Techies Want Waldorf Education

October 26, 2011

Since the inception of Waldorf education in 1919, Waldorf educators have presented the curriculum in a hands-on organic approach. This week the news wires have been touting the “new” research released on the benefits of allowing children to play and not be stranded in front of screens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says,

“In a recent survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under age 2 watch some form of electronic media. On average, children this age watch televised programs one to two hours per day. By age 3, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom. Parents who believe that educational television is “very important for healthy development” are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time…

“At the time, there was limited data on the subject, but the AAP believed there were more potential negative effects than positive effects of media exposure for the younger set. Newer data bears this out, and the AAP stands by its recommendation to keep children under age 2 as “screen-free” as possible. More is known today about children’s early brain development, the best ways to help them learn, and the effects that various types of stimulation and activities have on this process.”

(The full report will be published in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics.)

Many high tech employees who have children have spoken about their desire to keep their own children away from computers and technology (see the video clip here).

My Fox New York published this today,

Even in today’s tech obsessed world, many kids would rather doodle than Google.

Parents and educators alike have honed in on this this notion, and some are seeking a distinctly-low tech way to teach their children. Computers, tablets and gadgets are set aside in some classrooms, in favor of primitive teaching tools like pencils, pens, paint brushes, knitting needles and, at times, cake and mud.

This low-tech, hands-on style of education is the concept behind Waldorf and Steiner schools, and these methods are rapidly growing in popularity.

In fact, according to a recent New York Times report, executives from tech-industry giants like Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo choose to send their children to these decidedly uncomplicated classrooms, where students focus on creative thinking and problem solving in the real world rather than the online world.

Why are these techies in favor of such simple schools? As Google exec Alan Eagle, whose daughter attends the Waldorf School of the Peninsula is Los Altos, Calif., told the Times, “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

According to information from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America , there are 160 Waldorf schools across the country, all built on the methodology of philosopher and teacher Rudolf Steiner . These schools focus on development and educating the whole child: Head, heart and hands.

AWSNA asserts that, “even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning.”

What does this mean for today’s kids?

Shannon Weidemann, a 36-year-old marketing professional in Sterling Heights, Mich., sends her 6-year-old daughter to the Oakland Steiner School and is a strong advocate for the Waldorf approach.

“I cannot imagine her attending a different school,” Weidemann wrote in an e-mail. “A Waldorf education is about educating the whole child and teaches a child how to learn. I want my daughter to be a well-rounded person and given the tools to adapt to any type of situation.”

Ashley Robertson, an educator and information professional in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is also a champion for Waldorf-style learning. Though she uses an iPad, laptop and smartphone daily, she understands why this kind of learning works.

“Out of experience, students get bored with lessons that do not use motion. Students learn best when the lesson is based on their movements. It makes a memory for that student because it is personal,” Robertson said.

“I do believe technology is important, but these students are expanding their minds with their own creativity. I would love to teach at a school like this. Your job would never get old and you would be doing something new every day. This is not always true of traditional classrooms.”