Summer lingers a little longer, though the sun is disappearing behind these majestic mountains a little earlier each evening, reminding me that autumn will arrive soon. Mountain Song Community School is humming with activity again as teachers prepare classrooms and curricula, families tour the school, and enrollment paperwork arrives on our desks. We are again preparing to welcome students and families for the start of a vibrant new school year.
I have been reflecting on the fact that in order to prepare anything, we need the capacity to anticipate, to think into the future, to imagine. The Waldorf approach at Mountain Song places the development of imagination high on the list of capacities we cultivate in students. It is why we teach through story-telling rather than videos. When we hear a story, we create pictures in our own minds rather than having them imprinted upon us. This inner mental activity requires support and a nurturing environment. The premise that “a young child’s work is play” is based on the understanding that imagination is cultivated through play. Children start to picture and act out of their inner imagination. Children whose environment is filled largely with video images also picture those and act them out, yet they are denied the joyful practice and necessary neurological development of creating their own images themselves.
Our students’ capacities for imagination are also cultivated by Waldorf teachers through observation and engagement with nature so that children become able to picture natural phenomena in their mind’s eye. Through our formal science studies, we deepen observational skills of natural phenomena (plant life, weather, physical processes, chemical reactions) to help develop “exact imagination,” the capacity most scientists have to form relatively accurate mental pictures of the natural world. It is in fact through being able to observe and picture a phenomenon internally that scientists form hypotheses or “speculative leaps of imagination.”
Employers consistently report that they seek new hires with creative problem-solving and innovating abilities. These require a well-developed capacity to imagine, to anticipate, to create, and to literally see things through to reality.
And so we at Mountain Song are fully committed to helping develop these capacities in our students. We are also currently engaged in these activities of imagination ourselves — we are preparing for the students, picturing how they will move and respond and learn in our classrooms, getting supplies ready, and anticipating the school again being joyfully filled with our community of young people. We so look forward to the new academic year!
Please look through our Songbird newsletter for the upcoming events, calendars, schedules, and announcements that will help you prepare for the new school year.
Teresa M. Woods, Ph.D.