At Waldorf schools, starting from experience and also from an imaginative approach, the young people start to build a relationship with nature. They live the experience even just by going walking in nature, touching, feeling natural materials, learning how these materials come out, also how they grow, how they transform and also through stories created by themselves.
This is the second part of the interview done to Micol Pellegrini, teacher at Steiner School in Reggio Emilia (Italy), talking about how Waldorf education can help reconnecting young people with nature. You can see the full transcription of the interview here:
A pedagogical model which follows the stages of development of Humanity
«The child goes through different stages of development that are the same that humanity has gone through.
Of course humanity at the beginning had to do with natural materials because that is what was available. Then with the years of industrial revolution it started to be capable of transforming matter and all these new materials, such as plastic or whatever came. We use these kind of matterials in the higher classes not to the small children.»
The environment as an educator
«But the other aspect has to do with the development of the senses.
So, in a certain way, even the environment is an educator, is not only the teacher who educates but also what the children touch, live and experiment everyday.
So space and the desks…these desks you see around are made by the parents out of wood. The parents during the summer meet, not all the parents but some fathers enjoy doing it. So they touch wood, not plastic or iron or metal, and it has a different feeling.
Also all the materials the children use for drawing, for all their artistic experiences is really top level material. They use wax crayons, natural pigments, these watercolours also are also from natural watercolours and have very beautiful colours, the paper is a top quality paper, so they can really have a very rich experience, sensorial experience.
The same is, even more, for the handwork materials, so they get in touch with pure wool, cotton, because it educates also the senses. Not only they learn to stich or learn the circle of wood or whatever which is also interesting but also the sense of touch, their vision, even the smell of wool. The smell of synthetic is something different…»
Building a stronger connection with nature from experience and imagination
«Starting from experience and also from imaginative approach, these young people start to build a relationship with nature. So they live the experience even just by going walking in nature, touching, feeling all these natural materials, learning how the wool comes out, also how it grows, how it transforms, also through stories of other children.
When they are very small everything is living for them, this is the way a child is, a little artist, and everything is alive, animals speak to each other, plants speak to each other, so in many stories, these are the little events that are going on, big and small creatures.»
Imagination the key to learn
«Then slowly slowly there is a transformation from a creative sort of imagination to an exact form of imagination. This is actually what our job is all about, which means, it’s the same actually faculty you are talking to and also can develop to scientific though for example but if you are not able to make an inside image it’s very difficult to learn anything or to connect events to have new thoughts.
And the problem with mainstream education to my feeling with all respect, is that often these two branches are separated, on one side you have fantasy, imagination, the narrative approach and then on the other side you have this intellectual, scientific, logical approach but they come from the same stem and then they separate.»