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.
Sincerely, Sandra Frain Wise Ways Work: Educational for All Ages
2-6 hour workshops or Multi Day Professional Development
Business to Client Realtionship Support for Early Childhood Educators
Celebrating Individuality while Working Collaboratively
Early Childhood and Family Life ( adults or all ages)
The Joy of Parenting: Rhythm, Routine and Ritual made fun for everyone
Creating a Happy Healthy “Home” based Children’s Education Program
Tricky Transition Times made fun with integrity: Story, Song and Game
Cooking Gardening Crafting
“Rest Times” and how to make them a beautiful experience for all
In Nature (adults or all ages)
Creating experiential “nature” based educational children’s programs
Biodynamic Agriculture as Transformation of Matter
How to make a Sacred soil (Compost )
Making Agricultural Fertilizers to support LIFE in soil, plant, animal & human
Making and application of Tree Pasting for benefit of trees & humans
“Goethean Observation”: Active meditation to deepen our connections to nature and each other
Cooking (adults or all ages)
Alchemy in the Kitchen: Sacred Laboratory
Science and Art of Sourdough Bread baking
Storytelling (adult and youth )
Developing the Storyteller in you for educational and therapeutic benefit
Developing the Puppeteer in you using stories you know or create
Neuro Dramatic Play (adult, youth, children
Multi sensorial for healthy development and healing of grief and trauma
Celebration Creation (adults or youth)
“Preparing the Way: Creating a Meaning-Full Cultural Festival for your Family, Class and Community”
Soul Strengthening for All in your Community (adults or youth)
The meaning of stories with audience- appropriate songs and activities
Choose your own story or Sandra’s suggestion
Songs and craft to support stories
Study Groups (adults and youth)
How to Facilitate Study Groups for individual and community development
Wise Ways Work: educational programs for all ages 12 Azalea Avenue Coff’s Harbour NSW 2450 Australia Phone +61 413 271 308 www.sandrafrain.com skype: sandrafrain58
AN example of my Comprehensive Consulting:
One fine day in March, I was offered the challenge to compose a story for a nine- year old boy living in a state of emotional and social and familial crisis. Particulars about his interests and behaviours, gave me necessary clues for ‘the healing story’. As this boy enjoyed rap artists, I chose that style to convey the message. In further conversations with his mother, I suggested that his bedroom could be considered a ‘safe, go to place’, and it could be adorned accordingly. According to her report, he was chuffed with the ‘poem’ below that had been written especially for him. Months later she reports that he is ‘much better’ and that they still recite parts of the poem together. (I sent audio and visual renditions so that they could ‘live into’ my intent.)
Zip Zip Zippy Green Fluro Fish
Zip Zip Zippy Green Fluro Fish, lives in the depths of the blue, blue sea. His friends are all full of colour like he.
Bright green, Bright green. Bright green now. Zippy knows all the creatures in the vast blue sea. Some of whom take pleasure in knowing he.
Zippy knows what they eat, he knows where they roam. He knows how they sleep, and if they can make foam. With bubbles from the mouth? Body too?
Zip Zip, Zipping all around the sea. Zip Zip Zippy gives all, all, all of his en- er -gy. He is in the know of where a fish should go.
Other fish of his colour, they follow him. Shining, Black eyes. Rimmed with white. Masked-like, the fish, they move like a real- cool – troop.
Swooping, diving, divining along. Flying? Swimming? What a song! Same, same. Same, same. Same, same now.
In the tall, thick, sea-kelp forest of dark. In voluminous ocean swell: Up and down, sway. Zip Zip Zippy and all of his friends, dart, in between.
Waving, bumpy, elongating kelp leaves. Hiding, sliding, all along slimy kelp stalks. Edging, up, up, up so high. The light is shining oh so bright. Hey, is that the sky, all bubbly blue?
And down, down, down again. To the bottom of the sandy sea bed. Zip Zip Zippy, with all of his green friends, slide in and glide out making a green fluro stream. Slip, slip, slipping by. Mercury?
Whoa, here is Massive Octopus waving all eight arms adorned with suction cups: large to small, small. Zip Zip Zippy and his so cool friends Zig zag in a line. Not bothered at all by that massive creature at any time.
Gracious Anemone opens and closes red slender fingers long. Beckoning, beckoning. So long, so long.
The bulky silver fish sloop, sloop, boop, booping along. Every creature changes its’ pace, as adventure is available all over the place. Life hunts life, that is part of the race.
The creatures they hide, where ever they can. Each one, staying alive. As long as it can. Hiding in a crevice of a rock real small. Or, behind a strand of grass growing, oh so tall.
Or, in a dark, dark cave. That is where Zip Zip Zippy gets lost. There he can spy, on to the world, rushing by. As soon as danger is past, out swims Zip Zip Zippy. Free again, at last.
One day, a large dark shadow comes over Zippy’s home. An anchor bounces down into the sand making clouds, a smoky tone. Two enormous creatures splash into the sea. They float and they kick towards our Zi-ppy.
He swims around these two lugs. Testing, testing, testing: are they enemies? He swims toward his fav –our- ite hiding place. It’s the darkest shelter, like outer space.
It’s where he goes when the ocean has a storm and all of the bottom is a churn. Safe, from over-whelm.
There in the cave he is ‘safe’ today. His friends are in their ‘possies’, too. Oh, oh. Those great big swimming ‘things’ invade the resting – cave too.
One is bigger than the other. Oh, oh, oh. What to do? Be still. Be still. Be still now.
Zip Zip Zippy and his friends like he, they hold themselves sooooooo still. The Two, they do lift, this and that. Peering, exposing, and over-turning. Not like anyone Zip Zip Zippy knows before. Zippy fish retreats backwards then into the darkest crevice there.
His white rimmed glossy black eyes peer, and see. Ahh, Phew They are gone. Ahh, Phew they are gone!
Zip Zip Zippy he follows them out of his cave, and all the way. To where the darkened water is, still. Those strange large fish are really gone? Following their bubbles, all along Those same, same clouds in the sand are made as the great chain pulls upward, now.
Zip Zip Zippy sees the colour of his sky does change as the shadow gets moving, moving, moving, all away. If he could hear what is said on the shadow above, it is: ‘Batten down the hatches, there is a storm to clear’. Away, zips the shadow on the water, near. For Zip Zip Zippy, ‘the coast is clear’.
He can swim. He can glide. He can dive. Free again, in the deep blue sea, with his friends so near-by.
April 2, 2017 by Sandra Frain
“Kids in the Kitchen” Monday February 27, 2017 9:30-11:30 am
Lilly Pilly Preschool Kitchen-Lobby 96 Kingsford Drive, Brunswick Heads
- Make the ordinary extraordinary with ritual, story and song
- Take home new tools for happy daily life: creative discipline
- Mindful exploration of the beauty and mystery of foods.
- Active wonder of physics & alchemy for adults and children
Presented by educator Sandra Frain Living Loving Learning and Laughing too: Experiential Educational Programs for all ages.
Thank you all who came and thank you to Lilly Pilly Preschool for hosting our happy event. Here is a rough report of ‘what happened and how it happened’.
Ritual: Handwashing at sink (chair for children to stand on), water in basin and running water for rinse. Adult or children hands dipped into the warm water and Sandra sang: “Fish swim in the water, birds fly in the air. Let me take your hands now and dry them on the towel.” Parents encouraged to make up any song along with any activity.
Aprons, the uniform of the kitchen were donned.
Adults and children gathered around the big table that was loaded with many sizes and colours of pumpkins, and many other vegetables and fruits.
We ‘congealed’ by each adult introducing themselves by name and sharing what they love about being in the kitchen. My offering was that I love the alchemy and transformation of matter, and our very own character, meditate on our task or as we bubble and boil together socially. Some offerings were: loving all the mangoes currently in season; loving berry smoothie making in a purpose blender; loving being with children to cook; loving getting produce from the garden to cook; frightened of all the food issues and food as a result; resisting being in the kitchen and wanting to love it more and share that with children.
I promised a morning of balance of ‘in breathing’ and ‘out breathing’ as ‘Steiner Education’ models. Another imagination is, form and chaos and form again as creation of LIFE implies.
Some ‘out breathing’: some chaos ensued as we circled around the table, even hopping up to chairs, singing ‘around and around and around we go, where we go nobody knows and around and around and around we go.” This was a song I made up to go with peeling an orange in a spiral and of course it can be applied to any circular movement. We have much laughter as we circled around the table, passing each other’s chairs and trying to keep holding hands while moving, we twenty individuals.
As I held up the orange skin spiral we could marvel at being able to show children this ‘line’ made from a circle, that drapes into spiral form most naturally! Physics in Motion. Participants shared of their peeling apples as such by knife and by apple spiral machine.
Apples and cucumbers were passed around. Could ‘stars’ on the skins of the produce be seen? A reminder, that the stars and planets are shining day and night and helping to form our flowers and fruits. Satrs on the inside perhaps? Or a flower shape? Hmm. We smell the fruit and really feel it in our hands. Carefully passing it to a friend next to us. I spoke of the membrane of skin that covers our body and resembles the skin of an orange, or the covering of the ocean we see from the sky. There are so many analogies and this makes ‘food’ exciting to behold and have a natural reverence for.
A white 50-cent-size blob is passed around the circle. What can it be? One person knows: ‘a baby spider sac’. Sandra tells a story of its source: spotted as it was atop a pumpkin at the Carrera market in Tweed Heads from whence the pumpkins that each looked like a large cap, were purchased. That leads in to the story of the ‘caps for sale’ story to remind parents that children learn from imitation. (Monkeys stealing caps and then returning them to cap peddler when he throws his own cap on the ground).
Pumpkins were passed around and people asked to consider the weight and shape and ask the question “how did this grow? Once it was a seed beginning its life in the dark, then the light and by root and stem and leaf and then flower: Wowee! A pumpkin strong and coloured and odd shape have we. A comment, “I just now get how it attaches to the flower before becoming fruit: calyx!”
Eggs on display on the table were fondled by passing children who remarked on how they loved holding warm eggs and referred to their own chooks. Children at the table were presented with a large glass bowl and a fork. Children crack each egg with adult assistance. “Let me help you, rather than let me do it for you”. Our aim is relaxation and happiness and a development of wonder for food substance and capabilities in the kitchen.
Here is an opportunity for children to see alchemy, as an egg is cracked, separated, and the white is beaten until bubbles appear and more and more frothy is it. Then they can beat the egg whites themselves, and all at the table participate! No resemblance is the final product to the original slimy translucent egg white. The golden suns are in their own bowl. Later, both are poured together into a fry pan for an omelette. Mmm.
Can our goal be ‘food on the table’ and ‘happy healthy process’ rather than ‘fear for perfection’. Each of us may enjoy or not enjoy particular foods. Let us respect each other’s tastes and learn the art of polite individualization. ‘That looks interesting, what might that be?’ rather than ‘YUCK’ as is a story from my sister’s family. Trying a wee bite is sufficient in the world of trying new foods. Can we support children learning intuitively what may be healthful for them? Many of we adults have damaged that inner sense of ‘knowing’.
Let us be wary of becoming narrsistic and encouraging that in our children. Let us balance that self -care with much community work by caring for others.
Pumpkins are chosen to carve, and children who want to help, have their hands around a knife, adult hand over child’s. It is important for children to learn the respect of these tools that do meaningful work. What a frustrating experience it is to try to use the knives and scissors are that are made for children’s autonomy but do not give satisfaction of cutting cleanly and effectively. Children do not want to cut themselves and do learn respect in knife and scissor handling if given the opportunity. A story of ‘a knife’ is told, exemplifying that children KNOW that there is ‘spirit in matter and matter in spirit’. Telling a story of a particular object or behaviour is a way of us teaching ‘respect’ to tools and all in life.
An adult shares her discomfort at holding the slimy innards that surround the pumpkin seeds. We discuss the value of ‘hands on’ to really experience sensory learning that affects our cognitive development in a way that merely hearing the worlds does not accomplish. Adults modelling tactile experience with food stuffs and nature, demonstrates a willingness the children may adopt and be all the healthier for it.
A jar of cream is passed around and we sing, “Come butter come, come butter come, if you don’t hurry your going to be late and I’m going to beat you to the garden gate”. And around and around the circle the jar goes, from one adult to one child shaking, as it goes. YES “voila’ the cream has separated and become a golden blob of rich butter, and the remaining milk is, delicious and sweet.
The group energy is now split as adults and children cut fruit and pumpkins and toast sourdough bread, and set the table for a colourful feast. The children are playing with a side board of grains too, pouring the rye and wheat from one source into empty vessels. Some parents and children go outside to forage for herbs for the baking pumpkin and seeds.
What a community event it feels. A sigh, as a beeswax candle is lit to the song: ” Candle light candle bright coming down to earth. Shining light on our table oh how beautiful and bright”.
Plates are laden with personal choices as platters are passed around the table.
‘Merry’ is made, with chatter a plenty. More, more, more. ‘Let’s do it again’, they say. And so our date is made for sourdough bread and cream cheese and butter making on March 13th Monday. As many ‘ooed and awed’ seeing the cream cheese and butter being made, and tasting the homemade wild yeast bread.
And the people disperse, and the people clear the table and wash and dry dishes. More community feeling being made. Leftovers going home with those who stayed to the very last moment.
Respectfully reported, Sandra Frain