March 2019: The Nature of Stories
by Andrea Barnes, Nature Immersion Specialist at Alpenglow School
As you know, one of the main Waldorf teaching methods is the sharing and retelling of stories. It’s one of the many beautiful foundational pieces that comes to life on the pages of the main lesson books. Nature stories are a big element of our outdoor learning time, as well. This month, stories really anchored our nature immersion and they unfolded in many different ways, reinforcing their teaching and learning importance.
The Grade 2/3 class heard an oral story while lying in the forest. They were studying ‘hearing and sound’ and our plan was to explore how animals rely on this sense to survive. The story was about a pair of bats on migration - it profiled bat species, the difficulties they face during migration, and how they use echolocation to communicate. The story was followed up with a game where one partner needed to verbally guide their blindfolded partner through a migration route while avoiding all the obstacles and hazards. Stories are relevant and informative.
During the science experiment afternoons, the Grade 1’s and 2’s physically acted out a story on the water cycle. They followed a single water droplet through the cycle and they literally rained down on the landscape, fell on the backs of animals, collected in ponds, and evaporated back up into the clouds. Stories are playful.
The Grade 3/4 class were read a storybook while tucked in together under a large tarp (which represented life under the snow, of course). This class started their unit on ‘life cycles’ (Gr 3) and ‘plants’ (Gr 4) so we wanted to discover how they survived the winter months as we move into spring. The story gave us good information and photos about how difficult the winter world is, right under our feet. We felt our bodies heat up under the tarp while the story was being read. We then played a game of predator / prey where we were snow fleas, spiders, shrews, and our top predator, the weasel. Stories are heard but also felt.
Our Kindergarten and Grade 1/2 class met Lady Spring, in all her spring glory, on March 20th. She was sitting in the forest awaiting their arrival and told a detailed story in character about her arguments with grumpy old man winter. He really did a number on us last month and Lady Spring was convincing him to loosen his hold and let spring arrive. In the end, the children were issued an important challenge to find the first signs of spring, using all their senses, in order to prove to old man winter that they had the skills to mark and celebrate the changing of the seasons. Stories are engaging and magical.
Finally, the Frade 3/4 class were retold a gifted Blackfoot story about the arrival of the first prairie crocus. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually find the flower on this day, but my hope is when they do, they will have a deeper appreciation for its significance. Perhaps, they’ll even feel inspired to share the story too! Stories live in place and come from the land.
"The purpose of storytelling is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” - Brandon Sanderson
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