The First Grader and Form Drawing
Still “trailing clouds of glory,” First Graders enter the Waldorf classroom with great expectations. If they have gone to a Waldorf Kindergarten before coming to Grade One, then they are not yet writing or reading, and their arithmetic skills may be limited to some simple counting. Not having had academic subjects forced upon them in their younger years, now these six and seven-year-olds are ready and eager to learn in a completely new way. Over the next months, we will look at some of the ways in which the Waldorf curriculum allows these learning capacities to unfold.
We will begin with Form Drawing, a subject that is unique to Waldorf education. Since they were toddlers, the first graders have been drawing with crayons, or pencils, or whatever they could get hold of. They’ve filled sheets of paper and sometimes walls or precious books with their combinations of straight lines and curves, but all of their drawing has been relatively “unconscious.” This is why all children draw the same way, all over the world, between ages one and five; it just “streams out of them.”
In Grade One, much that has been “just streaming” begins to be brought into consciousness, and the child is slowly and gently taught how to gain control over his or her capacities. Now the teacher draws attention to the difference between straight lines and curves; between the upper and lower halves of the paper; between the left and right sides of a line; between the vertical and the horizontal. Form Drawing incorporates all of this, and more.
Although it appears to be a simple matter to draw these unadorned forms that you will see in the video, try it for yourself! Form Drawings are like Rorschach tests, revealing just how much in the adult soul stands in the way of clarity and control. Fortunately, there is a lot less blockage in the child, and many children delight in learning to create a form well and doing it again and again. And this is good because Form Drawing will serve as a foundation for learning letters and geometry, among other things, as the child advances through the grades.
Eugene Schwartz is a graduate of Columbia University and has worked with all stages of life, from the young child to the elderly and the dying. He began his teaching career by adapting the Waldorf schools’ curriculum to educate a group of handicapped and emotionally disturbed adolescents, after which he became a class teacher at Green Meadow Waldorf School. After many years of service to Green Meadow, Eugene now works worldwide as an educational consultant and lecturer. He currently serves as a Fellow of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education.
In addition to his thirty years of experience as a class teacher, high school teacher, and educator of Waldorf teachers, Eugene has served as a consultant to Waldorf endeavors throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Ireland, Mexico, Austria, and Italy. Over the past decade, he has worked in this capacity with over one hundred twenty-five schools, including public schools in the New York metropolitan region and Waldorf charter schools in the West. Eugene was awarded a prestigious Teaching Fellowship at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Princeton, NJ, in which capacity he worked with public school teachers from across the nation. Eugene also worked closely with the late Ernest Boyer, the Foundation’s president, to establish new curricular ideas and methods.
Eugene has lectured on innovative ideas in education at Harvard, Columbia, University of Tennessee Medical Center, Roehampton University in London, and the Aspen Institute. In 2006 he gave the first lectures on Waldorf education ever presented in Turkey, which may be viewed as Google videos. Eugene has also served as an Adjunct Instructor on the faculty of the Waldorf Masters Program at Touro University in Vallejo, California, focusing on educational issues facing public Waldorf schools in the United States.
Eugene’s books and articles have been published widely in the United States and have been translated into German, Hungarian, Russian, Czech, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Over fifty of Eugene’s lectures and collections of student work are available at www.millennialchild.com. He is currently producing a series of introductory videos entitled Discover Waldorf Education, which may be viewed on YouTube.com. He has also pioneered the development of online Waldorf teacher conferences and workshops, which have been attended by hundreds of Waldorf practitioners worldwide.
Eugene has written and directed three films in association with Hagens Production Studios:
Waldorf Education: A Vision of Wholeness (1995)
Eurythmy: Making Movement Human (2006)
Waldorf Education for All (2011)
Books and videos by Eugene are available from Amazon.com, the Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore, and the Sunbridge College Bookstore including:
Dragonsblood: An Environmental Fairy Tale
Waldorf Education: Schools for the Twenty-First Century
Why the Setting Sun Turns Red and Other Stories for Children
Adolescence, the Search for the Self
Seeing, Hearing, Learning: The Interplay of the Eye and Ear in Waldorf Education
Rhythm and Turning Points in the Life of the Child