Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm offers birth – 1st grade education based on the Waldorf philosophy on a working farm in Essex, NY. Each week our Office Administrator, Kathleen Morse, writes on the Lakeside school and community and education based on the Waldorf philosophy through her perspective from the office window.
View from the Office Window: Learning from Experience
It has been a pleasure to meet each family this week. I started my first day at Lakeside with Hurricane Sandy brewing in the Atlantic. While the North Country wasn’t hard hit by the storm, many friends and families on the east coast were not spared the wind, rain, and disaster that spread during and after the storm. Our thoughts go out to those who have had their lives upturned.
While my first day was a bit blustery, on my second day, there were bright blue skies with puffy clouds and warm weather. One of the Kindergarten boys became interested in the large pumpkin at the edge of the woodpile. Robin helped him to upturn the pumpkin to see what was happening underneath. Other children began to gather round to see what was going on. One of the nursery children said, “Wow, look at those strange bugs Robin!” Now many children were intrigued. Robin suggested that the pumpkin get moved to the compost pile as it is beginning to rot. This challenge piqued the older Kindergarten children’s interest and they went off with Robin to find a sled. The pumpkin was moved onto the sled and Robin began to pull. I couldn’t resist to get involved so I pushed as the older Kindergarten children found their place in the work. More and more children began to take a piece of rope, push from behind, or balance on the side. It was slow going as the pumpkin was quite heavy.
As an adult with a background in the math and sciences, I saw how momentum, leverage, friction, etc. either served or hindered our progress. As you will often find in Waldorf Education when working with young children, nothing was said about how the bugs facilitate the rotting process or how organic matter begins to break down, or how physics play into the progress of the sled, it was simply left as an experience for the children. The learning for these children is in the physical experience, they understand the world through doing. These experiences serve the children later when they enter middle and high school as their capacities to integrate these experiences with their budding intellectual capacities. They then have the potential to take these experiences and understand them in a new way in order to apply the underlying principles in a variety of settings.
From my experience teaching physics in Middle School, the students who had the most experiential childhood were the ones who were able to understand and apply fully elements of Physics into a variety of situations. The students who had been told how physics works could recite the principles but had a harder time integrating the elements into real world applications, it was as thought they had gotten stuck with ‘this is how it works” and had to free themselves from the earlier explanations in order to understand and use the principles in their own life. So, give your child the gift of experience; it serves them now as young children and will serve them in the future. This is a peek out of the office window for this week.