By Jeff Tunkey
A practical guide to strengthening the foundations for professional development, student capacities and readiness, and parent support• • •
“Each child in every age brings something new into the world from divine regions,
and it is our task as educators to remove bodily and psychical obstacles out of its way...”
—Rudolf Steiner (Aug. 19, 1922)
There is growing recognition in educational circles that helping children to build the skills they need to thrive in adult life is as important as content delivery linked to achievements on benchmark tests. These important skills include communication, persistence in the face of challenge, adaptability, teamwork, good manners, self-control, responsibility, and punctuality.
A unifying goal for every Waldorf–Steiner school—anywhere in the world, large or small—is to provide a gradual progression of challenging academic content for which the students are (or soon will be) emotionally and physiologically prepared. Waldorf schoolteachers recognize that all true learning requires inner composure and flexibility, and that what can be seen and developed through outer movement is vital for mental health and acuity throughout life. Physical activity fuels the brain with oxygen and decreases stress. Every movement creates and strengthens connections within the brain and in the nerve pathways throughout the body.
The importance of developmental movement is also clearly validated by modern science as a path to physiological and emotional development, and might be just as important as academic presentation, especially in the early grades. Activities that build such basics as postural control, spatial orientation, physical coordination, and body geography are not merely classroom extras. All children (perhaps more than ever before) need a rich diet of developmental movement, drawing, and painting exercises, as indicated by Rudolf Steiner, Audrey McAllen, Karl König, Olive Whicher, and numerous others.
Although nearly all of these tools have been within the domain of Extra Lesson practitioners and Waldorf movement teachers for decades, Jeff Tunkey asserts that they should be staples for all students, in all classes, every day.