“Therapeutic Effects of Nature on Humans”

The value of connecting with nature is more vital than ever in today’s increasingly digitised and urbanised world, especially in the context of the educational setting. Numerous advantages of including nature in schools include bettering students’ physical and emotional health as well as their academic performance.

Students can experience nature thanks to Steiner Education. Opportunities like gardening are provided to students. The third-grade students learn about farming by actually visiting paddy farming. This activity is popular with students because it fosters their connection to the nature. It relieves boredom and inspires more original thought in them.

The Wardolf School encourages children to connect with nature by arranging for them visits to the parks and engage in outdoor exploration. Children are more relaxed and there is a lot of learning which is inculcated. Children observe how flowers grow and photosynthesis take place. The different layers of soil and are learnt by being amidst nature. Learning in this way is long lasting and children develop an interest.

This article discusses the value of having access to nature in the classroom and the benefits it may provide for both student’s wellbeing and academic success.Steiner Schools offer this amazing opportunity to students.

Circle Time in Waldorf Education

What is Circle time in a Waldorf class?

Circle time is a practice of forming a circle and doing singing prayers, songs and rhymes with gestures. Circle is taken at the beginning of the day at school, it sets the mood and tone for the whole day. Teachers put a lot of thought while creating a circle, keeping in mind the readiness for children, season, festivals and many other things. Circle time holds significant importance in any Waldorf school, it serves multiple purposes and benefits, including:

  1. Rhythm and Routine: Circle time establishes a daily rhythm and routine in the classroom, providing a sense of structure and predictability for the students. Waldorf education emphasizes the importance of rhythm in promoting a harmonious learning environment
  2. Social Connection: Circle time fosters a sense of community and social connection among the students. Through group activities, songs, and games, students engage with each other, develop interpersonal skills, and strengthen their bonds as a class
  3. Language Development: Circle time offers numerous opportunities for language development. Through storytelling, recitation of verses and poems, and discussions, students enhance their vocabulary, listening skills, and verbal expression. These activities also nurture imagination and creativity
  4. Movement and Coordination: Many circle time activities involve movement, singing, and gestures. These activities promote physical coordination, balance, and gross motor skills. They engage the students in a holistic way, integrating body, mind, and spirit
  5. Emotional Well-being: Circle time supports emotional well-being by providing a nurturing and inclusive space for students. Through movements that promote empathy, cooperation, and self-expression, children learn to understand and regulate their emotions, fostering a positive and supportive classroom environment
  6. Cultural and Seasonal Awareness: Circle time often incorporates seasonal festivals, cultural traditions, and nature-based themes. This helps students develop an appreciation for different cultures, nature, and the changing seasons. It connects them to the world around them and fosters a sense of wonder and reverence.

In a Waldorf kindergarten, circle time activities are designed to engage and support the development of young children. At Kalpavruksha school, we take conscious efforts to include regional songs and rhymes in our circle, making them familiar to different dialects and languages. Here are some common activities that kindergarten students typically participate in during circle time:

  1. Morning Verse or Greeting: The day often begins with a morning verse or greeting, where the teacher and students greet each other and set a positive tone for the day
  2. Songs: Kindergarten students engage in singing songs and reciting simple chants together. These songs often incorporate movement, gestures, and actions, promoting coordination and rhythm
  3. Fingerplays and Nursery Rhymes: Fingerplays involve using hand and finger movements to accompany rhymes or simple stories. Nursery rhymes are recited or sung, helping children develop language skills, memory, and rhythm
  4. Story Circle: The teacher tells stories, often using expressive language, gestures, and props. These stories can be based on fairy tales, nature, animals, or daily life experiences
  5. Seasonal and Nature Activities: Circle time in Waldorf kindergartens often includes activities related to the seasons and nature. For example, children may sing songs about the weather, discuss changes in nature, or engage in simple seasonal crafts or gardening projects
  6. Movement Games: Circle time incorporates movement games that encourage physical activity and coordination. These games can involve imitating animal movements, dancing, skipping, or playing interactive games that promote cooperation and spatial awareness
  7. Circle Games: Kindergarten students participate in simple circle games that involve singing, movement, and interaction. These games can enhance social skills, turn-taking, and cooperation
  8. Calming Verse: each circle is closed with a calming verse or song, to settle the students and conclude the circle

It’s important to note that the specific activities during circle time can vary depending on the school, teacher, and the cultural context of the Waldorf kindergarten. The activities are typically designed to be age-appropriate, engaging, and aligned with the developmental needs of young children. Top of FormOverall, circle time in a Waldorf school is considered essential for creating a harmonious and balanced learning environment that nurtures the students’ physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development.

“Sensory integration.” In Waldorf Philosophy

In Waldorf philosophy the emphasis is on educating the whole child, that includes the senses too, commonly called “Sensory integration.”

A Waldorf kindergarten environment encourages children to move freely and gives enough scope for open-ended play. The natural fabrics, wood, etc used in a Waldorf kindergarten gives them natural sensory stimulation.

The same is done through variety of activities given below-

  1. Gardening – In our Waldorf Kindergarten we give a lot of importance to Gardening as it helps children in many ways it connects them to nature. The children touch and smell the soil, they find pebbles, they crush hard soil and prepare it for the plants.

  2. Handwork – Several activities are taken under handwork- Fishing rope with natural cotton yarn, deseeding cotton, playing with potter’s clay, working/playing with Bees wax, coconut scraping, paper mache, and much more, all these are fine motor skills and sensory activities. These activities prepare the children for grade 1 where they are required to start writing.

  3. Painting – Wet on wet watercolour painting is an introduction to the beautiful world of colour for the young child. There are many ways to paint, but wet-on-wet painting is a dreamy, fluid, mostly formless painting method that allows to experience colours. It is perfect for the process-oriented kindergarten child. The intent is to give young children an experience of colour, not form. Because the wet paint is laid on wet paper, the colours flow, blending into one another in beautiful, unexpected ways.

  4. Cooking – Cooking is an integral part of our Kindergarten at Kalpavruksha. It is a treat to all the senses. Activities like dough kneading stimulates tactile skills.

  5. Meal times – You may think why meal time is included as a sensory activity! In Waldorf Kindergartens each day a child brings wholesome, homemade healthy food for the whole class. The food is rich and gives exposure to different textures, smells and tastes to young ones. At “Kalpavruksha, Steiner Inspired School“, strong emphasis is laid on community meal times, children eat together the same home cooked food. Children are encouraged to use their hands for eating. The food exposes them to variety of textures, tastes and smell.

Getting messy is never discouraged in Waldorf schools, it is necessary to develop tactile senses, at our school “Kalpavruksha“ children develop tactile senses through sand play, play with Clay, walk in rain, jumping in the puddles and much more.

We would like to emphasize that sensory activities are key in building flexibility, mobility, spatial awareness, motor skills, tactile sense, and the sensory integration.

Pooja Chukkala

(Kindergarten Teacher)

“Child’s play is a serious work”

Toys hold a very important place in a child’s life. At different stages in their childhood, children show a preference for different toys.

In Waldorf the whole learning process is holistic, and it happens through the Head (Thinking), Heart (Feeling), and Hand (Doing). Waldorf toys, activities, and the whole environment is set and designed keeping these three things in mind.

In a Waldorf Kindergarten, a lot of focus is laid on selecting the appropriate toys, creating the ambience, and on free playtime. The playtime is not instruction based, it is unguided, uninterrupted free play.

How are Waldorf toys different?

Waldorf toys are distinct by their beauty and simplicity, they are handmade from natural materials like cotton, wood, linen, or wool.

The toys are open-ended with basic shapes, and smooth edges, the wooden toys are left in their rustic natural wood finish and the cotton and fabric toys are mostly in light pastel colors. The dolls and animals don’t have facial features or have minimal features. In a Waldorf kindergarten, plastic and battery-operated toys are strictly avoided. toys with too bright colors are also not used. The toys are designed following the Steiner principle – To allow children to imagine and visualize their own emotions and expressions for the dolls.

When you walk into a Waldorf kindergarten, it gives you a feeling of comfort and warmth. The classrooms have simple designs, aesthetically pleasing, age-appropriate, and minimal artwork. Play objects are neatly stacked in baskets and kept covered on the wooden shelves.

What Toys Are Used In A Waldorf Kindergarten?

In a Waldorf Kindergarten, we use wooden blocks, logs, planks, small wooden human/animal figurines kitchen play tools, hand-knitted ropes, pine cones, Twigs, sticks, silk fabrics, Capes, balancing boards, Waldorf dolls, Crotchet balls, and many other simple articles. The classroom is set to encourage free and imaginative play. All objects are kept in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, balanced, and easily accessible to our children.

Why are Waldorf Toys Expensive?

Waldorf Toys are handmade from natural material and hence are expensive. At Kalpavruksha, we sell some beautiful handmade toys which are priced reasonably, these are perfect for your little ones and can make a great gifting option too.

The box that opened childhood …..By Mrs. Minal Gurav (Mentor, Grades)

A few months back a friend returning from her village sent a bag full of village goodies. Tucked in the same bag was this box which looked like any other small plastic container. When I opened the box, I saw what you see in this picture. The small box as if magically opened a big box tucked away in my senses, my heart and mind. My tongue tingled with the taste of tamarind even before I had picked any up. I was transported to that tree from my childhood under which I spent a lot of time collecting tamarind filling them in my pockets. Standing here, in a completely different space I looked up while in that flashback, and I saw that tree loaded with fruit. I felt a sense of joy, a sense of unhurried childhood peace. I was as if standing there in midst of a childhood summer vacation idly eating the tamarind, collecting the seeds, playing with them and spending long hours seemingly doing nothing, but actually making memories.

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We all have experienced this at some point, the smell of rain, the smell of the sea, the sight of gulmohur in bloom, the smell of that kheer, a specific song, the sound of the train and many such experiences related to the senses can revive memories, and take us back to something we have experienced often in our childhood.

If we think if what we did as adults in our last vacation or even our most memorable trip, we would have visual images and events coming to our minds. But if we try to bring back memories of childhood to our present, they will appear in the form of emotions, diffused but intense sensations. We feel like we have travelled back in time.

After this journey through the tamarind box, I am, yet again, in awe of the way we are created. How life gone by can be re-lived. As if the life gone by is packed away in so many unknown places in this very body. How a seemingly mundane, day after day rhythm of childhood like collecting tamarind, can bring so much peace and joy years after childhood is long gone.

As I say this, I see my daughter making a marigold flower garland, a Diwali routine in our home, and I think of how the smell of marigold and the feeling of joy and peace that will goes with this is a pathway to establishing emotions that will accompany her for life.

The fascinating world of Indian puppets…. By Mrs. Shomita Nair (Grade 2 Teacher)

The fascinating world of Indian puppets…. By Mrs. Shomita Nair

“हम सब रंगमंच की कटपुतलिया है जिनकी डोर उपरवाले की उँगलियों से बंधी हुई है”. Most of us who remember the movie Anand will remember this dialogue by superstar Rajesh Khanna where he talks about us humans as puppets who are controlled by the divine creator. That is on a philosophical note but the role of puppetry in Waldorf education is just as profound.

Story telling through puppets in the Waldorf curriculum

Puppetry or a puppet play exudes simplicity and calmness in the way a story is narrated and built upon. When a child watches a puppet show, it stimulates their fantasy, strengthens their life forces and as it unfolds step-by-step it evokes their imagination and they move forward with the story. It is more relevant in today’s fast-paced world because when the stories are acted out in front of children it also has a calming effect on them.

It is said that when Rudolf Steiner was asked how to do puppet plays, he insisted that the marionettes must hang on threads tied directly to the fingers (not a cross bar), directed from above. He had clear views on how the story must be read, style and colour of the costume fabric and stage lighting and scenery. Puppetry is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum as the sole purpose of puppet plays is, according to Steiner, to help the children to develop fantasy.

India: the birth place of puppetry

The world of puppets is a very colorful world just like the colouful milieu of the Indian subcontinent. So it is hardly surprising that this form of art originated here. Early references of puppetry in India can be found in the Tamil classic ‘Silappadikaaram’ written around 1st or 2nd century BC. The content of the puppet shows in the Waldorf curriculum is similar to that of traditional puppet theatre in India which is mainly stories of the legends, puranic stories and local myths.

There are 4 major different types of puppets used in India. Glove Puppets, Rod Puppets, Shadow Puppets and String Puppets.

Glove Puppets

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Glove Puppetry is popular in many parts of India. It’s sheer pleasure to see this art form unfold in the hands of a master puppeteer. In Glove Puppetry, the heads and arms of the puppets are controlled by the fingers of the puppeteer and it can produce a wide range of movements.

Found in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and West Bengal, the themes and the delivery of the story varies from place to place. In Uttar Pradesh, stories are often based on social themes while in Odisha the stories narrate the tales of Radha and Krishna. Pavakoothu, a glove puppetry form from Kerala, draws inspiration from Kathakali depicts the fables of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Rod Puppets

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It is an extension of glove puppetry but on a much larger scale. Mostly found in West Bengal and Odisha, the puppets in this form are manipulated using rods.

It is believed that the Rods Puppets have better control compared to other forms. The Putul Nautch from the Nadia district of West Bengal are about 3-4 feet in height. One gets a highly theatrical experience while watching this form of puppetry. During the show, a group of musicians play the music and the main dialogue and songs are delivered by the puppeteer.

Shadow Puppets

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Shadow puppets are flat and operated against a white clothed screen. It is highly technical in nature and it is all about judging the perfect balance between the light and the screen. The correct manipulation of both will result in a project of a gorgeous silhouette and colorful shadows. In India, this form is very popular and has varied styles depending on the geographical location.

The Shadow Puppet shows begin at night and continue till dawn. Puppet sizes reflect the social status of the character that they play. Larger puppets are for royal and religious members while smaller puppets depict the common people and servants. Known as Tongalu Gombeyaata, the puppets are mostly colored in red, blue, black or green. While conventionally the form was used to portray stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

String Puppets

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It is one of the most popular forms of puppetry in India. The Kathputli that is referred to in the aforementioned movie dialogue falls in this category. Also, these puppets are the ones recommended by Steiner for storytelling in the Waldorf curriculum. String puppets have jointed limbs, controlled by strings that allow flexibility. This makes them the most articulate of all the puppets and also the most challenging. It takes years of practice to control these puppets. It is mostly popular in in Rajasthan, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.

Kathputli- Rajasthan’s form of string puppetry involves large colorful dolls that are vibrantly dressed. Puppeteers speak in shrill voices produced when spoken through a bamboo reed. The subjects presented are mostly social problems like dowry, women’s empowerment, illiteracy, and poverty.

An art form that has stood the test of time

As an art form that has lived and evolved centuries, puppetry is enriching not just for the children but also for the puppeteers. Just like the children who watch it with awe every time and exercise their faculties of imagination, the performers too get in touch with their own sense of creativity with each performance and evolve along the way.

A Dream to Fly…. By Ms. Mariyam Bootwala

As a child all my summer vacations were spent at my Grandparent’s house. It was in a small village located around 10kms away from Lonavala. The house was at the base of a hill. A major part of my day was spent on top of this hill. This hill was my home and my friend. My favorite past time was to lie down and watch the clouds floating by. An occasional sighting of an Airplane would make me and my cousins’ wave vigorously, hoping that the pilot would notice us.

One fine day when I was just lying there imagining that the clouds were shaped in forms of different animals today, I happened to see an oddly shaped bird at a distance. Or was it? It flew for some time near the distant mountain and then it went down and disappeared. I was curious but as a 10yr old I didn’t really know how to find out what it was (we didn’t have Google or a Computer). A few days later I saw many such things flying around that mountain. They weren’t birds, I was sure. My cousin and I decided to investigate. After spending hours in questioning our uncles and older cousins we found out that those were gliders and it was a sport called Paragliding.

The thought of Flying off the mountain and seeing the world like how a bird sees it made me feel excited. After that I would spend hours watching these colourful gliders fly. I had made up my mind to fly in one of those as soon as I could.

It took me twenty years to finally fulfill my dream. The day I was going to fly made me feel like my 10 years old self. I left Mumbai early in the morning. The entire car ride was spent in anticipation and I reached the base camp well before time. They say that if you want something, you need to earn it. Well, that’s true in this case — before you can launch from the mountain top, you need to climb up the mountain first… and FAST, because you need to catch the wind conditions while it’s favourable for flying!

Mid-way through the trek, I was already huffing and panting. “It’s going to be worth it” I told myself. While trekking, I could see paragliders launching off from the mountain top. That really got me excited (and nervous at the same time), as it hit me that I was going to be flying in a few minutes!!!

After reaching the top I had to wait for a few hours. The winds were strong and I was underweight!! It was annoying to wait (I had waited for 20 years already), but it was for my own safety. Finally, a kind tandem pilot took pity and was ready to risk flying with me. I was told that if after take-off the pilot feels its risky to keep flying, he will make an emergency landing. I was ready to take that chance!!

In the next few minutes, I was up in the air. Throughout the flight, I was feeling pure joy and ecstasy. It was incredible looking down from my seat, seeing myself float above Earth(with the pilot behind me), suspended by nothing but a canopy and a harness.

At the same time everyone below was going about their own routine, without a care in the world, without even knowing that I was up there flying and having the time of my life.

Being up in the air, flying in the glider, made me feel tiny. It made the world feel tiny, given that everything (and everyone) was just beneath my feet. The Hill where I saw this dream was also just a speck. It also made my problems, concerns, and thoughts seem tiny. Up there in the sky, nothing matters. All you experience is purity and serenity.

By way of my paragliding flight, I got to tick off an item off my bucket list, which is “to fly” 😀 (and I don’t mean flying by plane).