Up to the age of ten, Teachers should strive to make everything live for the child. Let them make the plants speak, and the animals act as moral beings. Let them turn the whole world into imaginative stories and fables, not as a well-read bookworm, but as creative poets. However interestingly the scholar who has devoured whole libraries may tell a story, the child will yet smell the parchment, which betrays the pedant. But artists, who think for themselves, have creative force in their words and pass this onto the children. Dr. Steiner described a vivid picture of the Teacher hurrying off to School with a new story to tell the children and how their faces radiated in the listening of it, as they were themselves part of the story.
Stories are the medium through which the world and all the things in it are communicated to primary school children and the art of story creation and storytelling is something that teachers are encouraged to develop. If only you could realise what an immense difference there is between merely reading a story and making up one yourself! However many stories you may at first read and then retell your children, they will not have the same impact as stories invented by yourselves, even if your own efforts are far inferior to the existing stories. It is this imaginative process of creating, the living element, which will communicate itself and work on the child.
There are three types of stories told to the children in primary school:
– Age and Development Appropriate Stories
– Lesson Stories inspired by lesson content
– Curative Stories
All good stories will contain all three of these elements but we will employ the above distinctions as starting points. They may manifest as episodic narratives, fables, legends, myths, poetry and verse, plays, songs or fantasy. Fundamental to locating the content of stories is a thorough understanding of the Primary School Learning Program, based as it is on an understanding of Child Development in those years. This Learning Program or more fondly termed the Curriculum was initially developed at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart and subsequently in Steiner Schools throughout the world. As Steiner Schools spread to other continents, the Euro-centric curriculum always followed. In 1971, Lorien Novalis School was established as Australia’s second Steiner School. Part of its charter was to take into account its regional and local geography and culture. This it did successfully and developed a Learning Program appropriate to its location. Shearwater has continued this lively process and has also developed its own program to include an appreciation of time and place. This creative approach has provided a source of inspiration to teachers who look to local geography, flora and fauna.
Put simply, the truth of a story with local animals – e.g. black cockatoos – will have more impact when children see them fly overhead than a tale of blue jackals in a country where no jackals live. A story involving the black cockatoos witnesses the marriage of the Arts and the Sciences. The truth of the Gang Gangs will reinforce the student’s certainty in the world, the authority of the Teacher and help keep at bay the cynicism of disappointment in adolescence.