In the Waldorf curriculum, art is the vehicle for so many things – artistic skills, academic skills, soul development, the development of the feeling life. And I find it can often carry a pedagogical story better than straight storytelling in the home environment. Not much is often said about this, so I wanted to share an experience I had with you.
Many have commented that pedagogical stories don’t work exceedingly well in the home environment. This makes perfect sense! When a child hears a story about a situation in a classroom of thirty children, it has a much different effect than one child at home thinking, “That is me!” and feeling….irritated or pointed out. It is anything but a sideways approach that is so valued for helping those under 9 in the Waldorf curriculum. If you would like to learn a little more about pedagogical stories and their place in the curriculum, there is a lovely post about the use of fairy tales from Bright Water Waldorf School. There is also a lovely book by Susan Perrow called, “Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior.”
However, I think stories in artistic form, such as in painting and other areas, are often a wonderful way to provide these sorts of experiences. I often plan an artistic experience such as painting as a foray into the feeling world, and what better a bridge to the heart than these arts?
We have been working with a story this week about “The Parrot and The Fig Tree” this week. It is a sweet Jataka tale about the steadfastness of a beautiful parrot not leaving his friend the fig tree when times become troubled, and what rejoicing when things are all wonderful again! The refrain in the story is, “My tree, I’ll not leave you.” We have used this story for form drawing and for writing the refrain, in reviewing letters and in reading what we wrote.
I took a cue from this story for our painting time and made up an on the sport story to go with our painting that really was a pedagogical tale about constant chattering. Knowing the qualities of the beautiful and luminous colors of paints is helpful, but I find the qualities most often portrayed can be adjusted…For example, red is often portrayed as roaring and racing color that is bouncing around. However, I potrayed red as a solid color, sitting up in a tree listening to the forest (much like the choleric needs to listen to those around him in order to be a good leader, which is the pedagogical part of this story for my little second grader), just like the red parrot sat in the fig tree in our story. At this point we painted a red ball in the middle of the page.
Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun. The forest was so dense; the trees were concerned the sunlight couldn’t reach them. Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun but he had to sit so very still in order to hear all of this from the trees. We painted blue around the red ball, but not touching red.
The trees around him were a quiet blue and talked so softly, so red had to listen so very hard. After he heard, red thought about a way to solve the problem the trees were having…if only he were still and thought about the golden sun coming down on the top of the trees, and the sun reaching and expanding in his own heart, the trees would have sunlight (painting yellow over the blue to make green) and the trees would have lush, green leaves. The implication, but not said, is that this all happened because red listened so mightily both to those around him and their needs and to what was inside himself. It is a strong thing to listen.
So, sometimes we come in with an idea that in our lesson planning book – to paint. We may even have something living in us at the moment (the parrot and the fig tree) that we can riff off of like a jazz band player taking off for a solor. But then we must look at the child in front of us, and use these things in a pedagogical way for the health of our children. This is the art of education.
Happy school days,