Rawson and Masters (2000) wrote, "One of Steiner education’s main aims is to educate the whole human being in thinking, feeling and will i.e. head, heart and hand. Make everything into a picture - means that the material should not be defined in concepts but portrayed in vivid descriptions - a fountain, river, a cliff, a tree, a flower, the North Star, or even the physical law of gravity and the principles of chemistry. Ordinary everyday life can be portrayed in meaningful pictures and images. The teacher must fill with inner conviction and warmth the pictures he/she presents to the souls of the children. They can derive strength for the whole of their lives from lessons that stream from heart to heart rather than head to head. "(p. 12)
The teacher assists the students as they copy the piece, guiding them as they proceed to make the art their own in their main lesson books or sketchbooks. This is not a time for complete autonomy on the part of the student, as they are learning the techniques and learning to follow the teacher's modeling and authority. Steiner (2000, trans.) noted, "Children are more receptive to authority in teaching through art. Consequently, we can accomplish the most in this sense during this period of children’s lives using artistic methods. They will very effortlessly find their way into what we wish to communicate to them and take the greatest delight in rendering it by drawing or even painting. We should make sure, however, that they avoid merely imitative work." (p. 9)
However, within this framework of guided artisti activity, the children's individuality can be seen. The lessons, which first spark the imagination and later infused with factual information, are designed to foster empathy, compassion, as well as a sense of justice and fairness. Through the lessons, teachers help their students make connections to the world and realize they are part of a greater circle.
Rudolf Steiner ( 1997, trans,) started the Waldorf school in 1919 just before the rise of the Nazi regime and argued that artistic education would help students develop into moral human beings able to bring positive change to the world. Nearly 100 years later, that ideal still resonates.
Although Steiner rarely mentions a chalkboard, he spoke of the need for teachers to infuse each lesson with artistic elements and beauty for their students. In his book Understanding Walorf Education: Teaching from the inside out, Jack Petrash (2002) wrote, “The teaching of any subject, from science to history, can be enlivened and enhanced by incorporating art into the instruction.” (p. 60).
In providing the students with a beautiful environment conducive to learning, the public Waldorf teacher is fostering the child’s development and ability to see beauty in the world around him or her. Rudolf Steiner’s (1996, translated) noted that "Much can be done with the simplest resources, if only the teacher has the proper artistic power and energy for work - these are among the lifelong results of the proper cultivation of a feeling for beauty and art. The moral sense is also being formed in children during these years through the pictures of life placed before them, through the authorities whom they look up to - this moral sense becomes assured if children, from their own sense of beauty, feel that the good is beautiful, and also that the bad is ugly. "(p. 35)
Research on the arts in education suggests that integraing the arts into the curriclum plays an inportant part in brain development and in children's learning of content areas, (Koonlaba, 2015; Sylwester, 1998).
While there is much to support the arts in education, the true value comes when a child enters their classroom and sees the gift of art from their teacher. This gift is only enhanced, when the child begins to learn to draw this art, adding his or her own individuality in the strokes and shadings. And while the teacher's drawing will eventually be replaced with another, the children's work will live on in their main lesson books or sketchbooks.
Resources and references:
Koonlaba, A. (2015). 3 visual artists-and tricks- for the integrating the arts into core subjects. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/02/24/3-visual-artists-and-tricks-for-integrating-the-arts.html?cmp=soc-edit-fb
Petrash, J. (2002). Understanding Waldorf education: Teaching from the inside out. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House.
Rawson, M. & Richter, T. (2000). The educational taks and content of the Steiner Waldorf curriclum. Forest Row, Sussex.
Steiner, R. (1996). The essentials of education. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press
Steiner, R. (2000). Practical advice to teachers. Great Barrington, NY: Anthroposophic Press.
Sylwester, R. (1998). Art for the Brain's Sake. Educational Leadership 3(56) . Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov98/vol56/num03/Art-for-the-Brain's-Sake.aspx