Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm offers birth – 1st grade (soon to be 2nd 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: The Slow Movement
The view from the window is not from my office window this time, rather it’s from the Dogwood Bakery’s window. As our satellite at Lakeside is sensitive to weather phenomena, it wasn’t working today and I’m finishing the weekly in Dogwood’s cafe.
This morning, without internet, was an interesting exercise in the topic of the week, slowness. After working 12+ hours for the past two days, I felt like I could do the ‘practical’ things, things that don’t require thinking or creativity, but the bigger projects that actually require creating something new or to work collaboratively, have been suffering. I find I am not able to think out of the box and find new solutions.
In Praise of Sloweness
Last week I watched a TED talk by Carl Honore called In Praise of Slowness:
A wake up call came in Carl’s life was when he was first elated and then repulsed by the “One Minute Bedtime Story”. He began to stop and re-assess his life to look at the fast pace of his and his family’s life. Carl even brings his TED talk to the ridiculous, talking about “Speed Yoga” classes in NYC. He then goes on to talk about how we fail to notice the toll that speed takes on our health, environment, families, and life.
You might know of the “Slow Food Movement” or the “Slow City Movement”. There’s even “Slow Parenting” and a “Slow Education Movement”.
Sticking with the education theme, Carl sites research from a high achieving private school which banned homework for all children under 13 years old. The high achieving parents freaked out: “Our children will fall behind!” they said. The principal stood his ground. The exams came in at the end of the year and marks went up 20%. Ivy League schools are finding that while their students have high marks and resumes jammed with extracurricular activities, that they lack spark, and the ability to think creatively and to dream. This is something the Ivy League schools are now having to facilitate in the development in their students. (And if you remember back to my post on “Creativity in Education” and that creativity and our capacity for innovation are what Americans have traditionally had as a leg up on other countries, then there is going to be a problem really soon in the American business and innovation world.)
Back to the office window at Lakeside, and I see the first graders outside working on their ‘freezer’ that they have been building over the winter to experiment with freezing different objects. They experienced that the daytime temperatures had to be warm enough for melting to occur or to be able to get water from the kitchen to put on top of the ice and then overnight the objects would freeze into the freezer. They froze in different crystalline patterns and layers depending on the conditions. The intricacies of creating a natural freezer, and the longevity of this project, would not be possible had the elementary students had little or no time for outside. This project has gone on as the weather warmed; they are now working with mud. They told me today that they had turned their freezer into a machine to create anything. When asked to explain what anything was, they showed me how they positioned their machine at the bottom of the rain spout and built a ramp for the water to come down into their freezer in the winter and now their mud maker in the spring. One 1st grader went on to tell me how they were using the right composition of sand, dirt and water to create the right consistency of mud in the machine. Then, they take the mud and make anything. Indeed, this is a machine to create anything! They are now selling their creations at the store they built.
What does this all have to do with the slow movement? These children are given time, time to create new inventions– who knows, the next “green” freezer might be in the making, or a machine to make anything– time to creatively solve mathematics situations, time to work through social conflict, time to be patient, time to rest and reflect, time to create, time to invent, time to tell stories, time to dream, time to investigate the world, time to be bored, time to be children. All the qualities that the Ivy League schools say are missing in their students.
Is it possible to begin with an education from the moment a child steps into a school where we are working to build and create instead of having to mitigate problems later? From my experience, travels, and research, Lakeside is well on the way to developing this.
Can we as parents and educators know that the children in our care at Lakeside will develop the academic, social, emotional skills to create the world of the future, which will look quite different from the world we now know, while allow them time now as young children to build these capacities? Or are we concerned that our kindergartener is dropping behind because he doesn’t know how to read or sound out words? That’s another question.
If you have 20 minutes to spare, visit TED to see Carl Honor’s talk on the Slow Movement. It’s well worth the time.
Until next week,
Lakeside School in Essex
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