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Research Shows...

By Virginia Fish, Therapeutic Educator

It has been my pleasure to be at The Waldorf School of Mendocino County. I am working with the second graders assessing their extraordinary capacities. As always working with the children and seeing the teachers in action is heartening and is visible evidence that the heartbeat of Waldorf is strong and well.


Waldorf Education has been around for over a hundred years and its enduring strengths are found in five principles that have served many generations of students.


They are:


1. Teaching to appropriate developmental stages: Respecting developmental stages ensures that the child is encouraged to unfold capacities and talents. Nothing is sacrificed to premature academic learning. The motto is, “the broader the base the higher the tower”, and it is captured in this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes-  “There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story…Two-story intellects compare, reason, and generalize, using the labors of the fact collectors as well as their own. Three-story intellects idealize, imagine, and predict: their illumination comes from above, through the skylight.”


2. Art is an underpinning and the foundation of all work and lessons. The artistic experience is invaluable for keeping the mind flexible and moral, making aesthetic decisions, and sparking creativity.


3. The curriculum gives a panoramic continuum of all of the great civilizations that have been on Earth. This provides an invaluable context and a deep understanding of human experience and the evolution of consciousness.


4. Ideally, the class teacher and students spend years together. The irreplaceable relations between students and the teacher become rich and extremely productive.


5. Stories are another backbone of the Waldorf Curriculum. Stories ripen the imagination. Stories deepen the understanding of the other. Stories help us know ourselves better. Stories help us understand injustices and justice. Lastly, stories help us understand the times we are living in.


These five principles were cited in a dissertation done by Dr. Christine Hether whose children had a Waldorf Education. She endeavored to show that at least six years of Waldorf Education helped children grow into young adults with a measurably higher morality index than students in other educational settings. This was based on the Situation Ethics Test that has been normed since 1949. 


On that note, I personally conducted a study funded by the Rudolf Steiner Foundation. There my result, through administering the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test to several classes of Waldorf fourth graders, showed that Waldorf education also supported the formation of strong frontal lobe capacities in the younger child. The frontal lobe is the center of morality, creativity, decision-making, and executive functioning.

So again, “The broader the base the higher the tower.” is an important tenet to remember, especially during these distracting times!

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