The first Waldorf kindergarten was opened in Stuttgart in 1926. Waldorf kindergartens work on the basis of the Waldorf pedagogy developed by Rudolf Steiner. Important foundations of the concept of a Waldorf kindergarten are rhythm, free play, role model and imitation, healthy nutrition and the care of the lower senses as well as the child’s imagination. Important elements in the Waldorf kindergarten are the meals prepared together, the free play, the round dance, the season table, the celebration of the annual festivals, preschool work, eurythmy, watercolour painting, crafts and handicrafts.
Waldorf Kindergartens have Play Kitchens, Play Shops, Workbench with tools, Craft materials including modelling clay, Blocks and Dolls.
The catchphrase “Learning through play” does not encapsulate the Waldorf Kindergarten.
The origin of HighScope is in the failure of state education in deprived neighbourhoods of the USA in the 1960’s. It is the USA version of a Waldorf Kindergarten. The USA educated Ex Minister Katherine Zappone founded the Fledglings HighScope preschools. She launched First Five in November 2018, it is a ten year strategy. Play based learning is part of the First Five strategy. Better Start run the “Aistear & Play” workshops.
The “Learning through play” catchphrase is to encapsulate the Irish Preschool system. The well established European Montessori schools have received short shrift. Katherine Zaponne has returned to her roots and hopefully the Irish preschool system will return to its European roots and support Montessori preschools.
HighScope want a classroom full of communicating children playing without instruction from a teacher. The silence of a Montessori classroom and the instruction given to a child on the use of the materials is not the HighScope way. One of the essential ingredients of the HighScope active learning is language and thought from children,that is,children form and express their ideas in their own words, Language development is not a silent process but a noisy one, full of doing, talking, wondering out loud, debating and discovering. HighScope want to hear the constant hum of children’s conversations.
The HighScope Preschool Wheel of Learning is dived into 5 sections.
1. At its core is Active Learning 2. Daily Routine 3. Adult-Child interaction. 4. Assessment. 5 Environment – Areas, Materials, Storage.
The HighScope Learning Environment checklist is:
Art area . Block area. Book area. House area. Music and movement area. Toy area. Each of the areas has its own list of materials.
The Art Area, Book Area, Music and Movement area are already in the Montessori rooms I visit.
Please note Blocks : The Montessori Materials are not suited to the rough & tumble of active learning play.
The Toy area is the Enrichment materials .
The House Area has the Role play and Small World materials.
Small World – dolls house, garage, animals, vehicles, play mat, construction blocks. The Montessori classroom has a Small World Farm to support language development. People say to me “The children love” the small world materials. They love the road play mat, the animals, the farm house.
Role Play: HighScope roleplay links to what is everyday for the children. The jobs their parents do, the workers, the shops they see in their community. The home kitchen gives an opportunity also to introduce diet, hygiene & food preparation. Role Play is used in adult life – In preparing people for situations they may encounter. Pilots use flight simulators, I did a first aid course in which we role played using a defibrillator on a dummy.
It is my hope that this section will be of help in finding play materials that can fit in with a Montessori setting to fulfil the requirement for play based learning .
When choosing toys look for ones for girls and boys. Most preschool workers are female and this can lead to a gender bias.