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Channel-Talk for The Learning Classroom

From: Debbie Huberman (debh@mindspring.com)
Date: Sun Oct 26 2003 - 17:29:56 EST

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    Video - response - Session 4 - Multiple Intelligences

    Debbie Cogan

     I like the way the teachers incorporated music into their lesson about flowers. I also felt that the theme for the year (Earth is Our Home) was a great idea. Waldorf education has a different theme for each year and it also has multiple entry points into each lesson that utilize a variety of intelligences so this approach is not new to me. The children seemed surprised that the flower the teacher was showing them at the beginning of the lesson was real. The children commented on how it looks like plastic. This was an interesting observation by the children. It tells me how alienated the children feel from nature. When people comment on real things looking like plastic this tells me that plastic things are more real to them than natural things. I think it would have been more appropriate to take the children outside into nature to show them flowers growing in their natural surroundings.

     Children need a great deal of time in nature so that they know the difference between real things and plastic things. I don't agree with the analytical methods the teachers used with the children. I don't think that children in first and second grade need to dissect flowers in order to understand them. Would these same teachers have their students dissect animals at this age? Who decides when to do these things? I think that the issue of how much and what type of information to give at each grade level is very important but it is not often discussed in detail. My generation (I'm 44) didn't have very much scientific/analytical information in grade school and I grew up with a great appreciation for nature. During "Choice Time" I also felt that the children were not given very many choices to interact with nature. They were mostly playing with plastic and metal. I thought the theme for the year was "Earth is Our Home". I would think this would involve more activities with nature so the children can value the things that come from the earth. How are they supposed to learn about the real world if they don't interact with it? I would have liked to see a table with plants or small seeds and dirt where the children could plant and water them. Waldorf classrooms only contain natural materials (stone, glass, plants, wood, water, animals, plants). There is no plastic. Even the dishes in kindergarten are real china. The children learn how to have respect for these things from an early age.

     A Waldorf teacher once told me that plastic was invented so that people wouldn't have to worry about being careless anymore. It is now okay to drop things and treat them without respect because they can't break the way they used to. I feel that this also teaches disrespect and a lack of appreciation for the natural world. Why don't we simply surround children with natural objects and then teach them how to respect these things. I observed children as young as 5 and 6 years old in Waldorf schools handling real china dishes during snack time. They even washed the dishes themselves and never broke them. Waldorf students do not even have a concept of plastic. Think about that. What must it be like to know that everything is not disposable?

     Besides the value of natural materials I feel that children should be immersed in nature so that they can understand the concept of something like a flower in the context of the natural world. A flower is part of a larger ecosystem. It is not an isolated object. When you pick a flower, bring it into a classroom and dissect it, you remove it from its natural setting. I would rather encourage children to observe and respect nature rather than to pick flowers and dissect them.

     So I agree with the use of multiple intelligences to teach lessons but I do not agree with the specifics of the particular lessons in this video. I also feel that public educators still do not understand how to build a strong foundation of experience in all multiple intelligence areas. If they did understand how to do this, their strengths and differences in these areas would not be so different as they grew older. The integration of the arts into all subject areas is a necessity, not a luxury. I feel that brain development depends upon rich, varied experiences with art, music, and movement. The arts should be an integral part of everything that is taught throughout every grade level. I still see teachers as experimenting on students. In other words, I see most lessons in public education as quite superficial as compared with Waldorf education. Public education is terribly distracted all the time by plastic materials, videos, computers, and a random approach to subject matter. Waldorf teachers have always understood how to integrate the arts and they are not confused about what to teach or how to teach it. So therefore the children stay immersed in a deep state of awe, imagination and wonder while they are young. Then they are brought gradually into an intellectual understanding of things. In public education, children are bombarded by stimuli in a random fashion. This sense of randomness does not help children to feel stable in their understanding of things. Children need emotional and mental stability. At a young age, I feel that it is best not to give them any scientific concepts. After the age of seven they should be gradually brought into a more mental approach. At younger ages, they need more emotional engagement. Young children need to learn to love nature (not analyze it). Also, one comment made by the seventh grade teacher who had his class research the 70s, struck me as odd. He said that teachers are not trying to teach kids how to be musicians or artists. In other words, he meant that he felt as long as they enjoyed themselves that was fine. I agree but I also feel that with a much deeper and stronger artistic foundation (as in Waldorf education), all children could have a much greater mastery of the arts. I feel it is a natural thing to feel musical and artistic. Too many of our students feel that they are not good at art and music and movement. This does not have to be so. Again, we still see the arts as salad dressing in public education instead of the main meal.


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