Chemistry in a Waldorf School November 03 2014
Chemistry In the Waldorf School Plan
Life! In all its mystery comes out in chemistry! Things boil over, change color, explode, stink, and thrill in many ways in chemistry experiments.
“Experiential Learning” is one way Waldorf teachers describe their approach to young people. This term takes on especially powerful facets in grades five and six in science. By then the child becomes a self-motivated learner, capable of independent projects and research. History turns from mythology to actual factual accounts in Egypt and Greece; form drawing becomes sophisticated geometry; and the sciences from stories, connections to nature, to real experiments and the handling and analyzing of the things of the world.
Teachers start chemistry in grade 7 with experiments and ask the students to observe keenly what was used and what was seen. Students are often quiet as they watch. It is something new that they haven’t experienced before and it makes them feel lonely (“Am I the only stupid one who cannot figure out what’s going on?” We all feel like this to some extent in the face of new experiences). They sleep that night thinking about the experiment and the next day the teacher asks, What did you see yesterday?” Slowly students describe what they saw and enthusiasm builds. All can agree to what happened and what was observed, (“I am not the only stupid one, after all!”). Things are recorded out of the agreements and the teacher asks questions about the experiment. By day three, there are usually ideas, commitments to try something else to prove what was agreed to or to take it another step in investigations. This commitment, willingness to try again, enthusiasm in the social component of the approach builds a resilience in the soul of the adolescent that helps them to know that:
- loneliness is a part of life.
- it is a shared experience
- patience and sharing help in dispelling the loneliness and encouraging re-commitment, determination for the future, design of next steps.
In addition to facts about the physical world in chemistry and the wonders of science the Waldorf approach helps in building confidence in life and a habit of soul that knows loneliness is a passing thing. We're never alone! Valuable lessons connected to chemistry!