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Waldorf News

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Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework

“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.” This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the homework debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value. When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent. For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, homework provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. “The research is very clear,” agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.” More »

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Let the Games Begin!

The Olympic torch was just lit in Greece. It will now begin its journey around the world to arrive just in time for the Summer Olympics in Brazil. It is just over thirty years ago that the fire of this ageless impulse ignited the imaginations of Thom Schaefer and Jaimen McMillan to develop a version of a Greek Festival for 5th grade children. These educators were searching to create a bridge from childhood play to adolescent athletics. They were inspired by the imagination given by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner that fifth grade children are “little Greeks.” Together they designed this unique, non-competitive model that fosters cooperation without compromising the quality of movement of the basic five Greek disciplines. More »

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Attention, students: Put your laptops away

As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way. For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it's so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run. More »

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Chinese Thought

Pioneering Waldorf teacher and poet Ningyuan Yu recently taught an elective block in Chinese History and Philosophy – a vast topic for just one block! Students experienced aspects of Chinese culture through movement, song, art, poetry, mapping and puzzles. The difference between Chinese thinking and American thinking, says Ning, can be felt in simple yet profound elements of daily life, such as the way parts of speech are ordered in a sentence or the use of numbers in decision-making. More »

Why Did Waldorf Middle School Students Beat Hopkins Engineers at Their Own Game?

A group of 4 middle school girls from the Waldorf School of Baltimore earned an honor they will never forget. After besting seven middle school teams at designing a structure made entirely of marshmallows and spaghetti, they topped that achievement by winning First Place against Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering students and alumni. More »