The following observations stem from experiences gained as a teacher at the Freie Waldorfschule in Stuttgart. The lessons concerned with here are those given in the seventh class.
During the first three years of school life the child has been led from an atmosphere of a fairy-tale world through a description of nature, highly rich in fantasy, to Man. From the fourth to the sixth school years a suitable grounding in the knowledge of human nature is given — ‘Menschenkunde’ — as well as an insight into the Animal, Plant and Mineral kingdoms.
Having been led this far, in a natural way, the child, now in the sixth class, is taught the basic principles of Physics; followed in the seventh class by Chemistry. Thus the child has been taken in a gradual and regulated manner from a hitherto world of the spiritual, of abstract and living matter, to the events of the material world.
So it is at this stage that the child is introduced to the basic concepts of the chemical processes in nature. The teaching should be so organized that the ideas and impressions gained can grow and mature with the child, as suggested by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. The child then takes this knowledge with him throughout the entirety of his school life, a knowledge which will be steadily widened &nd supplemented from the confirmation of new experiences. Even as early as Goethe’s teachings of natural science such a basis was employed. It is with these thoughts in mind that the teacher must educate the child’s soul, for it is not merely his task to impart a knowledge of facts, but also to germinate, as it were, the child’s soul so that all knowledge gained can continue to work and grow throughout his earthly life.
The usual text books on Chemistry lend little help in this direction, as they frequently deal with more advanced material taught in the higher classes. For an elementary grounding in the subject a way must be found that will appeal more to the soul nature of the child, and it is hoped that these essays will give a guidance to this ‘way’. Only thus will the child be able to reach a proper understanding of the chemical processes in nature. The real scientific facts will always be there whatever, and it is only through a very simple beginning coupled with the right foundations that a true understanding of the subject will be able to grow and expand.
These are the two main points to keep in mind: —
1. All matters should be approached in relation to Man — in this way the knowledge of nature comes alive for the child.
2. At all times a connection should be made with every-day events and realities. It is therefore with these two ideas in mind that every lesson should be conducted. The recognition of the connection between Man and Nature brings a spiritualness into the lessons of natural science, indeed into all subjects! Thus these first elementary chemistry lessons are made a part of the whole teaching curriculum. Each teacher will of course conduct his lessons in his or her own individual way, and the following expositions serve only as one such example and it is hoped that they may give inspiration to the reader.
E. Kolisko – Stuttgart 1932
Translated and revised from the forward to the original German publication by A. Clunies-Ross, January 1978.
- ELEMENTARY CHEMISTRY