodblock carved Valentines collaborations with his wife, Nancy Melvin, are on display in the school’s Main Office (and also available for purchase as elegant artist proof cards and gift sets). But in this past few weeks Thomas’ art skills have taken on a whole new dimension, as he is executing a massive mural project in the Loop. His efforts were recently documented in a Chicago Tribune article on this Art Loop 2011 Project.

Here is an excerpt of the article in the Tribune:

Writing on the Wall for Art Loop Project: Artist Rosen to Bring Wordplay to Empty Spaces in the Loop

The newly stenciled lines on the vast wall above Old Navy in the Loop suggest there’s a large-scale advertisement in the works. But those who’ve been anticipating the location of this summer’s Chicago Loop Alliance-sponsored public art installation are the wiser.

The north wall of the Stevens building at 17-25 N. State Street — of which approximately nine stories serve as a white brick canvas looming over a pedestrian-heavy intersection — is the newly tapped site for Midwestern artist Kay Rosen’s as-yet untitled Art Loop 2011 installation. A secondary site, along the paneling covering the north and south exterior walls of the State/Lake “L” platform, will serve as backdrop to a related installation, and banners lining State Street between the two sites will tie them together. All of the installation work will be completed in time for the project’s grand unveiling, scheduled for May 24. The complete installation will be on view through August.

Though a light rain put an end to Saturday’s preliminary preparation, Sunday’s mild temperatures offered ideal conditions for work on the Stevens building site, which is largely being carried out by a team of local painters headed by Thomas Melvin, with whom Rosen has collaborated multiple times over the course of nearly three decades. Because Loop regulations limit painting to weekends only, weather plays a major factor in the timely completion of the project….(Click here to continue reading the article at its source).

This article (originally posted, May 8, 2011) is excerpted from The Chicago Tribune
By Lauren Viera, Tribune reporter

CWS 5th Grader performs Verdi’s “Otello” at Chicago Symphony Center & Carnegie Hall

Hear CWS 5th grader, Ultra-Violet Archer sing with the Chicago Children’s Choir and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concert performing Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Otello, at:

Chicago’s Symphony Center, April 7, 9 & 12
New York’s Carnegie Hall, April 15-17

Ultra-Violet Archer has always loved to sing. Even before she was born she experienced drum circles and musical jams from the womb. Parent-Child classes and the Waldorf curriculum reinforced her musical home life. When she was 8 years old she asked CWS Music Director Jeff Spade to give her voice lessons and he recommended she try out for the Chicago Children’s Choir (CCC) since they use a very ‘Waldorfian’ approach to music.

At the CCC’s neighborhood choir level, boys and girls learn proper vocal technique, music reading and sight singing skills, as well as the discipline of singing with musicality, movement, and expression. Singers are offered numerous performance opportunities to exhibit the diverse repertoire reflecting the multicultural mission of Chicago Children’s Choir.

The CCC has neighborhood choirs all around the city. Ultra-Violet attends the one in Rogers Park that is close to school. (4th graders, Ford Walters and Sylvan Hartshorn-Bunis are part of that choir). Neighborhood choirs are for singers in 3rd grade through high school; they rehearse twice a week throughout the school year and perform several times during the year and sometimes take a short tour in the spring.

After several call backs Ultra-Violet was selected from over a thousand children to be part of the performance.

Through the CCC, Ultra-Violet was offered an opportunity to audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) production of Verdi’s Otello with guest Maestro Riccardo Muti. After several call backs Ultra-Violet was selected from over a thousand children to be part of the performance.

Based on Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello, Verdi’s opera revolves around four central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army; his wife Desdemona; his lieutenant, Cassio; and his trusted ensign Iago. This is Verdi’s penultimate opera; it was nearly never written, since the composer had gone into retirement following the success of Aida. But librettist Arrio Boito and Verdi’s publisher convinced the composer to write the opera, and Otello received its premiere at La Scala in Milan in 1887.

You can read more about the CSO & CCC’s Otello here.
Come see Ultra-Violet and the CCC perform with the CSO. Get Tickets Here

Fifty two years ago during the Civil Rights Movement, the late Christopher Moore founded the multiracial, multicultural Chicago Children’s Choir at Hyde Park’s First Unitarian Church. He believed that youth from diverse backgrounds could better understand each other—and themselves— by learning to make beautiful music together. The Choir currently serves 2,800 children, ages 8 – 18 through choirs in 45 schools and after school programs.

CWS 8th Grader Prevails in Advanced Sport Rocketry

CWS 8th grader, Jackson Lubin was recently profiled in Sport Rocketry Magazine as he received Junior Level 1 Certification from the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).

Jackson has been an avid rocket enthusiast for some time; he even was involved in starting the CWS rocket club. In the article he shares some of his strategies in rocket building and planning for the certification trials:

“On June 19, 2010, the very day I turned 14, I earned my NAR Junior High Power Participation Certification, or Junior Level 1 Cert.

I chose the Wildman Jr. from Wildman Rocketry because I wanted a rocket that would go high and fast. I also wanted it to be strong, so that I could use high thrust motors and so that it could take hard landings. The all fiberglass construction, together with injected carbon fiber internal fillets, make the rocket very strong.

I built the Wildman Jr. in a few days. The finished rocket is about 5 feet tall, is 2.1inches in diameter and has a 38mm motor mount. It weighs 3lbs. 9oz. without motor.

I chose the Cesaroni I-800 Vmax motor. The Vmax motors maximize velocity. I knew that the rocket would fly off the pad. Rocksim predicted that the rocket would go about 4,500 feet, and travel at almost 800 feet per second. My first high power flight would have the highest initial thrust that I would be able to use for the next 4 years, until I was 18 and could certify Level 2.

We took the rocket to the pad. The LCO pressed the button and the rocket leapt off the pad with a loud roar! It went straight up, despite the winds, and arced over very nicely. I was very happy when the ‘chute came out and the rocket began its decent.

The day got a lot of my friends excited about rockets. Some of my friends are starting to build model rockets and are planning for their own Junior Level 1 certifications…..”
Click here to read the full article (note a delay after clicking while this large PDF loads)

Excerpt from: Junior Level 1 Certification by Jackson Lubin
Sport Rocketry Magazine, March/April 2011

Waldorf School Launches New Green Architecture Building

Did You Ever Wonder What Happens To All Those Shipping Containers?
They build a Waldorf school with them.

In a groundbreaking ceremony last month, kindergartners sprinkled both water and wishes on the vacant lot that will soon house the Waldorf School of Orange County’s new $2-million building. The pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school on Canyon Drive invited all 326 of its students to join faculty, parents and the community to see where it planned to erect what was said to be Costa Mesa’s first building made from recycled shipping containers.

“It has always been a dream of this community to erect a building that will reflect the character of this community,” said high school science teacher Ingrid Feck. The building will house high school classes, an art studio, a life-science lab, auditorium, administrative offices, student lounge and a virtual library with a foreign-language lab.

The Waldorf School of Orange County expanded four years ago to include a high school. The school’s first senior class will graduate this spring. The seven students in the senior class, three of whom have been at the school since they were in pre-K, were honored with digging the first hole, as were parents Chi-Lin and Donald Sun, and Sandy and Rob Meadows.

The building was a long time coming, and due to students and parents working to bring the high-school classes to Waldorf, Rob Meadows said. “We are here to celebrate the seed this class planted four years ago that will grow into a building,” he said.

The 10,000-square-foot building will sit on a half-acre lot adjacent to the school overlooking Fairview Park and the Talbert Nature Preserve. The building will be made out of shipping containers — a fairly new, but growing trend in the U.S., said architect Todd Spiegel. The building, which is expected to be completed in May, won’t look like stacked shipping containers, but will be aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly, he said.

The school wanted the portability of being able to move if its lease isn’t renewed and have the ability to grow and change with time, said Paul Conolly, chairman of the school’s board of trustees. Beyond the flexibility the containers offer, the building’s eco-friendly materials reinforce the school’s philosophy, which is to include environmental consciousness in the curriculum, he said. “That’s very near and dear to their hearts,” he said.

Here is the source for this article. Here is the source for the video.

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

This article authored by a University of California at Berkeley professor who’s research of child development and cognition has produced results confirming core elements of the Waldorf approach to education. She shares her perspective and interpretation of data from two separate studies from research institutions that demonstrate learning outcomes and child behaviors that make a strong case for the age-appropriate, developmental approach that is integral to a Waldorf education. Here follows her article lead-in:

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they’re reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn’t very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition—one from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.

What do we already know about how teaching affects learning? Not as much as we would like, unfortunately, because it is…continue reading

See the source for the full article by Alison Gopnik
Posted to Slate Magazine / Wednesday, March 16, 2011