Waldorf News

Educating Children for the Journey: Jack Petrash at TEDxRockCreekPark

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Our world is changing at a rapid and dramatic pace. Every decade brings technological advances and unforeseen social change. So how can we prepare our children for a world we can’t envision? In this riveting TEDx Rock Creek talk, veteran Waldorf teacher, Jack Petrash makes the case that the best way to do that is to educate our children to develop three essential capacities: a capacity for vibrant and vigorous activity, a capacity for a sensitive and yet resilient emotional life, and a capacity for clear, focused, original, thinking.

In order to develop these three capacities, we must educate our children in a multidimensional way in school. The place to begin is through self-directed play with the young child. Play is the wonderfully creative work of early childhood. When young children play, they are focused, attentive, and completely involved in what they are doing. This is a characteristic of genius and innovative individuals often keep this playful nature intact throughout their lives.

The second way to educate children for the future is through art. In the grade school it is possible to teach all of the academic subjects in a manner that integrates art. In doing so we create an educational program that addresses a child’s need to be engaged imaginatively and emotionally in each lesson.

When we teach children through a foundation of active play and a solid framework of artistic experiences, we help them develop the third essential ability, a capacity for dynamic, curious, and original thinking, a thinking that enables our children to ask the questions that are still waiting to be asked.

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have created a standards-driven educational system that only asks our children to use half of their human intelligence, just the left side of their brains. And sadly, fifty percent is a failing grade by any standard. Our children deserve more, much more.

Jack Petrash, is an educator with over thirty years of classroom experience (currently his fourth class at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Maryland) and a teacher of teachers. He is the founder and director of the Nova Institute, which seeks to bring  fresh insights into parent and teacher education through a deeper understanding of children. He has written extensively on education and parenting, and has served on the editorial board of the journal ‘Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice.’ He is the author of ‘Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out’; ‘Covering Home: Lessons on the Art of Fathering from the Game of Baseball,’ which received the National Parenting Publication’s gold award; and ‘Navigating the Terrain of Childhood: A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline.’ He has worked with parents and teachers all over the country, and his parenting pieces have appeared in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio.

The title photo is from the Honolulu Waldorf School.