“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ~ Albert Einstein
Two innovative practices that make the Waldorf educational approach unique are teachers moving with their students from grade to grade for a number of years rather than teaching a new group of students each year, which fosters trust and depth and models healthy, functional relationships as teachers and students become almost like family, and the daily main lesson, in which one major academic subject at a time is deeply explored for 2 hours each morning for a number of weeks.
A central tenet of our elementary program (and indeed through all the grades of a Waldorf school) is to develop in our students a great capacity for imagination. Creative, critical (in the best sense of the word), and free thinking ("thinking outside the box") is key to success in almost any field, now more than ever.
An example of imagination and creative thought in our elementary program is how we bring the social studies / history curriculum to our students, with an emphasis on rich images rather than memorization of the specific names and dates of historical events. These facts may become important to them someday, but not until a strong foundation of love for learning is achieved within the elementary student. The curriculum is constructed in such a way to evolve with the child’s development as it mirrors the development of humanity over time. Every effort is taken to meet students where they are developmentally, and to appeal to that developmental stage. We strive to present history, science, language arts and even math in such a way that students have an emotional response to the material, and therefore care about it, thus retaining it. We believe every student will want to come to school most every day if we are doing our jobs well.
An indispensable component of our educational program is our emphasis on the arts and their essential relationship to academic success. Students take time and great care to represent their lessons through the arts. We use drawings, modeling wax and clay, watercolor painting, music, reciting poems and classic passages, and performing skits and major class plays to complement our presentation of material. Often the sound of singing in harmony and recorder and ukulele music wafts through campus, creating a feeling of beauty even in the air. Through the arts we find that the subjects are “digested” in a wholly different way, a more thorough and deeper way. The main lesson books that students create daily as a living record of what they have learned become treasures that students keep into adulthood, unlike almost any other school-related work. Who still has anything from elementary school except maybe something from pottery class or a random drawing or writing composition? It makes sense that an organized reminder of essential learning over the course of many years would turn out to be something artistically expressed.
Additionally, movement plays an essential role in the Kona Pacific educational process, as it does with everything alive. Whenever able, teachers use games, dances, and other movement modalities to augment our students' work at their desks. When movement isn't taking place outside on our beautiful campus, desks are often pushed aside to the edges of the classroom to make space in the center of the space to engage our students' kinesthetic learning.
Celebrating seasonal festivals as a way to connect the human being to the cycles of nature is also a wonderful practice in Waldorf education and at Kona Pacific. We mark the passage of seasons with meaningful festivals and events over the course of the school year such as the Festival of Strength and Courage to mark the ending of summer and the entry into the shorter days of autumn; the Halloween Journey, a unique cultural tradition at Kona Pacific that has a new magical theme each year; an evening lantern walk in the darkness of November; a ceremony to mark the beginning of the Makahiki season around Thanksgiving; a winter spiral walk by candlelight in the December time when the light begins to return; a ceremony to mark the ending of the Makahiki season in March; and our annual May Day festival to celebrate the joy of spring which combines traditional Maypole dances with Hawaiian culture. In each of these events we strive to create for our students and families a sense of magic and reverence that are truly memorable.
We feel that all of the visual art, music, drama, movement, and seasonal events we offer our students provide a catalyst for them to absorb the academic, cultural, heart, and life lessons we bring to them. By addressing our student's intellectual, emotional, and physical capacities, we strive for them to become well-rounded, empathic, creative and hard-working individuals who will use all they have learned to “be the change” they wish to see in the world, and help create a kinder and more compassionate humanity. We think they are already succeeding.