Seeing the unseen is possible in Waldorf education

A recent main lesson of Physics with class 6 at Gaia taught me amongst other things that observation alone is the key to pondering the infinite, to teaching the mind how to perceive beyond human knowledge.
Rudolf Steiner has been known to contend that the source and foundation of the cosmos is an infinite, eternal, benevolent, loving, personal, cosmic being or God. A beautiful contention,the existence of an all-spirit being. One can imagine the beginning of creation, and then there was light, itself an infinite source of life. So behind life and the physical world of matter, there is an energy, a spirit force. A light.
We began our main lesson by studying sound. Listening to sounds around us and then to the silence. We discovered to our surprise that silence, real silence, was almost impossible. For our own breathing or the wind was always there. But what caused these sounds and how did they affect our feelings? Some caused us to jump in fear, others soothed us and others made us dance. The listening to the world around us became a real challenge, for we realised we don’t always hear each other properly. Sound took on a new life, It’s hidden spirit qualities became manifest. There was something greater to the physical vibrations we were hearing and not hearing. We began comparing the difference between noise and music. The children also made their own instruments as part of the main lesson work.
Then we studied light and warmth and how they are interwoven. The light of the sun or a candle, somehow there is always warmth near light or causing light. Friction or energy…the strike of a match, the burning of gases, Every time however the observation of the children was called upon….simply the question, what did you see? And later the conclusions……we don’t really see light, but merely its reflection….light can be reflected……light travels in straight lines…..images can be inverted when light is reflected at angles…..shadows are the interruption of light, and so forth. Certain objects are opaque, others translucent and others transparent, but why is that? So through physics we become aware of the unseen, but keen observation is needed. We stare at a colour and move our eyes quickly to a white page and the after image of that colour appears as a different colour. (Try it!) What? How is that possible? They eye creates its own colour? Again we are experiencing the unseen. Through physics.Like the rainbow in the sky….it’s there but then it’s not there. The illusion, the confirmation if you like of another world, the infinite, the eternal, the cosmic being.
Most exciting of all is the reaction of amazement which infuses the enthusiasm of the children when learning a new main lesson like physics. Enlivening the classroom and the teaching experience.
Happy holidays and next time you look into your winter fire or candlelight, look closely and you’ll be amazed at what you see when you really look.
Matthew Stodel
Class six teacher