Kindergarten

The following has been written by our foundation kindergarten teacher, Kristy Barry. It provides a rationale for and an overview of how the curriculum is implemented in the kindergarten, and covering the specific key subjects. Requirements of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) and other government regulating authorities are met using an approach common to all Steiner schools, allowing for variations from teacher-to-teacher in meeting the needs of their particular class of children, and in the individual setting of the school. For more detailed information please consult the SEA website.

A Unique Kindergarten

The Steiner kindergarten is a very special place where visitors (of all ages!) usually experience an instant feeling of warmth, peace and security. Absolute care is taken in the classroom environment by the teacher to ensure that everything is well-ordered and has a place for belonging.

The children settle into this home-like environment very quickly, and it usually does not take long for them to leave all their anxieties behind. The children are comforted by the warm-hearted colours, and one will notice there is an absence of posters and learning charts, CD players, plastic cups and plates and bright fluroescent lights. Instead, there are natural fibres, neatly folded playcloths, lovingly hand-made toys, and open-ended natural play things, from sanded and waxed wood pieces, wooden planks and cubby-making play stands, cloths and large pegs. There are healthy pot plants to care for, and the meal table is set carefully each day. Warm smells emanate from the oven, and shared meals are eaten from ceramic bowls and glassware. Overall, there is a sense of reverence, care and quality in the room.

In this unique kindergarten, the children are allowed freedom in expression to interpret the world they are coming to know in their creative play, to interact and make secure relationships with their peers, and to feel secure and held in this space. The kindergarten teacher holds the class through setting clear boundaries, using a regular rhythm of the day/week/year, being an active role model, and guiding all the activities in ways the children learn to understand and follow.

The creative play in the kindergarten year has developed and become more sophisticated than the children’s play of the younger years, which they are leaving behind. Here in their play, the children create family groups, they engineer, build, and design things, they negotiate and direct, and tell wonderful puppet plays to a willing audience. They make and sell tickets or create birthday celebrations in their play, wrap presents, play the doctor, the patient, the hero as they save the world from a fire or some other emergency. They become the big sister, the mother, the baby… Ultimately, the children are able to develop their imaginative capacities and the world is good.

Rhythm

Just as the sun does rise and set each day, the children live into very strong routines or rhythms, created and held by the kindergarten teacher. There is a weekly rhythm they come to know, such as ‘Today is Rice Day and Painting Day’, and each day of the week has its own particular mood. They also come to know the regular rhythm within each day, such as, ‘First we bake and then we play. Then we eat and have story time, and then we rest’. This repeated rhythm provides an essential framework of security and knowingness for the children, without needing to have to question or concern themselves about how each day will unfold, as they know, ‘That’s the way it is!’ They become active helpers, because they are part of setting up and tidying away and caring for each part of the day.

Most importantly, this daily rhythm has a natural breathing quality to it, and the children are never rushed. Concerted periods of concentration are followed by activities which allow the group to breathe out and loosen this focus.

Working with Imitation and the Will

To observe and share the way a young child grows, is important in realising how a young child also learns. In the very early, formative years the young child grows to uprightness. In infancy their heads are proportionally large, and they grow down into their body and limbs, eventually developing a sense of uprightness in standing and walking.

Dr. Rudolf Steiner expressed how in the early years, up until the age of seven, the young child is still developing their organs and physical body, their sense of balance, coordination and gross motor capacities. Furthermore, he observed that the young child learns through imitating the world and the role models around them.

The kindergarten allows for this healthy experience of being able to imitate and work willingly in the room, and in the garden. The teacher models healthy work, such as winding some wool, which some children may come and imitate. The teacher may pull out a sewing basket to fix something and the child may in turn reach for their craft basket and sew something too. The teacher is focused in their work, and the child is too. The class is guided through the day by rhythm and the children imitate the work of the teacher.

Formal instruction is replaced by imaginative pictures, such as when learning to finger knit, a song is sung that the children can follow by visualising the process, rather than introducing instructions which involve intellectual or abstract thinking at this young age.

The children are active in practical as well as creative ways, developing skills, strength, and coordination along the way. They help in preparing the morning tea: chopping, peeling, grating, kneading, cooking, milling, oat-rolling, serving, washing up and drying. They become independent learners in this work. They wipe, polish, sweep, rake, dig and care for their environment. In their play, they imitate and act out the scenes they meet in the real world. They interpret, internalise and come to know this through their own sense of wonder, exploration, design and resolution. The healthy child is calm, resilient, robust, empathetic and caring.

In addition to the relationship with their kindergarten teacher and their immediate environment and sense-world, the kindergarten child begins to learn how to be in a class of children. They develop skills in self-regulation, learning to be part of a group, to sit and listen, and rest when appropriate.

The Power of Observation and Relationship

The kindergarten teacher is experienced in observing the young child and becomes very attuned to each child’s individual needs and strengths. The teacher builds a close relationship with the parents, who together create a shared picture of their developing child throughout the year, and the varied ways that each child may need supporting, either socially, emotionally, behaviourally or physically. The teacher is able to work with individual children to subtly offer extra support or to extend or challenge them further in their work at school.

Towards the end of the kindergarten year, many changes can be seen. Teeth have been lost, children have grown taller, molar teeth are pushing through, the children are stronger. The children show signs of having grown out of their fleshy early childhood years, and are now ready for the journey ahead, as they transition to Class One, and the beginning of their formal learning at school… and they are ready!

Curriculum Outline

The curriculum in a Steiner kindergarten is a very structured experience of developing the self through the arts, through story, movement, and being part of a social group. The children are introduced to preliminary foundation skills in literacy and numeracy through a pictorially-rich realm, where the children can develop their own imaginative faculties.

Mathematics

Pre-numeracy skills are developed in various age-appropriate ways, such as counting out gems from the ‘Counting King’, or through three-dimensional activities of building with blocks, developing spatial awareness. Measuring and weighing in cooking, half-filling six painting jars, setting out spoons and cups for each child at the table, working with ratio, folding cloths in half and then in quarters – numeracy is embedded in the children’s everyday experiences in very practical and hands-on ways. They also learn through finger plays and songs, simple addition and subtraction algorithms, and most importantly how to share and divide.

Literacy

The Steiner kindergarten has a rich and varied oral literacy tradition. The teacher is a storyteller, a poet, and musician; a conduit of a rich history of classical fairytales, nature stories, seasonal songs, poems and verses. The children learn by heart, through a three-week period of repetition in their Morning Circle, the songs and movement sequences. The language is rich and sophisticated, and is not watered down because they are young.

The children learn to engage with and to be attentive listeners to long fairy tales during Story Time that the teacher tells (not reads), or presents as a puppet or marionette play. Occasionally, the children will act out a story, such as the “Shoemaker and the Elves”. They share these at Seasonal Festivals throughout the year, and at the culmination of the year their very special Christmas play is performed for their parents and families.

In their creative play, the children retell stories, and recreate new stories, using the puppets and toys and resources around them. The children develop vocabulary, comprehension skills, they learn how to sequence and process information, understand causality, and develop a beginning moral sense through the stories that they hear.

Sometimes stories are chosen as healing stories to help the children to move through a difficulty they may meet in their social dynamics, or a birthday story and biography is told, honoring each child’s life journey in the kindergarten.

Finally, the shared meal times are a time-honored daily event of sitting together and learning to listen to each other, take turns, contribute ideas, develop manners, and getting to know each other.

Creative Arts

The children experience real skills in drawing, painting, sewing, wool winding, finger knitting and various other activities throughout the year, such as wool felting, cutting, pasting, wood work, candle making, and wax modeling. High quality materials are used and the young child feels the value of their work. They are not praised in their work or instructed directly, but rather the children develop their own experiences and relationship to the various artistic mediums, such as an exploration of the primary colours in their weekly watercolour painting.

They develop strength and dexterity in their fingers, organisational skills, care for their materials, interpreting the world around them in their drawing, a pencil grip, concentration skills and the ability to make the practical things they may need in their work or play. For example, they will make their own lantern for the winter Lantern Walk, or sew and knit their own cushions for rest-time, and design and sew their craft bags. They learn to be resourceful in a materialistic world that calls on us to be practical as our fore-parents were.

Movement

Current brain research is proving the importance of movement in the early years for the development of speech, and brain development. In the daily Morning Circle there are opportunities in simple repetitive movements to cross vertical and horizontal midlines, such as bending to touch toes, or to reach up to the stars, or sweeping across the body as a farmer rakes the garden. The Morning Circle is delivered in a creative way, keeping children in the imaginative, pictorial realm. The children develop static balance, as a seagull stands on one leg, or hop and skip and jump, all as part of this Morning Circle group activity led by the kindergarten teacher.

The children experience simple clapping games, they learn to skip with a skipping rope, play obstacle course games, and are introduced to some simple Eurythmy gestures. These games and activities help the young child to integrate their learning through whole-body awareness. The children also learn to be still and quiet, as a little snail peeps out from his shell, or learn to rest quietly after a busy day of group activity.

Part of the kindergarten week will involve a long nature walk, where the children develop their physical body and strength. They also are highly engaged in their outdoor environment, where they are encouraged in developing their sense of balance and strength, through the provision of real tools to dig and rake, to wheel heavy loads, pump or carry heavy buckets or water, and to move heavy rocks or blocks, climb, balance and swing.

Class 1

Curriculum Outline

English
  • Letters: writing from drawing
  • Words/ sentences: reading from writing
  • Traditional tales: fairy and folk tales, and indigenous stories
Mathematics
  • Number qualities – the recognition of things in the world that correspond to that number: one world, one me; two – day/night, hot/cold, dark/light; three – clover leaves, pine needles etc.
  • Counting: odds and evens
  • Introducing the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division through imaginative stories
  • Counting up to 100 and back from 100; aural/oral times tables
Natural Science
  • Imaginative stories that portray aspects of nature in general, and the local environment in fairy tale form.
  • Nature study in gardening and walks
  • The four elements – earth, air, fire and water in myth and story
Other Subjects
  • Form Drawing: free hand straight and curved lines, vertical symmetry
  • Craft: Knitting and weaving with coloured wool, sewing practical items
  • Painting/ Drawing/Modeling
  • Games, involving movement
  • Music: singing/recorder (use of the pentatonic scale)
  • Drama
  • Introduction to language other than English
  • Morning Circle: incorporating variously verse, song, movement, rhythmical activities
Outdoor Education Program
  • Nature walks
  • Camp
  • Outdoor games incorporating skipping, hopping, balancing, throwing, catching

Class 2

Curriculum Outline

English
  • Written texts from stories
  • Bank of sight words
  • Simple phonics: word families
  • Imaginative introduction of basic grammar and punctuation
  • Second half of year: first reader
  • Stories of individual courage and idealism: the Saints and other holy people
  • Stories of physical challenge and striving: Celtic stories
Mathematics
  • Vertical algorithms
  • Imaginative stories for number processes
  • Times tables: using patterns and number lines
  • Place value: units, tens, hundreds, thousands
Natural Science
  • Imaginative stories portraying aspects of nature in general and the local environment in fairy tale form
  • The four seasons
  • The four elements – earth, air, fire, water
  • Animals and their characteristics through fable, also in the care of animals
Other Subjects
  • Craft: Knitting, purling and shaping on needles, weaving, sewing
  • Painting/Drawing/Modeling
  • Games, involving movement
  • Form Drawing – vertical and horizontal symmetry
  • Music: singing/recorder (use of full octave)
  • Language other than English
  • Drama: Class Play
  • Morning Circle: incorporating variously verse, song, movement, rhythmical activities
Outdoor Education Program
  • Nature walks
  • Camp
  • Outdoor games

For more details in the rationale, implementation, and examples of the curriculum for Class 1 and 2, please go to the Steiner Education Australia website.

Classes 3 – 6

Curriculum

As the school grows and these Classes are added details for these Curriculums will be added to the website. For details in the rationale, implementation, and examples of the curriculum for Class 3 to Class 6, please go to the Steiner Education Australia website.

Curricula in a Composite Class

There are several ways teachers of composite classes approach bringing the curriculum to a class of mixed year levels.

One method is to bring the younger year’s main lesson subjects in the first semester and the older year’s main lesson subjects in the second semester. Then, in the first semester of the following year, the remaining main lessons of that year will be delivered.

For example, in a Class 1-2 composite, the first half of the year will focus on the typical Class 1 main lessons, and in the second semester the first half of the Class 2 main lessons are introduced. In the following year (now a 2-3 composite), the remaining main lessons of the Class 2 curriculum will be given in the first semester, followed by the first half of the Class 3 curriculum in the second semester, and so on.

Another approach is to extend the older students in the main lesson themes that are given, so that the students are given tasks at their particular learning level. For example: while Class 1 children are introduced to the letters of the alphabet, Class 2 children are writing simple sentences.