Arriving in Movement

Hildegard Wänger

It's Tuesday, just after eight o'clock. Thirty-five first-year pupils stand impatiently in line, waiting to be greeted by Sabine Zaha and let into the classroom. Theresa whispers with her friend and tries to catch a glimpse of the inside of the room. «Hopefully there will be the tower to jump down again», she murmurs.

Her wish will be fulfilled. In the classroom, not only the tower for jumping awaits, but also a course with different tasks. Four first-year pupils built it together with Sabine Zaha the day before. Currently twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the year one room is transformed into a Moving Classroom: tables, beams, ladders, cushions and cloths are used to create a course whose structure varies each time, but its elements are usually similar. Stations for climbing, balancing, hopping, crawling, sealing and jumping are always there, alternating in order and difficulty. «The course shows where the class is at the moment. What do the children require, where do they still have a need for development, what can help them to grow, become braver and more skilful?» explains Sabine Zaha, who would love to start every morning with the Moving Classroom. «It is much nicer for the children to arrive here in movement than to have to sit down straight away», she says.

Since 2009, the Moving Classroom has been an integral part of lower school at the Gröbenzell Waldorf School. It was introduced by the class teacher Ingeborg Tinhofer in her then year one, which graduated from school last year. The concept was developed at the Bochum Rudolf Steiner School in the 1990s as the result of an innovation process. At that time, a group of the teaching staff looked at the question of what skills children need when they come to school and defined five characteristics: attentiveness, impulse control, independence, cooperation skills and a sense of time. At the same time, however, the teachers noticed that fewer and fewer children had developed these skills by the time they started school. Behavioural and learning difficulties were the result.

In response to the question of what school must offer so that children can still develop the missing competences, thus avoiding behavioural and learning difficulties occurring in the first place, the concept of the Moving Classroom was invented. It is now used in years one and two at around 400 of the 1,100 Waldorf schools worldwide, and some schools have also developed more advanced concepts. At the Waldorf teacher training seminars there are special training courses on the Moving Classroom, which the teachers from Gröbenzell also attended.

Imagination, movement and learning, how does that go together? A question to which Waldorf education has good answers. Here the physical and psychological development of the children and young people has always been promoted beyond the cognitive side. Learning is done with all the senses, with body, mind and soul. Thus, a child's first learning experiences are movements such as grasping, crawling, standing up and walking. Through them, they gain self-confidence and independence. The concept of the Moving Classroom is to encourage the children to experience different senses through movement games. Alternating between rest and movement, reflection and activity should form the basis for this. «It is remarkable to see the possibilities the concept offers to support the learning process. Balancing promotes concentration, hopscotch boxes help with counting, letters can be traced by touch or walked», explains Sabine Zaha.

Combining movement and learning requires a suitable room and furniture that can be used in a variety of ways. The hard-wearing seat cushions can be stacked up to form stairs and hills, islands or obstacles. The tables become platforms and towers, straight or sloping planes, caves and bridges. And if you turn the table upside down, you can also balance on the bar. Additional elements such as ladders, beams and cloths supplement the school furniture. And beautiful wooden boxes filled with sand in which the children can draw with their fingers are also part of it – a wonderful sensory experience.

A good half hour has passed, almost all the children have gathered in the middle on the carpet after their last circuit and are looking at their reading books in which their parents have written words for them in colourful capital letters. «Coming together in the middle at the end is very important. The children come to rest, it is crowded, after the free movement they feel the touch of their classmates to left and right and they have to be able to tolerate that as well», says Sabine Zaha. When it has become quiet, she gives the signal to dismantle and tidy up. The course quickly turns back into a year one classroom with cushions in front of the tables. The arithmetic main lesson can begin. It is a good start to the school day when the class has already completed many tasks with fun and success.


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