Distance learning looks different at the Charlottesville Waldorf School
Waldorf Schools focus on experiential learning: an active approach to a subject’s lesson which uses different senses and subjects like arts and music, tactics, and manipulatives to best stimulate the mind to retain what is being learned.
The Waldorf classroom experience is designed to build strong relationships, enhance social and emotional learning, and create community bonds through seasonal events, festivals, assemblies, plays, and more.
What does that look like now, from afar, with distance learning in place and students off campus? At the Charlottesville Waldorf School, teachers and administrators are working creatively to bring Waldorf education’s multisensory, multi-faceted, human-centered curriculum to students no longer in classrooms.
While this approach will never replace face to face connections, students continue to thrive.
“As we consider the goals of our school’s approach to distance learning, we must stay true to our values and identity,” says School Director Amanda Tipton. “In addition to providing quality academic content and materials, we are called upon to define what meaningful connection looks like from the youngest toddlers to our eighth-graders and even on to our parents and wider community.”
This is why the Charlottesville Waldorf School is approaching distance learning as an opportunity to take this socially driven education beyond the classroom, continuing to cultivate a depth of knowledge through shared interactive experiences, albeit now shared from a distance.
As a generally screen-free school in normal times, any use of electronic media is a change from life-as-normal. Now, although classes meet online with video conferencing and keep track of work through google classroom, the majority of the classwork continues to be offline and hands-on, especially in the early childhood and elementary grades.
Recently, fourth-grade botany students explored local natural areas in search of fungi and observed the life cycle of plants in their yards; first graders are studying local birds and hand-writing and -illustrating their books of “Feathered Friends”; second-graders received individual instructions for completing their knitting projects, along with needles and extra yarn.
In the middle school, technology is more prevalent, with the fifth grade meeting online regularly to practice Bal-A-Vis-X as a group and the eighth grade building on their recent robotics and cyber civics classes through a hands-on study of coding and app programming.
Throughout the school, teachers are modeling the imagination, innovative thinking, and adaptive response inherent in a Waldorf classroom, pivoting carefully planned curricula to this new paradigm. And a recent survey of families showed the approach is working, with students engaged and parents feeling supported and empowered.
As one parent commented, “I love coming to class with my daughter.”