Middle School Students Apply Academics through Hands-On Learning Experiences

Our Middle School students at OVWS are engaged in many new “hands-on” learning experiences that are innovative in Waldorf Education. As we continue to work on mastery of traditional academic skills like algebra and writing, the practical and socially relevant application of these new abilities is important for young people today. Through “place-based” learning, which focuses on local environmental resources and project-based learning which focuses on community problem solving for present needs, students can become naturally engaged and work with a sense of purpose that lays a foundation for service leadership and civic responsibility.

One example of this includes a revolutionary new “Math for Sustainability” workshop taught by Waldorf visiting teacher and math specialist Tracy Gillespie in the 8th grade main lesson for the month of January. The eighth graders are working on issues such as “peak oil,” energy consumption, alternative energy sources, and the  global economy through the lens of sustainability. These concepts and skills are applied in the outdoor classroom on the eighth grade class trip expedition and trips to sustainability homesteads in our area.

Then in English class the 7th and 8th graders will be working on the question of “Racisim in America.” Their study is driven by the 2016 Vermont Hildene Lincoln essay contest for 8th graders, in which students are asked to respond to the question, “Why do you think racism persists in America: what factors contribute to its persistence and how can these factors be addressed in order to move the country toward a more perfect union?” Guided by President Abraham Lincoln’s biography and values, the Hildene essay contest challenges young people to think creatively and communicate clearly and with persuasive argument about questions that can change the world. (The Hildene Lincoln Estate is a learning center for sustainability and cultural renewal in Manchester, VT.)

~ Pedagogical Chair Linda Weyerts