Change the Environment and You Change the Brain

‘Brain and environment are one, interdependent, reciprocal dynamic process. Change the environment and you change the brain.’

The human brain created Technology that changed the environment that is now changing the brain. In the mid 1800s Emerson, cautious of the industrial revolution, noted; the weaver becomes the web, writes Michael Mendizza, author and founder of Touch the Future, in his blog.

Mendizza, a documentary film maker, has studied media for 30 years. He writes that relating to a screen can be likened to sensory deprivation for children. He says the excessive use of media in early childhood is weakening the core foundation on which learning depends.

Mendizza writes: Screen based technologies are all ‘virtual’. To have an appropriate relationship with a virtual reality one must first have a well-developed physical, emotional, cognitive foundation in what used to be the only reality – natural experience and relationship based and perception. Introduce virtual reality too early, when the natural reality is still forming and you displace, push aside, critical experiences in the development and stabilization of that natural reality.

Read the entire blog, The Weaver Becomes the Web.

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There’s Wisdom Behind the Waldorf Classroom Clapping Games

Childhood clapping games aren’t just fun, they’re brain building.

Research by Dr. Idit Sulkin, of the Ben-Gurion University Music Science Lab, found that young children who naturally play hand-clapping games are better spellers, have neater handwriting, and better overall writing skills.

Clapping and singing, clapping and chanting. There’s a reason these activities are found across all cultures in storytelling, religious ceremonies, solemn rituals, and joyous celebrations, writes Laura Grace Weldon in a Mothering.com blog.

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Literacy Experts: Test-Driven Education Leads to Verbal Decline

As SAT verbal scores continue to drop, researchers are saying that the drop in literacy is connected to the test-centered curriculum.
“In the decades before the Great Verbal Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach.” writes literary critic E.D. Hirsch in a New York Times opinion piece.
Cognitive psychologists believe a content-rich early childhood experience is critical to later verbal confidence. They refer to this as the Matthew Effect, taken from the Scriptures — “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”
In other words, Hirsch writes, The Matthew Effect in language can be restated this way: “To those who understand the gist shall be given new word meanings, but to those who do not there shall ensue boredom and frustration.”
Hirsch’s examples of what constitutes a substantial learning environment are in line with the in-depth, language-rich environment offered in Waldorf education.
Read the entire article, How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores.

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Welcome Back Water’s Edge Families!

We’d like to wish a warm welcome to all our new and returning students as they begin the school year today!  Here is a photo of first grade students waiting to receive roses from the eighth grade students during this morning’s Rose Ceremony:

Let’s all have a safe and happy school year!

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On The Web: Study on the Physical Health Risks of Television on Children

Susan Love has shared with us a message from Janni Nicol of the UK, who forwarded this study from the Early Years News in England:

TV Time an Indicator of Future Health Problems

In a world first study researchers have found that six-year-olds who spent the most time watching television had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes, increasing their chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.

The study, reported in “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association”, showed the increased health risks from each hour a day of television were similar to that associated with an increase of 10 mm HG in systolic blood pressure.  http://www.wmi.org.au/ournews/Pages/Kidsscreentime.aspx

In a world first study researchers have found six-year-olds who spent the most time watching television had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes, increasing their chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.

The study, reported this week in “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association”, showed the increased health risks from each hour a day of television was similar to that associated with an increase of 10 mm HG in systolic blood pressure, researchers said.

The study looked at one and a half thousand 6-to-7-year-old children in 34 primary schools in Sydney. Those who regularly participated in outdoor physical activity had wider average retinal arterioles (arteries behind the eyes) compared to children with the lowest activity levels.

“We found children with a high level of physical activity had a more beneficial microvascular profile compared to those with the lowest levels of physical activity,” said Dr Bamini Gopinath, lead author and senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Vision Research.

“This suggests unhealthy lifestyle factors may influence microcirculation early in life and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.”

Physical activity enhances blood flow and has a positive effect on the linings of blood vessels. Retinal microvascular diameter is a marker for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in adults, but this is the first study to show a sedentary lifestyle in childhood is linked to a narrowing of the vessels in the retina.

On average, the children spent 1.9 hours per day in screen time and 36 minutes a day in organised physical activity. Children with the highest levels of physical activity, just over an hour or more, had significantly wider average retinal arteries than those who spent less than half an hour a day being physically active.

“Excessive screen time leads to less physical activity, unhealthy dietary habits and weight gain,” Dr Gopinath said. “Replacing one hour a day of screen time with physical activity could be effective in buffering the effects of sedentary lifestyles on the retinal microvasculature in children.

“Free play should be promoted and schools should have a mandatory two hours a week in physical activity for children. Parents need to get their children up and moving and off the couch,” Dr Gopinath said. “Parents can also lead the way by being more physically active themselves.”

Co-authors are: Louise A. Baur, Ph.D.; Jie Jin Wang, Ph.D.; Louise Hardy, Ph.D.; Erdahl Teber, Ph.D.; Annette Kifley, M.B.B.S.; Tien Y. Wong, M.D., Ph.D.; and Paul Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Westmead Millennium Institute and the Vision Co-operative Research Centre funded the research.

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May Faire

Title: May Faire
Location: Water’s Edge Waldorf School, 150 W. Bonner Road, Wauconda, IL 60084
Description: Bring the whole family to Water’s Edge to celebrate spring! Maypole dancing, pony rides, crafts, puppet show, live music, delicious home-cooked food and more.

Start Time: 1:00 p.m.
Date: 2011-05-14
End Time: 6:00 p.m.

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On The Web: “There’s a Fire on the Mountain”

As we talk about reforming our educational system, we need to make the arts an educational pillar as foundational as science and math.  Here is a great article by Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead and board member of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, that discusses why the arts are so crucial in education.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mickey-hart/theres-a-fire-on-the-moun_b_839285.html

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Prairie Burn

Students were very excited on Tuesday, as the careful burning of the prairie grasses at the back of the schoolyard was performed. The burn extended beyond the end of the school day and many students remained with their parents afterward to watch the fires dwindle away. This practice is known as “prescribed burning” and helps our prairie grasses thrive. More information on prescribed burning can be found at at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources here.

Prairie Burn, April 2011

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Preschool-Kindergarten Experience

Time is running out to sign up for the last Preschool-Kindergarten Experience for this school year! This is a great way to introduce friends to the Waldorf Experience.

Bring children ages 2 to 5 to experience a Waldorf preschool classroom. Children and parents will start the morning together with bread making. Children will then engage in free play, story time and circle as parents tour the school, learn more about Waldorf education and talk with other parents. Refreshments will be served.

When: Friday, April 1 , 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Where: Water’s Edge Waldorf School, 150 W. Bonner Rd., Wauconda, IL 60084
Please register: (847)526-1372

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On The Web: “Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School”

A new article in Slate Magazine talks about how teaching kids more at younger ages can backfire:

http://www.slate.com/id/2288402/pagenum/all/

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