On May 13, 2017, a large group (20+) of Steiner Early Childhood teachers from Northern NSW/Queensland Region met on the veranda of Pierina Barbaresco’s kindergarten at Casuarina Steiner School.
Marilou Araullo and Julie McVeigh, our regional representatives and key members of ‘The Core Group’ of AARSECE, led and supported us in a review of The Vital Years held in Hobart in July 2016.
Our vibrant discussions included the prevalent food related issues of today. What Rudolf Steiner said about nutrition and society in 1924 is supportive now, as we do active research on what food diet is best for us and our family. Are we inclusive in our ‘Steiner Community’ to all people regardless of their food preferences? How do we meet our own food related fears and those of the children and families we work with? What attitudes must we embody to embrace each child and family, while remaining true to our own values?
Challenges a teacher may experience are lunches, bread baking and share- a- plate social times. How does one graciously host such an event with so many individual needs being expressed? Are we causing stress for the parents of our children when they prepare children’s lunches and plates for social times?
Quote by quote, ‘what Steiner said’ may give us strength. As the principles of biodynamic agriculture and homeopathic medicines are designed to heal and strengthen. That we can meet what may ail us, valiantly. Likewise Steiner’s quotes may embolden us for the daily adventure of feeding ourselves and our community. Allow the quotes and the challenges to be ‘bread for the journey’ rather than ‘lead for the saddlebags’. ’Take what works for you and leave the rest’ is another way to look the topic. Or, ‘live and let live’!
“In 1924, following repeated requests, Rudolf Steiner agreed to give a series of lectures to farmers in what was then Eastern Germany. These farmers had already noticed the deterioration of plant and animal health due to chemical fertilization. They wanted to know how to strengthen the vitality and forces of their crops and livestock. This course of lectures became the foundation for the Biodynamic Method of agriculture.” Roderick Shouldice, Foreword AGRICULTURE (Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of AGRICULTURE) by Rudolf Steiner, Edited by Malcolm Gardner 1993 Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association,Inc. Kimberton PA U.S.A
Our challenge as ECE teachers: are we educating ourselves in Biodynamics and ensuring that our school gardens are thus invigorated so that we can support ourselves and the people who grace our school? (93 years after Steiner gave his Agriculture lectures we are experiencing the crisis of our deteriorated crops and animals manifesting as a crisis of human health. )
“In the lecture on ‘Nutrition and Health’ Rudolf Steiner examines nutrition specifically from the perspective of health and healing and how a detailed knowledge of the spiritual as well as the materialistic constitution of the human being and of the substances in nature is necessary if proper remedies are to be found. What is poison in one context can heal a person in another. However, specifically with regard to diet, he also makes the subtle point that the positive or negative effect of the food we eat –if we move to a vegetarian diet, for example- depends as much on the harmony between our physical and spiritual organism as the actual food itself, that the material change also needs to be accompanied by spiritual development. The human being must also be looked at in the round. “ Christine von Arnim compiled and edited NUTRITION: Food Health, and Spiritual Development from the work of Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner Press 2008 & 2012, Hillside House, The Square, Forest Row England.
Our challenge as ECE teachers is to understand that nutrition and health cannot be ‘prescriptive’. We must act as scientists, observing the children in our care and supporting them as best we can within our mandate to ‘free their spirit’ from the burdens of our tendency as adults to ‘materialistic’ thinking. For example in our modern society we have a tendency to de-nature our grains and dairy ‘products’ into ‘gluten and lactose ’ issues. What does this mean to a child (or any of us?). If we embrace grains and dairy as beautiful gifts from our mother earth’s bounty, then to eat or not eat them may be a personal choice that is dependent on our needs or expression of individuality at a particular time of our life.
“The more we are compelled or advised to have some extra kind of food — or altogether anything special — the more unsocial we become. The significance of the Last Supper is that Christ gave the same to all of his disciples and not something special to each one. Making it possible to be together as human beings when eating or drinking has a great social significance, and anything that might tend to repress this healthy tendency should be treated with some caution.” page 199 of Nutrition and Stimulants by Rudolf Steiner Published by Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association/PA 1991
Our challenge as ECE teachers is to respect the individuality of the children and their families in regard to food and yet maintain a healthy happy social mood in the school. There are many ‘stories’ about Rudolf Steiner and his somewhat humorous answers when he was questioned about particular diets or foods by well- meaning anthroposophists. The quote above indicates his caution that we become so precious about our diets that we become anti -social. Now that particular diets have become more prevalent we are in danger of losing our soci-ability to‘break bread’ together. What tools do we have to assist us to be mediators of a healthy social fabric?
We are given guidance to assist us in our consciousness, (and perhaps repentance) in regard to ‘food issues’. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask divinity, (our Father)“Give us this day our daily bread (to sustain us physically) Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (our etheric environmental community) And lead us not into temptation (our astral challenges of impulses and desires) But deliver us from evil (our ego need to express our independence may be at the expense of others)” The Lord’s Prayer: An Esoteric Study, by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press,Inc. New York 1970, 1977
Our challenge as ECE teachers is to ‘rise to the occasion’ of these food/social issues of our times and develop our own spiritual and moral strength to lead and guide the people in our care. Perhaps the ‘illnesses of childhood’ will provide ‘destiny situations’ for ourselves and other adults in the childrens’ lives. Perhaps our children are the catalyst for us to work with the spiritual world both individually and together.
Thank you to all meeting participants for this lively discussion. I hope that I have done our conversation justice with the above research and ponderings.