Educating the Whole Child – Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence

As adults, many of us may be embarrassed by our off-key singing voices or our arrhythmic dance moves; I know I am! But children love to sing, and they absolutely need to move. I know that my own Grade One child is particularly excited to begin playing the pentatonic recorder/flute this year, and I’ve already been regaled with the songs she’s learned. As she moves through the grades at SGWS, she’ll begin to practice the violin in Grade Three, sing in the choir in Grade Four, and learn the instrument of her choice in Grade Six.

More than offering separate music and choral lessons though, the integration of music and rhythm into multiple subject areas is a keystone of the Waldorf education model. Song is an integral part of the Spanish and German lessons in the early grades, and focusing on the music and rhythms inherent in the English language is a great way to develop literacy skills in general.

One of the most distinctive features of a Waldorf education’s focus on musical and rhythmic intelligence is the unique practice of Eurythmy. Eurythmy was developed by Waldorf’s founder, Rudolph Steiner, who created a series of specific, dance-like movements and gestures that correspond to the sounds of spoken language. Eurythmy goes deeper than language though. Sylvia Bardt, in her book Eurythmy: A Creative Force in Humanity, explains that children learn by imitating the movements that they see in the natural world, such as flowing water, flying birds, and scampering animals. Eurythmy uses dance to express and develop children’s connection to the natural world.

At an even more basic level. SGWS seeks to create a rhythm to the school day itself that facilitates learning. The Main Lesson period allows children to focus intently on their work, and the frequent recess periods and other outdoor activities, including gardening and nature walks, give them the opportunity to experience those rhythms of nature firsthand, as well as to create and inhabit their own rhythms as they perform what is perhaps the most important activity that any of us can engage in: play.

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