When children are ready to leave kindergarten and enter first grade, they are eager to explore the whole world of experience for the second time. Before, they identified with it and imitated it; now, at a more conscious level, they are ready to know it again, by means of the imagination – that extraordinary power of the human cognition – that allows us to “see” a picture, “hear” a story, and “divine” meanings within appearances.
During the elementary school years, the educator’s task is to transform all that the child needs to know about the world into the language of the imagination, a language that is as accurate and as responsible to reality as intellectual analysis is in the adult. The wealth of an earlier, less intellectual age – folk tales, legends and mythologies, which speak truth in parables and pictures – becomes the teacher’s inexhaustible treasure house.
Whatever speaks to the imagination and is truly felt stirs and activates the feelings and is remembered and learned. The elementary years are the time for educating the “feeling intelligence”. It is only after the physiological changes at puberty, which mark the virtual completion of the second great developmental phase, that imaginative learning undergoes a metamorphosis to emerge as the rational, abstract power of the intellect.
– “Learning that Grows with the Learner” by Henry Barnes, Waldorf Education – A Family Guide
In the middle school years, the curriculum includes real world activities and projects through travel, guest teachers and speakers, and a variety of outdoor experiences to provide new challenges, and fully support the students as they begin to develop their critical thinking capacities.
At age 12 or 13, students are ready to expand their experience in the world. Students participate in field trips such as camping, surfing, hiking and sailing,incorporating real-life experiences into their studies and enriching the academic curriculum The social dynamics of the classes are nurtured and developed as the group must collaborate together as a team, but still respect each others individual strengths. They study business models and run fundraisers at school events, raise funds for humanitarian groups, and volunteer with local community groups.
The middle school years at Whistler Waldorf are designed to prepare students for high school, through a rich academic curriculum, appreciation of the arts, special projects and physically challenging outdoor experiences.