SWSF welcomes the BERA manifesto for education for environmental sustainability. https://www.bera.ac.uk/news/manifesto-for-education-for-environmental-sustainability-efes-published-by-bera-research-commission. It reminds us of how ground break-ing is the Steiner Waldorf curriculum. From early years it embeds understanding, respect and care for the environment in a plethora of ways. Gardening starts in kindergarten and continues through much of the curriculum. Children grow their own food, cook, learn how to make things from scratch and to work together in collaboration. These activities can then be used in other lessons including English, maths and science. Community festivals mark the changing seasons and encourage reverence and thanks for Nature, creating a relationship between children and the natural world that they cherish and carry with them for life.
In Class 3 the children learn about farming and usually spend several days staying on a farm helping with planting, harvesting, feeding the animals, milking the cows and goats etc. The farms work on biodynamic principles so when the children come to learn about wider issues of sustainability they can draw on their first hand experience.
Only natural materials are used in the schools so there is no plastic even in kindergarten where many of the dolls and other toys are made by the teachers and some by the children themselves. Conkers, twigs, leaves are collected to be played with, counted or put on the nature table.
As world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26 we are reminded of our duty to give children and young people an understanding of the natural environment. Many are saying – the BERA commission and others – that it is the responsibility of schools to ‘teach’ them. We agree and say we must not just teach children in the classroom but also make the care of the natural world part of their first hand experience where ever possible. This is the way that children will grow into adulthood understanding the natural worlds’s importance to human existence when it is their turn to be the decision makers, policy makers and caretakers of the world environment.