Did you know that 42% of Waldorf high school graduates go on to major in science and math? This is significantly more than the national average. Science is central to the Waldorf curriculum, and the lessons begin in 1st grade. From the start, students are immersed in the scientific method of observation, measurement, experimentation, and testing and modifying hypotheses. In 1st grade, the science lessons begin with the art of keen observation, a dying skill in this hurried society. Students study each other’s paintings to see where blue mixed with yellow or where yellow stood strong. The children’s first lesson in observation is to step away from subjectivity. This skill is constantly reinforced throughout the curriculum. Another central tenet of the science curriculum is the inspiration of wonder. As Rachel Carson noted in her book, The Sense of Wonder, childhood is the time to prepare the soil for wonder. Once the student observes an object with interest, curiosity, and awe, then he or she strives to gather as much knowledge as possible about the subject.   Earlier this year, the 3rd graders began their study of time by drawing a sundial in front of the school. They tracked the trajectory of the sun in the fall sky and measured out the hours and minutes. This gave the students not only the opportunity to observe the phenomenon at hand but also to wonder at nature. How amazing is it in this digital age to tell time simply with a gnomon and the sun? This lesson also planted seeds that will be harvested again in the 6th grade study of astronomy.   Many times Waldorf teachers refer to the phenomenological approach to science. This means that rather than first being given a completed theory or concept and being asked to prove something within that construct, students are instead presented with information or an experiment and encouraged use their own observation and problem-solving skills to form and test hypotheses. For example, in their 6th grade physics block on sound, the students might first witness sound made visible as they experiment with a Chladni plate and violin bowl. The students would observe and describe the phenomenon. Then, they would work through several of their own hypotheses to finally reach one explanation of the experiment before them. This phenomenological approach is also referred to as “guided discovery learning.”   There are several characteristics of phenomenological/discovery learning that differentiate it from traditional learning models. First, learning is active and students must participate in hands-on, problem-solving activities rather than knowledge transfer. Secondly, this type of learning emphasizes the process instead of the end product, thus encouraging mastery and application of concepts. Thirdly, the lessons learned from failure encourage students to continue to search for solutions. Objective observation of feedback is an essential part of the learning process, and collaboration and discussion allow students to develop deeper understanding. Finally, this method, long employed by Waldorf schools, feeds natural human curiosity and sets students on a path of study that is fueled by their own interests and initiative.