Monday, April 30, 2012

Have Nature Table, will travel

Techman and I have decided to support a new Waldorf-inspired charter school that is coming together with hopes of opening in 2013. We are looking for some of the educational philosophies that caused Rudolf Steiner to create the Waldorf schools in Germany in the first place—treating children with respect, including the whole child in the educational process (not just the brain), teaching children at their developmental levels and not according to norms or averages, incorporating the arts into daily lessons, and respecting and embracing nature and its systems. 

Steiner envisioned this not just for wealthy families, but for the masses, with socio-economically diverse classrooms, and this is part of El Rio's founding philosophy.

The school holds frequent public meetings, and often has tables at farmers' markets and local festivals. Waldorf philosophy incorporates the head, heart and hands, so it occurred to me that we also need to offer a visual representation of the richness of this style of education: Creative, hands-on and hand-crafted materials that tell stories and inspire one's imagination.

I'm working on a display that can travel to these events. It's a river scene, with portable materials, that also allows room for literature to be distributed on the table. Since the school is called El Rio, a river scene is in order, with the Los Angeles River as inspiration.

Miss Molly has been a tremendous help in visualizing the imaginary world that can support the information of the modern world. She helped to lay out the river, which I cut with waves lapping along the banks. I hope to knit/sew/needle felt some cattails to go in the river grass.

Miss Molly contributed some wet-on-wet watercolor fish—some day we also may create some as an activity for a collaborative project promoting the school. She helped with placement of glass river bubbles and polished stones.

It's hard to see the effect of this little world; it's a bit like a large nature table. There will be a green tablecloth to represent grassy banks underneath the tulle. The owl belongs to Miss Molly, so I'll have to create some water birds, and eventually other river creatures: frogs, turtles, snakes, birds, fauna.

There is room for literature to "float" and interact with the scene (added bonus: river stones will keep things from flying away). The table still is a work in progress, wait for its debut on June 3.

With the sparkle of the gems, the shine of the stones, and the interest of this little world, I think a lot of families will be drawn to learn more about a school that supports this type of learning every day.

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