7. How is nature integrated into the learning experience?
Waldorf Education strives to connect the growing child to nature, through all phases of child development. Experiences in nature and about nature are fundamental to the learning experience at Constellation Charter School. Integration of nature in our school curriculum engenders an understanding of our place as humans, collectively and individually, in the hope that children who understand and have a connection with nature will grow up to be her stewards. Research has shown that the best way to grow environmental stewards is to provide opportunities for genuine connection to natural spaces. Time for play and exploration in natural settings, not just to teach environmental studies or conservation. We cannot protect that which we have no connection to.
In early childhood, children are still one with the world and with nature. During this phase of development, Waldorf educators strive to nurture a reverence and interest in nature. This is done through playing outside, in natural settings, and in the elements. Inside the classrooms, natural materials are used for toys and furnishings.
In elementary school, children are developing a sense of self that allows their separation from the world around them. As the students begin engaging with their surroundings, they develop a new interest in the natural world. Waldorf education works to balance this observation of the outside world by cultivating a relationship with nature. Lessons on farming, gardening, plant and animal studies, and earth science are all part of the curriculum. Engaging children in open minded observation flows right into the next developmental stage as they begin middle school.
In middle school, children have a sharper perception of the world and their place in it. It is also a phase of rational thought and a time when meaningful inquiry is cultivated. The study of nature, natural law and science is the best way to support this emerging rationale and open minded inquiry. The curriculum offers the exploration of concepts of sound, light and gravity. Chemistry, physics and biology are all more advanced subjects that have beginnings in these early concepts.
In addition to our curriculum, where students experience strategic learning about scientific concepts and ecological systems, activities like free play outdoors, movement classes in the garden, nature walks, or field trips to local springs and archeological sites, provide more opportunities for students to explore, experience and understand the natural world.
In these developmentally appropriate ways, Waldorf education encourages a deep connection with nature. Spending time in nature and through observation, students learn what the natural world has to teach us. They are in touch with the natural rhythms of life, and our kinship to all living things is revealed to them.