A Look Into Early Childhood Education at the Vancouver Waldorf School
What is it that makes Early Childhood Education at the Vancouver Waldorf School unique?
Our ECE programs are devoted to the health, education and care of the young child from birth through to Grade School readiness. We seek to nurture the development of each child’s unique capacities by offering a warm and caring, homelike environment, where things happen in a predictable and rhythmic manner.
When a child enters the classroom for the first time, we endeavour to greet him or her with a gesture of warmth and welcome. We follow the natural rhythms and cycles of the days and seasons with activities including puppet plays, circle games, and watercolor painting. Our rooms are painted in soft-hues using lazure techniques, and are furnished with handmade dolls, beeswax crayons, silks and other natural materials for imaginative free play.
While many of these practices have come to be associated with Waldorf Early Childhood Education, and certainly play a key role; Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, suggested, that at its heart, there may be something more that contributes to the making of a successful Waldorf Early Childhood Education program.
Essentially, there is no education other than self-education (…) As teachers we can only provide the environment for children’s self-education. We have to provide the most favorable conditions where, through our agency, children can educate themselves according to their own destinies. This is the attitude that teachers should have toward children, and such an attitude can be developed only through an ever-growing awareness of this fact.
~ The Child’s Changing Consciousness: As the Basis of Pedagogical Practice – Rudolf Steiner, 1923
This quote speaks to the importance of the individual Preschool or Kindergarten teacher: the internal work that she is engaged in, and the relationships she has with the children, parents, other faculty members, and with the world.
Early Childhood educators at the Vancouver Waldorf School are engaged in a process of self-education and renewal through ongoing development and daily meditation. Children can be observed mirroring this influence in their free play. In the early 1920s, Rudolf Steiner advised the the first Waldorf Kindergarten teacher, Elizabeth Grunelius, to:
Observe the children. Actively meditate. Follow your intuitions. Work so that all your actions are worthy of imitation.
This focus on growth has a profound influence, often appearing through the child’s behaviours and attitudes in the grade school and beyond, as they tend to be engaged and ready to greet life’s opportunities and challenges.
A combination of personal integrity, a deep love for children, respect for parents, and a commitment to self development all contribute to the making of a well rounded Waldorf Teacher who is in turn able to be a healthy model for the children in her care. It is our desire that young children have ample time and space to explore the world and discover their precious human capacities through joyful play and imitation.
When asked what makes an early education program “Waldorf” Susan Howard, Coordinator at Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN), replied:
the answers might be sought less in the particular activities or rhythms or materials and furnishings, and more in the extent to which these outer aspects are harmonious expressions of inner qualities, attitudes, capacities, and intentions of the teacher – all of which can have a health giving effect on the children, both in the moment and for the rest of their lives.
Visit the Vancouver Waldorf Early Childhood Education pages of our website to learn more, and plan to attend one of our Waldorf Welcomes or Open Houses to meet with our faculty and staff and to get a glimpse into these wonder-filled, unique programs.