Steiner Education and the Primary School Curriculum

In Mol an Oige trained Primary school teachers implement the Primary school curriculum through the Steiner (also known as Waldorf) model of education. The delivery of the State's Primary School Curriculum using the Steiner model of education is explained below by setting out six key characteristics of the Steiner approach alongside the Primary School Curriculum:

  1. Integration of curricular material
    It is recognised that all areas of child development are inextricably linked. This has resulted in the development of the Main Lesson which is an extended lesson at the beginning of the school day within which the teacher seeks to achieve a balance of academic work, artistic activity and practical work focused on a curricular theme.
  2. Class teacher
    The quality of the relationship that the teacher establishes with the child is of central importance in the learning process within the Steiner approach. On this the Primary School Curriculum says.
  3. Curriculum implementation
    In the Steiner approach, the curriculum delivery does not rely on set textbooks. Instead, the teacher researches the lessons thoroughly before preparing for presentation to the children. This presentation is carried out in an artistic and age-appropriate manner, then recalled and deepened using a variety of methodologies which address the whole child.
  4. Oral language
    There is a strong focus on developing oracy which is seen as the fundamental basis for cognitive development. Talk and discussion is a key element. Stories, using a rich vocabulary, are told rather than read, on a daily basis and provide models of speech which give voice to a broad range of emotional responses.
  5. Early learning
    Play, language, activity and the manipulation of a variety of materials are central to early childhood learning and help in preserving a learning continuum between home and the school. The formal or didactic teaching of reading and writing is developed in an age appropriate fashion as the child progresses through the school.
  6. Parents as Primary Educators
    Within the Steiner approach there is a strong emphasis placed on the relationship between the teachers and the parents with regular scheduled meetings throughout the year at all ages.

Early Learning in the Infant Classroom

As mentioned the Steiner approach places a great emphasis on the importance of the early school years.

The infant classroom offers a rich foundation for the young child. Rhythm underpins the life of the young child as activities are tuned to the seasons, the months and the days. Imaginative play, simple natural toys, song and story all support the focus of nurturing and strengthen the senses and the physical body of the child.

Regular patterns of activities create routine and foster a sense of security and self confidence helping the child to know what to expect. During the Junior Infants school day, the children experience the rhythms of greeting, walking in the woods, ring time where verses, games and stories are brought to the children, and of sharing a meal together.

The Junior Infant teacher plans for the weeks activities covering all subject areas in the curriculum but the children experience the day as an integrated whole. Each day is marked with a different activity such as gardening, baking, cooking, painting, cleaning and sweeping and seasonal craft activities.

Irish is interwoven through verses and stories and many other cultures are brought in the stories of the year either through puppet shows, the teacher's narration and at festivals.

Meal times are shared and the give and take of conversation is cultivated. Children bring their own healthy lunches to school but also enjoy the food that they have prepared.

The strength and enthusiasm of the young child who is supported in this way enables the child to step towards formal schooling kindled with a love for life. This unique approach adopted by the school serves as a bridge between the familiar world of the home and the new world of the school. Senior Infants represents a turning point as the child begins formal academic learning.

The Primary School Years

Each school day has a strong rhythm. Singing and movement begin the main lesson, taught by their class teacher, which lasts approximately two hours and includes the full range of artistic and academic activities. The lesson is designed to make best use of the early part of the day when children are most receptive. One theme will be studied in the main lesson for 4 weeks or so to enable the class to penetrate the subject matter deeply. The aim is to provide an experience for the child that will be meaningful and not consist only of information.

Textbooks are used sparingly and instead it is the teacher’s task to bring the subject matter to life in an artistic and imaginative way. Children make their own textbooks which record and express their understanding of the subject matter. These they take great pride in. As the children move through the school, their work develops and takes on an increasingly academic character while retaining its artistic content.

From kindergarten onwards, a huge emphasis is placed on handwork. Knitting, sewing, crocheting, painting, drawing, modelling, woodwork and gardening are among the practical activities. The integrating effects of these breathe soul and colour into the contrast of a day, choreographed for a sense of balance and enjoyment.

Home School Links

Our parents are invited to work in partnership with the teachers in educating their child, which asks for a responsive and engaged relationship between teacher and parent. Meetings, parent-teacher evenings, celebrations and regular communication are all ways we keep in touch and help each other to build the community of our school.

More in this category: Steiner Education Subjects