Working With the Will – One Surprise at a Time
Reflections from a Green Meadow Teacher/Alumnus
My name is Kemal Lowenthal. I am an alumnus of Green Meadow Waldorf School, having attended from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I am in my eleventh year of teaching in Waldorf education, now teaching applied arts to grades 4-12.
… but to hold, smell, feel, hear, taste: those experiences create living capacities that can be rekindled by a scent or a sound that triggers that memory.
One of the ways that Waldorf education speaks to me, as a student and now as an educator and a parent, is through hands-on learning, particularly through the arts. Everything in our curriculum is infused with learning through doing. It is one thing to learn something by reading or being told what something is, but to hold, smell, feel, hear, taste: those experiences create living capacities that can be rekindled by a scent or a sound that triggers that memory.
One of the reasons I chose to become a Waldorf teacher, and why I now send my children to Green Meadow, is my belief in the value of letting a child or student discover the world one surprise at a time. Can you picture a young child’s face when he discovers the sound leaves make as he runs through the pile in the yard? The delight in her eyes when she first jumps into a puddle? The thrill of a first bite of ice cream, chocolate, dirt, or lemon? What about the feeling when a child finishes making a spoon and uses it, or working with others in a group to design and build a structure? Children thrive on direct sensory experience.
Children thrive on direct sensory experience.
The importance of learning to use the will is paramount today. As technology becomes more and more advanced and integrated into our lives, it is more important than ever to balance that with going outside, working with our hands, getting our knees dirty, singing, playing an instrument or making something tangible.
As the practical arts teacher at Green Meadow, I strive to bring the same joy and fulfillment that I feel when I work with my hands to the students. Working intentionally with your hands on a task that has a purpose: creating a spoon, making a stool, carving an animal, weaving a basket, is much more than ending with a final product. The lessons that are subconsciously or consciously learned are more valuable than the end result itself. Students gain self-knowledge through making something, and experience the ability to work through frustrations or perceived insurmountable obstacles, gain the ability to hone their focus, in a world that demands change every 30 seconds. I try to bring these dimensions to the students in an environment that embraces each child and views struggles and mistakes as the best way to learn and move forward.
Exposing the students to various media is beneficial as it not only gives the students various views into different artistic realms, but also opens a pathway to a myriad different global cultures and traditions. I teach woodwork, soapstone carving, clay sculpture and pottery, coppersmithing and basket making in an attempt to bring the universality and timelessness of crafts and making to today’s students, one surprise at a time.