Words of Waldorf Wisdom
Nature Studies in the Kindergarten and Home
Through the oral storytelling tradition, simple nature stories and seasonal puppet shows are shared with the class to help develop a rich and meaningful relationship with the natural world and the changing seasons. In the Fall, the Sungarden children and Stargarden children receive oral stories about the harvest time, Mother Earth and the seed babies and the lantern festival. In the Winter time, the children listen to puppet shows about King Winter, the snow fairies and hibernating animals. In the Spring time, children listen to stories full of movement and gestures outside about the flower children, the garden, the four elements and the cycles of the the butterflies, bees and dragon flies. Nature stories are shared with rich images, vocabulary and imagination and natural facts are woven into the story in an imaginative and pictorial way to inspire a sense of wonder in each child.
In the Sungarden and Stargarden Kindergartens, daily and weekly outdoor activities provide the children the opportunity to experience with their physical body and senses inorganic forms, plant cycles, local biodiversity, local geography and the seasonal cycles. The children explore and play in all types of weather and are encouraged to observe the local environment and appreciate the gifts found in the natural world on our adventures to the park, ravine system and Spadina Gardens. Time and space are provided for the children to observe and connect on a deep level with the natural world. Daily nature observations, sensory experiences and imaginative play in the natural world cultivates capacities within each child for later scientific inquiry.
Every Friday, the Sungarden and Stargarden Kindergartens facilitate the outdoor classroom and the children experience story time, seasonal songs, movement games, meaningful work, self-directed imaginative play and festival offerings honouring the seasonal cycles. We are outside in all types of weather and the children learn how to take care of the garden, build a fire and play with different sensory and natural materials in our side yard. The Sungarden and Stargarden children learn how to work and learn together outside with Mother Earth and the changing seasons.
The nature garden, or nature table is a special and sacred place in the classroom where the children have the opportunity to honour the seasons, observe natural forms (pine cones, crystals, rocks, flowers, tree branches) and cultivated a sense of wonder for the natural world. The Sungarden and Stargarden children are encouraged to bring natural treasures (shells, crystals, stones, nests, feathers, flowers, seeds, etc.) to the classroom to share with the nature garden and are encouraged to carefully observe the natural objects during circle time or self-directed play. Each nature treasure has a special story and children are encouraged to share their special stories with their teachers and classmates. The nature garden is created to honour the seasons by the teachers and transformed and nurtured by the children as they observe the changing seasons and share their nature treasures with the class.
Seasonal festivals are a central focus in the kindergarten and are celebrated throughout the school year indoors or outdoors depending on the weather conditions. The seasonal festivals are introduced to the children with soul warmth, rich and imaginative stories, meaningful activities, joyful songs and sensory experiences (food, scents, textiles, textures). The Kindergarten teachers work with the indications from Rudolf Steiner following the festival celebrations of the Waldorf school year and the seasonal calendar while seeking and creating new social forms and gestures that are universal, inclusive and not culturally specific for the children to experience within the social realm (i.e. Autumn Equinox, Winter Light Festival, Lantern Walk, Maypole Festival). Seasonal festivals and celebrations cultivate a sense of security, sense of well being and nurtures a sense of wonder for the living earth and seasons.
How to support nature studies at home:
Share beautiful, imaginative, seasonal stories and books about nature with your child
Encourage your child to draw pictures about their nature adventures or create their own story about mother earth, the plants, trees and local animals
Nature walks with the family and self-directed outdoor play in natural settings
Play eye spy outdoors and look for different plants, flowers, trees, insects, birds and animal shelters
Go on a nature treasure hunt (create a list of items to look for on your treasure hunt, bring a special pouch to collect if you wish)
Grow plants from seeds and/or start sprouting micro-greens in your kitchen Encourage your child to observe the changes in growth and take care of the plants independently
Grow vegetables on your balcony or backyard and encourage your child to water and take care of the plants. Draw their attention to changes in the garden and ask them to share what they observe
Create a nature garden in your home to honour the seasons