We hope to offer more insight into the “why” behind the “how” of teaching your children. Below you’ll find the latest updates to our teaching, as well as a heads-up regarding our plans for next school year.
From the pedagogical team:
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.” Rudolf Steiner
And so…how many screens does it take to do Waldorf? Unfortunately, in order to bring an Urban Prairie Waldorf education into your quarantine spaces at the moment, it can take a few more than we’d like!
We know a major reason you chose Waldorf education is that it’s robustly rooted in experiential learning that fully engages thinking, feeling, and willing. Your child’s teachers skillfully work through many different modalities & learning styles while dynamically responding in the moment to the needs of the class as a whole, as well as individuals, to facilitate breathing in the lesson. Strong emotional engagement and personal relationships are integral factors forming the bedrock of a meaningful experience. In the hallways, in the classrooms, out at recess, human touch lets us physically connect and experience ourselves in relation to others. We actively coach parents to limit or refrain from screen & media use because it can inhibit all of the beautiful capacities and unfolding the aforementioned methods seek to nourish.
What have we done so far with distance learning?
Since the onset of the distance learning period we find ourselves in, we have continued to finetune and adjust our academic offerings informed by our own experiences, pedagogical conversations among all levels of faculty including pedagogical leadership, the student experiences as reported to us, and parent/guardian feedback.
We started out slow, building to the current iteration of UPWS distance learning incrementally as a very conscious choice to allow time for learning curves behind the scenes here as well as in your homes. Moving forward incrementally allowed us to collaborate on common guidelines and facilitate a more streamlined, organized experience for you. The staged rollout began with:
- Week 1: Class teacher content on Google classroom
- Week 2: Special subject content added to google classroom, as well as a few social lunchtime live Zoom calls for students
- Spring Break Interlude
- Week 3: Additional live Zooms with class teachers
- Week 4: Added foreign language live Zooms for the middle school
What will this look like moving forward?
Students can healthfully engage in a very different workload with distance learning than is possible when we are all together. Being part of a human-centered philosophy that reflects child development in curriculum across all grades, we are acutely aware of the fatigue that can ensue from live Zoom classes, as well as their unique benefits. And so throughout this, all we have taken a bit of a Goldilocks approach…how much is too little, too much, and just right with different classes and developmental stages with google classroom, audio, video, and live Zoom content?
As we move forward with distance learning, we will keep finetuning & adjusting the content and delivery as we continue striving for the most meaningful and user-friendly experience.
Week by week there may be additional live Zoom classes added. Teachers will keep you informed about any new live zoom classes as they are scheduled.
We have created a 7-period schedule to track live Zoom classes across grades in an effort to avoid inter-family Zooming conflict. A blank template of this schedule is attached to this email for your family schedules if that would be helpful!
Classes are scheduled for 45 minutes with a 15-minute transition for students who need to transfer devices between family members or need a break before their next class.
What about Fall?
Leadership is aware of the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 at some point, and rest assured we are planning and will be prepared.
Over the summer, the DOCI team will take the best evolution of our distance learning systems at the end of this school year, and continue to workshop that iteration with faculty input, having a plan in place and ready to go with schedule and all for Fall 2020. This means we will be ready to switch to distance learning – should it be mandated by the government – at a moment’s notice.
Leadership is staying current with the news and will work with any new stipulations or requirements to ensure that we are able to offer the fullest on-site experience at any juncture.
We are all in this together.
Keep the lines of communication open and continue to share your perspectives, questions, and insights from home directly with teachers. The pedagogical team here is actively working every day to bring the best Urban Prairie Waldorf experience we can into your homes, as well as chewing on questions such as how to transform events such as festivals, performances, and concerts to suit the current scenario!
During these times I feel so fortunate to be entrenched in a strong, supportive community. In Waldorf education, one very important implicit aspect we consciously bring to the children is the striving and uprightness of our being – to be worthy of imitation. I can certainly foresee some of the most profound capacities implicitly strengthened during this time for the students being resilient and communication. The incredible striving by way of communication, collaboration, and hard work between students, parents, teachers, and school is palpable and something that will work deeply upon them-and perhaps all the rest of us as well.
Here are some helpful resources:
- Online learning. If you’re already looking into online resources, Common Sense Media can help you evaluate their appropriateness. App Census evaluates the privacy of online resources.
- Screen-free activities. As we find our way forward with social distancing, this guide from the Children’s Screen Time Action Network offers suggestions for self-directed educational, screen-free activities. This guide from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood also may be helpful.
- Outdoor planning. Should you plan hikes and outdoor activities, remember you should not use public bathrooms or mingle in gas stations, etc. – so plan accordingly. And, again, families should not socialize unless there are emergency childcare needs, i.e. parents who are healthcare workers, etc.
- Resilience. Merriam Webster tells me that, in physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape. The recovery that occurs in this phenomenon can be viewed as analogous to a person’s ability to bounce back after a jarring setback.Rudolf Steiner conceived Waldorf education at the cusp of modernity when the old rhythms of human life were falling away and uncertainty was becoming the prevailing human experience. Even with all that we are (naturally!) feeling in the face of uncertainty, we have within ourselves the capacity to spring back and move forward. We are in this together.