Class One to Six
"Our highest endeavour must be to develop free humans beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives."
In the "heart of childhood” years, each child develops his life of feelings. For this stage, Rudolf Steiner asked teachers above all to work as artists; not to teach art as a subject, but to bring into the class room all the living imagery, colour and poetry of which they are capable. Classroom practice too, should have a living organic balance between listening, speaking and doing, between humour and seriousness, impulse and patience, taking in, transforming, and giving out.
One of the most notable ways in which the Steiner school approach to education differs from others is the response of the curriculum to the various phases in child development. Primary years at the Ballarat Steiner School focus on delivering a high quality and rich educational experience to children. We provide a hands-on artistic approach in the teaching of literacy and numeracy. In the primary years, developing imaginative capacities enables to engage with academic material and forms the foundation for future creativity, problem solving and innovation. The timing of curriculum content and lessons is carefully matched to the children’s developmental and emotional needs. The capacity to appreciate beauty in the world is developed.
The curriculum is designed to harmonise with the particular stage of development that the child has reached, while affording a rich context in which to work on practical and academic skills. In this way, the development of the life of feeling is not divorced from practical learning and the curriculum is both integrated and truly child-centred.
Historically the human being drew pictures before reading and before the use of abstract symbols. In classes one to three there is a pictorial introduction to the alphabet, writing, reading, spelling, poetry and drama.
Speech is a crucial element and precedes writing as a foundation to reading. Many aspects of schooling – form drawing, craft, foreign language, eurythmy etc. help to foster the children’s development for reading. The children learn the letter forms through stories and pictures given by their teachers. In our foundation years, speech and language are developed extensively through many mediums. This begins in Playgroup where they learn short poems and rhymes and listen to short stories, and continues in Kindergarten and Prep where they experience longer and more complicated rhymes, songs and stories. All this builds the foundations for reading and writing. By the time the children are in Class One they are more than ready to explore the world of reading and writing and all the foundation stones have been set.
In the curriculum, writing precedes reading and is developed out of the creative experience of drawing or painting letters. The children write words and read their own writing before working with printed literature.
We aim through the classes to share the finest literature with the students, appropriate to their age. Stories are told to each class and the children are also read to. Our reading approach, which includes daily individual reading, is full of imagery, content and the richness of language, which develops an appreciation of literature in the students.
The children’s imaginative life and grasp of language is nourished by hearing and re-telling, acting and illustrating stories. For the 6-7 year olds, the teacher may draw mainly on fairy tales, moving on at 8 years old to fables and legends, to Old Testament stories at 9 years old. The Norse stories and sagas follow at 10, Greek myths and legends at 11 and the Roman and Indian Empires at 12. In using a sequence of this kind through different qualities of imaginative experience, the teacher prepares the way for history.
Mathematics is experiential and creative. An understanding of numbers is built on the basis of concrete, real-life tasks. Learning the concepts of fractions, for example through the dividing of a cake to share - estimating and measuring. Counting aloud, the chanting of tables, musical rhythms and skipping games all enhance and deepen the child’s understanding and knowledge of numbers and systems. The four processes are introduced through stories and explored through art in such a way as to stimulate imagination and creativity as well as understanding.
Primary years at Ballarat Steiner School concentrate on a hands-on approach to life. In modelling, painting, cooking, woodwork, gardening or drawing the children are happily and earnestly engaged in a rich life experience. Children nourished with fantasy and opportunity for artistic expression will have the capacities needed to meet the technological and social challenges of their day.
The Australian Steiner Curriculum framework was developed in response to the Federal Government’s proposal to create a mandatory Australian Curriculum for all schools. As Steiner education is internationally recognised, Steiner Education Australia was given the opportunity to put forward an alternative curriculum framework for recognition, in order to protect the integrity of Steiner education philosophy and pedagogy. The documents were developed from Steiner’s indications, not only to support schools and teachers, but for submission to government authorities, highlighting the mandatory content, knowledge and skills of the Australian Curriculum in a Steiner rich context. The curriculum that is adhered to in our school was developed by Steiner Education Australia and accepted and recognised by ACARA (Australian Curriculum and Regulation Authority). It aligns with the National Curriculum and provides compliance with the VRQA (Victorian Regulatory and Qualifications Authority) requirements.
The main lesson approach begins in Class One and extends through all classes till the end of the school. It takes place first thing in the morning for 1-2hours, while the children are fresh. In it, such subjects as mathematics, English, geography, science and history are presented imaginatively to engage the whole-hearted participation of the students: physically, cognitively and emotionally, incorporating movement, music, modelling, painting and drawing, along with traditional skills. Each main lesson usually lasts 3 weeks, and then is left to rest. This alternation of subject matter provides for maximum variety, concentration and understanding. The breathing space in between-the forgetting-is part of the "digestion" of education. The main lesson is taught by the class teacher, who leads the students, one year after another, building on past lessons and laying the foundation for future studies. Following main lesson, and throughout the day, subjects such as French, music, craft, painting, eurythmy, form drawing and on-going mathematics, reading and grammar are provided.