Early Childhood classrooms in Waldorf schools look different. Some parents are initially surprised by the lack of primary colors and maps and charts that normally festoon the walls of “traditional” preschool rooms. Won’t the kids find this … boring?
According to recent research on the topic of classroom design, they won’t consider it at all, which is exactly the point. The teacher and the lessons – or, in Early Childhood, the play and cognitive, creative, and motor development – is what deserves the children’s focus, not the posters, mobiles, or charts.
And it turns out children do give busy decor a fair amount of their focus. This New York Times article, Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom, reports on a recent early childhood study which found that “children spent far more time off-task in the decorated classroom than in the plain one,” as measured by time spent gazing at the walls and scores on a picture test about stories the teacher had been telling.
There is also concern that the material on the walls is simply part of a larger commercial agenda to sell teachers and schools pre-made banners, mobiles, and posters, when walls might be better served as display space of student work or functional space for teachers and students.
A comprehensive 2012 research study published in The International Journal of Building Science and its Applications conducted an extensive analysis and assessment of 751 students across 34 classrooms in seven different schools in order to isolate the characteristics of classrooms that “maximize pupils’ achievement.”
According to this study, a well-designed classroom:
- Receives natural light
- Is designed with a quiet visual environment
- Uses warm colors on the walls and floor
- Has a large area of free space for building and diverse learning/play
- Has high-quality and purpose-designed furniture, fixtures and equipment
- Allows ease of movement
- Allows flexibility in learning varied activities
- Contains ergonomic tables and chairs
- Is modular, meaning the teacher can easily change the space configuration
While stepping into a Waldorf Early Childhood classroom evokes feelings of warmth, simplicity and comfort, careful analysis reveals that almost all of the above features have been accomplished in its design. Open areas are filled with natural light and materials that emphasize function over primary-colored form. This helps young children feel comfortable and focus on what matters — their creative play with peers, and time listening to and working with their teacher.
If you Google, “Summer break with children,” you get two types of search results — a variety of activity lists or articles about the evils of summer’s off. Turns out they call it “summer fade,” which is a one month backslide in learning coupled with an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) for kids.
Many parents counter these issues with a rigorous schedule of summer camps, sport practice and tutoring. While watching television all day with a box of pop tarts is obviously not good, there are some other options beyond a highly structured and scheduled summer.
When planning, or not planning your child’s summer, consider the scientifically proven benefits of boredom, free play and time in nature. These research studies about children and learning support the idea of a summer slowdown.
In a recent BBC news article, Children should be allowed to get bored, Dr Teresa Belton said, “Cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.”
Now couple that reality with studies connecting time in nature with increased learning and emotional capabilities. The positive results of being outdoors for children are vast as seen in this PDF of a decade of Scientific Studies on this topic. Some highlights include:
- “When children engage in authentic play in nature-based outdoor spaces, they develop skills in a variety of domains simultaneously.” – Miller, D.L., Tichota, K,.White, J. (2009).
- “Sullivan has revealed that the symptoms of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are relieved after contact with nature. The greener the setting, the more the relief.” – Taylor, A., Kuo, F. & Sullivan, W. (2001).
- “Children who regularly have positive personal experiences with the natural world show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility.” – Fjortoft, Ingunn (2001).
In addition to the learning benefits to boredom and time in nature, there is also the issue of free play. This article from Parenting Science explores over a decade of studies about the benefits of unstructured play time. The author is careful to note that free play does not mean physcial education classes or sports. Free play is just that. Unstructured play time, which is proven to help math skills, language development, and creative problem solving.
- “Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells.”
- “Psychologist Edward Fisher analyzed 46 published studies of the cognitive benefits of play (Fisher 1999). He found that “sociodramatic play”—what happens when kids pretend together—’results in improved performances in both cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains.'”
And finally, before you schedule a summer of busy stimulation, consider this article and advice from Simplicity Parenting writer Kim John Payne. He says:
“[When Google is hiring they say] ‘we’re less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think.'”
If we rewind to a childhood that makes an adult like that, what do we see? Is it racing around from one prep course to another? From soccer to piano to Mandarin? A childhood on the clock and filling up the gaps with zoning on the iPad and obsessing about making more friends on Facebook?
I don’t think so.
When we really look at what happens for a kid when they slow down, tune in to themselves, take space and get busy in serious play, we can see that what they are learning is how to be create a kind of inner structure that will serve them (and us) well in the world ahead. … Play provides a deep and wide-reaching domain for kids to experiment with the real work of the real world.”
Spring Garden Waldorf School and Crown Point Ecology Center are partnering to offer Nature’s Children Parent and Child Class. Nature’s Children is a one of a kind offering for parents and/or caregivers of children ages 18 months to 4 years. This summer session will be offered almost entirely outdoors and will allow children and their parents to experience a Waldorf approach to early childhood education together.
An experienced early childhood teacher will lead the class through seasonal songs and games, artistic activities, nature walks, free play as well as story time with puppetry. Young children learn through imitation. As the children “work” and play together, the parents engage in and model purposeful work for the children such as working in the garden, feeding the chickens, preparing snacks, & creating seasonal crafts to take home.
Crown Point Ecology Center offers a unique site to host this outdoor focused experience with beautiful organic herb and vegetable gardens, wooded trails, barns, wetlands, a pond and more. Experiencing the out of doors offers a wonderful opportunity for discovery, conversation, and play. The Nature’s Children Parent and Child class is a perfect stepping stone into the Waldorf Preschool Program. We hope you will join us.
This class is a once weekly program offered once weekly for six weeks on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday from 9 a.m.- 11:30 a.m. Classes begin the week of July 12th. Cost per session is $180/parent and child and $100 for each additional sibling.
To register for the Thursday Session – Click Here
To register for the Friday Session – Click Here
To register for the Saturday Session: – Click Here
Spring Garden Waldorf School is pleased and excited to announce an expansion of the Nursery Preschool program due to high demand. This program serves children who are 3 or young 4 year olds and are potty trained.
We will be offering a 2 day preschool program on Mondays/Tuesdays. Half and full day options are available. Space is limited. The two day program will follow the same daily rhythm as the 3 and 5 day options. The artistic activities will be painting on Mondays and baking bread on Tuesdays.
If you are interested in applying for your child to attend this program or to be added to a waiting pool for the three or five day program, please contact Amy Hecky at email@example.com or by calling 330-666-0574. Public and private tours are available.
There will be an open house on April 26th from 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. The entire family is welcome to tour the facilities and meet faculty, Board members and parents. Register Here: http://sgws.org/admission/visit-us/
On this day, you can join your child and walk through the rhythmic, warm, sensory filled experience of a Waldorf early childhood classroom The morning will include circle time, art activity and story time lead by our Nursery Preschool teacher, Miss Kathy.
If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 4, you are invited to join us for a sample preschool morning on March 21st from 9 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
This experience is offered to you at no cost, but you must register as space is limited. Please click below to register.
Age 3-4, March 21: Register Now!
As a special offer, parents who choose to apply for preschool following this experience will be discounted the application fee ($70). Have questions or need more information? Please contact Amy Hecky at firstname.lastname@example.org.