by Kerstin Pintus | WSP Handwork Teacher
On September 10th, WSP students and I, their handwork teacher, participated in a Living History event “A Walk Through Time” at the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum.
Representing the “golden days” of the rancho period, 1833 through 1846 in California, WSP’s booth “Fun with Wool” was a great success. Under the enthusiastic and patient tutelage of WSP students in period costumes and myself, visitors learned through hands-on activities how a sheep fleece is processed into yarn. Guests had an opportunity to card wool, build spindles from rocks and sticks, and spin yarn.
Sunnyvale’s Vice Mayor, Alysa Cisneros, joined the fun with demonstrations using a spinning wheel.
Many thanks to Juli, Sahar, and Anne-Mare in sixth grade; Mascha in eighth grade, and Maia twelfth grade for their wonderful ambassadorship and representation of our school.
Note: Two WSP alumni parents, Katharina Woodman and Kim Thurgate are volunteers at the museum where Kim serves as event coordinator who planned this festival. When Kim was looking for an activity that would tell the story of the sheep pastures and wool processing, Katharina suggested Kerstin and her students, having witnessed them practicing wool processing in handwork class.
by Ashley Brickeen | Admissions Director Nursery School -Grade 8
What are the children doing when they bake bread in Early Childhood?
- developing fine motor strength and control: kneading the dough and shaping the loaves strengthens the hand muscles and improves manual dexterity.
- exploring with their senses: baking engages the senses of sight, touch, and smell. Working with the dough, children notice how the dough becomes smooth with kneading and how the stickiness and tension of the dough changes as they work with it. Later, after baking, they experience the taste of the fresh bread and how the application of heat transforms the uniform dough into a crunchy outer layer with a soft inside.
- strengthening bilateral coordination: developing good bilateral coordination skills can help children to tie shoelaces, cut with scissors and draw a line with a ruler. Rolling balls of dough, and flattening dough with their hands allow children to develop their bilateral coordination skills.
- developing attention and goal setting: baking bread requires care, patience, and a willingness to delay gratification. Children carefully follow and mimic the movements of their teacher, paying close attention to her words and movements. They need to wait for the delicious bread to bake before they can enjoy it.
- developing an understanding of process and sequence: in class, children will grind wheat to make the flour. As they prepare the dough and knead it, they see that the process of baking bread has a beginning, middle, and end as it moves from wheat to dough to bread.
- developing a sense of efficacy (“I can do it!”): young children need opportunities to do real, meaningful tasks. In baking bread, they make something delicious that they can enjoy and share. Baking and other “chores” contribute to children’s emotional development and self-assurance as they build confidence in their abilities and understand the meaning behind their work (we bake so we can eat bread; we clean so we can have a tidy classroom). It also encourages independence as children learn to take responsibility while following directions and solving problems.
- developing a sense of community: we bake bread together as a class and then sit down together to enjoy it. During snack time, children and teachers share conversation and stories.
In the Waldorf curriculum, especially at the Nursery School and Kindergarten level, the emphasis is on the process, not the product. Worrying about achieving perfect, smooth loaves would defeat that purpose. The learning is through doing.
In the same way, over-explaining the purpose of an activity robs the young child of the chance to explore, discover, and observe on their own. It takes away some of the magic of discovery.
These are just some of the reasons we bake bread as part of the Early Childhood curriculum.
by Marina Budrys | High School Humanities Faculty Member
Rudolf Steiner believed that it is really important to understand how things work in the world in some basic way. This doesn’t mean, for example, that we all need to know how to build an Audi TT engine, but some experience with acceleration is important.
Coding has become such an important part of how our world works that I started to look at bringing it into my Humanities curriculum. Our high school students are not necessarily experiencing coding unless they’re members of the Robotics Club or pursuing an independent interest, and yet a general knowledge of how code works is essential for our graduates.
Confession, I am no coder. I took one rStudio class in college and it was really hard for me. So I called up my sister, an alumna of the class of 2017, who works in a plant science lab at Stanford and asked her if she would be willing to Zoom in for a demo with my 12th grade Economics students. We came up with an ideal exercise: 12th Graders would use R code to create visual representations of data they’ve been collecting for their Economics work. Each student worked through an example where they followed her through importing the data, adding instructions, and running different lines of code. They each ended up with a colorful graph that matched hers. Their homework was to ask a question related to the research they needed to do for their Senior store, collect their own data, and create their own graphs from those data. Did everyone figure out each part perfectly? No. Did everyone create a graph? Yes.
A big part of this education is building capacities. With each new task students do, they work through something. Visualizing data is a new skill that I hope opens their minds to what they believe they can do, however daunting it first appears to be.