Waldorf Education in the Berkshires for over 40 years
Media Contact: Robyn Coe
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7th and 8th grade students deliver unique Chemistry, Biology and Physics Projects
(Berkshires, MA) January 30, 2013—Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School (GBRSS) welcomes the community to the 5th annual Student Science Fair and Open House, Wednesday, February 26 at 7pm in the school auditorium at 35 West Plain Road, Great Barrington. Independent science fair projects, in which students work with a mentor who has expertise in their area of interest, allow a student to choose their own topic from earth science, physics, chemistry or biology. Their project can be an experiment (How do different fertilizers affect plant growth?), an exploration (What are the therapeutic applications of hypnosis?) or a design project (constructing a robotic arm). This year, close to 50 GBRSS 7th and 8th graders will demonstrate projects on diverse topics, including many that concern conservation and “green” solutions to everyday problems, such as how pollution affects coral reefs, building an underwater house and creating a model ecosystem–providing a firsthand opportunity to explore how students learn science at GBRSS. To join the open house the same evening, contact Tracy Fernbacher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-528-4015, x. 106.
In the GBRSS classroom, science is first and foremost observation—Leading the Science Fair this year is Waldorf teacher Rick Shrum, who studied Marine Biology at University of California at San Diego, and worked as a marine biologist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He received his MA in Neurobiology from University of California at Santa Cruz. Beginning his PhD, Shrum found out about Waldorf education by attending a Waldorf school fair, where he saw students’ main lesson books open on a table and thought, “Wow, this is a whole different way of looking at science!” He started his career as a science teacher in the Rudolf Steiner High School in Manhattan, and joined the faculty at Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School in 1996, where he specialized in middle school grades, as well as working in the Great Barrington Waldorf High School. Shrum says GBRSS teachers approach science in the classroom “by taking a phenomenological approach, starting an experiment—let’s say the production of hydrogen gas—with the experience of a phenomenon. Students make a detailed observation, and from there, draw conclusions, formulating a concept based on their experience rather than starting with a concept as a given, which keeps their sense of wonder and imagination active. I tell the students, ‘It all starts with a question, and your curiosity.’”
Authentic Learning in the Berkshires—Voted Best School in the Berkshires in 2013 by Berkshire Record Readers’ Choice, the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School provides a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to learning for students from early childhood through early adolescence. Parent-Child, Nursery and Kindergarten classes take place in a specially designed early childhood building equipped with natural playthings and surrounded by gardens, fields and woods. On the other side of the 32-acre campus, the elementary school for first- through eighth-grade students (from the Berkshires, northern Connecticut and New York’s Columbia County) provides a balance of rigorous academics and the arts, preparing children for their choice of high school and college. One of more than 1,000 Waldorf schools worldwide and part of a movement of independent schools developed in the early twentieth century by Austrian scientist, educator and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School operates from the core understanding that engaging all aspects of the human being—intellectual, physical and spiritual—provides a truly well-rounded education.