Outdoor education at Raphael House is practical, beautiful and relevant to the development of the individual student. Waldorf schools have a twofold advantage in the education of the children in our care: the activation of the will and an extended experience of nature, where all 12 senses are stimulated and understood.
Throughout our school the desire to foster a reconnection with nature is apparent in every class with stories, nature tables, extensive camp opportunities, plays and festivals as the rhythms which guide our school year.
Rudolf Steiner called for Waldorf Schools to educate the whole child, “hands, heart and head”. In our Outdoor Classroom work we bring back into balance the intellectual materialistic thinking that Steiner observed at the beginning of the twentieth century and still prevails today:
“The true aim of education is to awaken real powers of perception and judgement in relation to life and living. For only such an awakening can lead to true freedom.”
Our Kindergarten nurtures the child for three years in the “Sleeping Will” using imitation and interaction with the four elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire to build a healthy relationship to the outer world and allow the inner world of organ development to continue unimpeded by hurried academic learning. Activities include Pine Forest Day, picnics and long walks to wonder at nature.
Lower School Outdoor Classroom activities include tramps, camps, gardening, wood chopping, clay sculpture and outdoor cooking – from pizza ovens to constructing hāngi pits. Morning circle activities in the Lower School such as rākau, whai (string) and clapping games are directed to incarnating the child deep into the temporal body, ‘into the will’ so that clearer thinking can be accessed during the Main Lesson.
In the Upper School regular and increasingly demanding camps and trips place the students in a ‘real’ environment where forces of nature and weather have to be worked around as they forcefully push from the outside. The inner individuality causes the will to be active and exert its self from the inside to complete the activity. Other activities for our teenagers include green wood turning, boat building, copper work, blacksmithing, and bone carving.
The advantage to an Outdoor Classroom is the extended experience of nature that it provides. Not just the passing through nature during a tramp, but the creative and intelligent experience of nature as the materials of the earth are harvested, processed and transformed into useful objects: wool into knitting, flax into weavings, wood into stools and clay into pots.