Allowing students to use their creativity in place of technology provides a different type of educational experience

An innovative type of education is bringing learning back to its roots, unlike the public education system’s emphasis on technology use. It dates back 96 years, first opening its doors in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 and later spreading across the world, making its way to Calgary, Alta. in 1985. The Calgary Waldorf School is a private institution currently located in Cougar Ridge in Calgary’s Southwest.

According to the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) there are nearly 1, 000 Waldorf schools in 83 countries, over 250 of those located in North America. The institution uses creativity as a primary teaching tool and limits technology, as it can be a distraction to students. 

Produced by Cassie Riabko

“Teachers bring the curriculum to the students directly from their own experience and research which makes a living education for them as compared to having the students reading directly out of a book or getting something off of a screen,” says principal and Class Six teacher, Laureen Loree.

Parents of the students attending the school are encouraged by the faculty to limit technology usage at home. As the school relies on the students’ ability to create their own answers and imagery in their minds, they want to ensure that they are not being influenced by outside things. “Children are geared at being creative and when you give them something that is technological it does the thinking for them,” explains Calgary Waldorf parent, Jennifer Bergfeldt.The Rocky Mountains carved in the woodwork sign welcomes guests at the entrance of the Calgary Waldorf School.
Photo by Cassie Riabko

In the digitally dependent world that we live in today this method of education may see, “old fashioned” or out of date when compared to the public education system where the curriculum is technologically infused. The Calgary Waldorf school instead “strives to create a different education from other independent and public schools,” according to their website.

Assistant professor in the Education Department at Mount Royal University, Scott Hughes, has researched foundation principles similar to those used in the Waldorf education system. “In the case of Waldorf, there is a heightened awareness of child development and the aim to make instructional choices that are appropriate to the child’s development; in public education there is a heightened awareness of curriculum documents and the aim to move children along a curricular track,” says Hughes in an email.

Waldorf education is focused on developmental awareness of children and their learning versus having technological elements to be used as learning tools. A distinction that can be found between The Calgary Waldorf School and public education is that technology becomes an example of how learning is focused in the public system.

The Calgary Waldorf School provides the children with what Hughes calls, “developmental appropriateness” in regards to technology, whether that is knitting when they’re in the lower grades or using computers in the higher grades. There is a time and a place for technology especially now that we live in a digital society and the AWSNA respects that.

Waldorf students take a computer class once a week beginning in Grade 7 and transition into twice a week for those enrolled in Grade 8 and 9. The computer classes begin with learning keyboard skills, and shift to word processing, PowerPoint and Excel. In 2014 the school welcomed Internet expert, Jessie Miller to provide an educational insight on Internet safety and responsibility for students in Grades 6 through 9. The Calgary Waldorf School understands the role of technology and does not discount it, but their values continue to focus on the creative needs of the students. Class sizes are small as the school relies on a more intimate setting of education and the teachers move up each grade with their students so they can work to improve their weaknesses and support their strengths.

Art hangs on the walls of the Calgary Waldorf School showcasing the students’ achievements and the school’s theory of implementing the art of creativity as a primary learning tool.
Photo by Cassie Riabko
This intimate and creative type of education doesn’t come cheaply. The annual cost of the education is parallel to the cost of post-secondary, ranging from $5,600 to $10,780 annually. The school does not want their institution to be only available for the wealthy, so they have a financial program in place where they provide families that do not have the funds with financial support to the cost of tuition fees. This allows a more equal opportunity for students to attend the school and provides a creative education without financial discrimination. With the community support provided at the school allowing opportunities for any child to attend, their philosophical and creative teaching methods provide each student with the academic achievement that any student may receive in the public system.

criabko@cjournal.ca


The editor responsible for this article is Caroline Fyvie, cfyvie@cjournal.ca