Rudolf Steiner clearly saw farming and other practical arts education as part of the Waldorf school 3rd grade curriculum. He spoke of such education giving children going through the 9 year change, who are experiencing their "fall" from wholeness and the pain of separateness, experiences that foster their self-confidence and re-connection as they learn about house-building, food and fiber production, crafts and trades.
Farm-Based Education Inspired by Anthroposophy, FBEIBA, is a learning community supported by the Biodynamic Association (BDA), and has been meeting regularly for five years, recognizing and serving this growing educational movement. This year's FBEIBA event, held as an Advanced Retreat at Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary, in Floyd, Virginia, September 27-29, 2013, demonstrated a maturing of this group's sense of purpose and direction as can be seen in the activity inspired by the participants' interaction. View a slideshow of photos from the retreat.
In our time now, with all of humanity experiencing a tremendous "fall" into separateness from and disharmony with the Earth, Nature, and her manifold forms of life, there is a resurgence of interest in sustainable lifestyle choices, especially growing, harvesting and preserving one's own food. This interest is reaching down into the realm of education. Waldorf schools, homeschooling groups, and public and private schools are more and more recognizing the value of children from early childhood through high school gaining the sense of security and self-sufficiency that such educational experiences foster.
Activities resulting from this gathering include the following:
- A planning team has come forward to work on the farm-based education content and activities for the 2014 North American Biodynamic Conference.
- A small group proposed and is facilitating the large group's participation in working with the 6 exercises with a monthly conference call to discuss questions and progress.
- Various participants have submitted workshop proposals to bring farm-based education content to the next AWSNA national conference, which will be held in June 2014 Hartsbrook Waldorf School in Hadley, MA. Nikki Robb, one of the retreat participants, runs the Agricultural Arts program for the Hartsbrook school.
- Participants have begun to build a bibliography relevant to this field of work, in part to gather and organize research that verifies the results we see as well as to find the language that helps us communicate the impact of this education to a wider audience.
What contributed to such a productive gathering?
Our gracious host and teacher, Gunther Hauk, welcomed us warmly and nourished us with his wisdom and examples. On Friday, we enjoyed a tour of the farm, including the beautiful welcome yurt, the almost-finished educational center with its green roof, the bees and their various types of hives, the flower gardens and the vegetable gardens.
Saturday afternoon, we worked with Gunther to plant rye as he spoke to us about how to work with the children and about the purpose and meaning of such activity. Saturday evening, we were enriched by Gunther's presentation on the meaning of Michaelmas in our time, which a few members of the Spikenard board attended as well. And on Sunday, we worked to thresh and winnow rye to the rhythm of various verses, again gaining insight into our own farm-based education work.
Participants had prepared for the retreat by reading Study of Man, lectures IV, V & VI, relative to the development of the will nature. This common ground and foundation of Rudolf Steiner's view of the developing human being contributed to the quality of our conversations. With many years of experience among us, all but a few participants also prepared and shared their own presentations on such themes as cultivating the will, strengthening the will, and the artist's will.
To learn more about the retreat and how to apply the lessons learned, please contact Dana Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-495-4247.
Participants In the 2013 Retreat
Dana Burns, FBEIBA coordinator and retreat facilitator, founded A Week on the Farm with Bente Goldstein 14 years ago and continues to be passionate about how young people who have these FBE experiences, especially more intensive ones over a long period of time, grow up to be capable, reliable, skillful adults.
Gunther Hauk, from Spikenard Farm, reminded us of how Rudolf Steiner would turn Waldorf more toward the artistic and practical if he were alive today. He also shared how the will can be worked with differently in each of the three 7-year phases of development.
Matt Davis, Hawthorne Valley Farm, spoke of how FBE can support children in developing living thinking through their love and gratitude for the living process they experience on the farm.
Adam Fisher, Caretaker for Spikenard Farm, is going to help carry Spikenard’s own FBE programming for children in the Floyd community.
Kimberly Wass, Concord, MA, who works with an organization that turns land back into farms as well as with 3rd-6th graders from the Cape Ann Waldorf School weekly, seeks the means for all children to have access to FBE.
Brad Miller, High Mowing School, NH, would like to help develop a rubric, practitioners guide, and common language for the FBE work so all educators will understand the value of this type of education.
Traci Jo Parton, from Mother Earth School, Portland, OR, a farm and forest school that incorporates traditional skills for preschoolers through 3rd grade, shared how by being sensitive to the gestures she witnessed in the children, she developed activities to engage them positively, including teaching kindergarteners to use a knife, which then is a graduation gift as they go on to 1st grade.
Eileen Frechette, Homeadow Song Farm, who works with homeschoolers of various ages in place-based education, spoke of the importance of each of us doing our own work, developing our own consciousness, so that we can read the landscape and each other and truly work out of the question of “what ails thee?”
Vicki Mansoor, Homeadow Song Farm, shared about a many-layered, process-oriented, artistic project involving Hopi blue corn.
Mary Beth Mueller, Emerson Waldorf School, seeks to engage children deeply enough to awaken them to a new way to live in the world. In our American culture, she said, we work hard to get a better life in which we don’t have to work. What should our new “dream” be?
Bente Goldstein, Farmwise, Inc., who works with 3rd graders from Waldorf schools and homeschooling families and offers summer camps, spoke about how we strengthen our will through repetitive action overcoming our lower nature. Children need the grown-up to demand things of them so that their will grows strong in the right way.
Thomas Roemer, central PA, formerly with the Camphill, and formerly a Waldorf class teacher completing grades 1-8, led the group in a Michaelmas song and is helping facilitate work with the six exercises.
Michael Mansur, an intern at Spikenard, participated actively the whole weekend.
Nicki Robb, Amherst, MA, who runs the agricultural arts program at Hartsbrook Waldorf School, K-12, described their program and how it’s funded almost entirely through their summer camp programs.
Julie Drigot, Little Prairie, LLC, who is a former Waldorf teacher and current FBE educator, spoke about the importance of chores and real work for children so that they develop a sense of their ability to contribute meaningfully and even sometimes financially to their family and community.
Stuart Summer, Hawthorne Valley School, EARTH program, Education and Renewal through the Hands, described the gestures of various ways we can get to a goal, and how we can find our way not exhausting or over exerting ourselves, but inviting people around us into the space, and that we can use this knowledge to strengthen our FBEIBA movement in relation to the larger FBE movement.
Lori Barian, Great Lakes Waldorf Institute, Milwaukee, WI, would like to see how the Waldorf education movement could more fully embrace and expand the schools’ own FBE because in our time education can’t get “real” enough.