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A 21st century model of Waldorf education

Foto: Tobias Ohls.

Interviewing Veronica Blix Myrsell, principal at Hagaskolan and Andrew Sebzda,
Waldorf educator, teacher and leading educator at Hagaskolan.

Nestled in natural elements, surrounded by woods and close to the water, the geography of Hagaskolan nourishes the environmental interests at the heart of Waldorf principles. Waldorf is founded in a holistic model centered on humanities, natural sciences, artistic subjects and crafts. The current school theme is Sustainability, Health and Ethics.

Veronica Blix Myrsell, principal of Hagaskola since October 2016, originally began working at the school as a teacher in 2011.

– Last year, we worked with sustainability and health, among other things, by having discussions in the classes based on the new guidelines from the National Food Agency where sustainability and awareness of food and diet is to be addressed in school in connection with meals. From earth to table, Myrsell says.

A family atmoshpere

When I visited the school, I observed that the environment felt very free. She pointed out that this “freedom” was actually a result of a well developed structure within the Waldorf approach.

– People who visit our school describe how they are captured by a kind of “family atmosphere” and the students’ openness and self-understanding. I think that everyone who works with us helps to build confidence and the feeling is that our school is a place where everyone can and will learn for life. It’s not just about achieving goals or meeting expectations. It’s about being able to prepare for life and daring to make a difference. It is our biggest wish to make them feel hopeful and ready to engage in adulthood, especially important today given the challenges ahead of us globally.

It’s not just about achieving goals or meeting expectations. It’s about being able to prepare for life and daring to make a difference.

Andrew Sebzda has been teaching in Waldorf schools for 23 years. In our talk, he reflected on anthroposophy and the development of the Waldorf philosophy over the last century since the first Steiner school was founded on September 19, 1919 in Stuttgart.

– Steiner came up with an idea of a different way to educate children, he notes. The Waldorf curriculum, with all it’s vast and amazing themes, is supposed to help children in their physical and mental development. Waldorf education keeps a child healthy. Ethics are practiced from the first grade with different games and storytelling where social development is in focus.

Sebzda’s passion as a Waldorf educator is clear as he explains the pedagogy.

– The Waldorf educational philosophy is learning by doing, he shares. When you do something with your body, when you engage fully, you really learn. We want to teach children to understand the world. The question is how we do that? The first is play. Playtime is very important. We let children play for as long as possible. Physical movement is very important. Then, sensory skills as well as skills for language, imagination, creativity, motivation, concentration, ethics and morals.

”Need to be a step ahead”

Waldorf is an educational philosophy as well as a global community.  There is the philosophy that unites the schools across the world, but also characteristics that set them apart. One of the truly unique aspects of Hagaskolan is that they have taken an exemplary move to incorporate an entirely plant-based menu.

– They decided that this is the future for a change, Sebzda noted. If we are to survive in this beautiful world of ours we need to make changes and those changes need to be radical.

– We believe that we need to be a step ahead, rather than following a mainstream, with a holistic and sustainable idea with regard to the situation today, Myrsell says.

Myrsell shared that what continues to fuel her is always questioning how “we can inspire and motivate the children of tomorrow.”  Inspiration and motivation truly are keystones at Hagaskolan, a place where the Waldorf spirit and philosophy is not only preserved but also beautifully advanced for our relationship with the world today.

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