August 24, 2015
The long, dark, cold winter days have slipped away. There is a stirring outdoors, something new and fresh is awakening. Instead of frost, we find underfoot spring bulbs beginning to sprout. The children hear stories about Mother Earth and the root children that wait for spring underground. They see some have already come up to Earth as snow drops and crocuses.
Throughout the school year the children enjoy all aspects of nature and adding natural objects to our nature table. They collect their treasures on their way to school or when we are on our many walks around the school campus. At the nature table the young child experiences the changes happening outdoors and the rhythm of the year. Rhythms are important in all of our lives, but especially for young children. Rhythms of the year, the seasons, and the day give them a sense of security. Each week and day in our Meadowsweet Early Learning Center therefore follows a rhythm as well.
The children learn from one another and also from their teachers who provide gentle guidance. The young child is an imitator and will emulate what surrounds them. For this reason the Waldorf early childhood teacher strives to be a loving, warm person creating a harmonious space of growth and learning. This is the joy and also the challenge for the teachers for whom every day is a new learning opportunity.
Rudolf Steiner spoke often on the importance of free play and about play being “the work of the child.” Playtime is rich in imagination and fills much of our days. There is complete involvement from the children with lots of activity and movement, mainly self-initiated games, together with lots of social interactions. Some of the older children teach the younger ones how to finger knit. The finished knitting is used in the children’s play; some for the reins of the rocking pony, some to tie an anchor to a boat which the children created, and some for belts on the sailors.
Creative playtime passes and everyone helps restore order to the room: the babies to bed, the pots to the kitchen, and the woodworking tools to their basket. We then gather for circle time where we hear about the spring rains, bulbs waking up, and the farmer who has started work out in the fields. Vocabulary and language skills are enriched through poetry, rhyme, and song and directed movement from the teacher develops coordination.
Once circle time is over, our golden blanket is spread on the floor and the children rest for ten minutes to the sounds of simple music. After rest time, we go into the dining room to eat snack. The food smells delicious and after our snack verse we have a “waiter” serve everyone at the table. We all help with clean-up: someone washes the dishes, another rinses, and someone dries while others are under the table sweeping up crumbs. The children all love to help in these small ways. Now it is outdoor time.
We go outside each day, sometimes to the garden, sometimes to the story cottage in the woods. On early spring mornings we see that Jack Frost has been busy painting the grass and window panes; on another we hear the birds loudly announcing their return from their long northern journey, happy for the warmth.
Everyday has much to offer everyone.
By Valerie Thomas, Early Childhood Teacher