Science and Mathematics
The foundations of mathematics and science begin in our Waldorf pre-school with curiosity and wonder integral in everything we do. The hours enjoyed outdoors nurture a lifelong study of nature built on observation and imagination. By emphasizing observation, and giving the children the freedom to develop their own theories, we allow them to develop this vital and creative piece, essential to real scientific thinking. Throughout the grades school we develop the ability to internalize math and scientific concepts rather than relying solely on rote memory. There is also an important thread through the school years on which concepts are built. The kneading of the kindergarten bread, for example, in seventh grade, becomes a detailed study of the chemical process of fermentation.
In Waldorf education students use investigation and observation to inspect how the world works. In the elementary school they engage in scientific inquiry in the same way that our greatest explorers approached the creative act of understanding the world. In the middle school and beyond, students explore the world of ideas and abstraction, and learn expertise in performing complex computational methods that develop adroitness in conceptual thinking.
The Waldorf approach to the study of science is phenomenological. Students follow in the steps of the historical inventors and scientific explorers as well as learn from contemporary innovators who are engaged in the “leading edge” of inquiry in these fields. Students and teachers share their observations and explore questions that arise from these discussions. Theories are developed based on empirical data that posit possible causes and influencing factors. Finally conclusions are reached which are then compared to accepted scientific theory. By engaging in the essential process of scientific inquiry for themselves, students grow confidence in their abilities to observe, question and reason. This experiential approach provides a context for learning, letting students see how inquiry leads effectively to knowledge, and how they can engage in the exploration of the world around them. For primary research, hands-on experimentation and testing are enhanced through local fieldwork and educational trips to the natural habitats and environments of the phenomena being studied.
Waldorf education approaches the study of mathematics with consideration of the abstract properties of the subject as a form of flexible thinking and reasoning. Students learn the historical contexts of mathematical theories and they learn about the innovative mathematician founders, theoreticians and practitioners who developed the field as we know it today. As with science, the study of math is presented as a process of questioning. It invites improvisational, exploratory thinking as well as the memorization and application of formulas and computational processes.