Both simple craft techniques and modern technology are creations of the human spirit. It is the task of craft and technology lessons in Waldorf school to enable the pupils to understand the development and function of technology in a fundamental way. Based on the craft and technology lessons (spinning, weaving, joinery, metalwork, pottery, horticulture, etc.) and complemented by the practical aspects of mathematics (surveying) and physics (mechanics, motors, etc.), a basis is created for those modern skills that are needed for understanding and using information technology.
Technology's function is to serve humanity. Therefore, all technological activity must aim at the welfare and well-being of people, however functional or efficient its processes may be. In a child's play, the original experience of work is a holistic one and springs from the very nature of the human being. At a later stage, both individual activity and detailed instruction of how a piece of work needs to be properly done, form the basis for an understanding of technical processes. The practical side of Waldorf education offers many and varied forms of stimulation and experience. Rudolf Steiner stressed that children should acquire the ".... elementary concepts of at least those activities in life which are most important".
The teaching of technological subjects in Waldorf schools is to a large extent integrated into the curriculum in a multi-disciplinary way. Different aspects of technology are dealt with in the context of a wide range of subjects and topics. One example is how causal thinking can be awakened in two quite different subjects, physics and drawing which appear in the curriculum for the eleven-to-twelve-year-olds, in Class 6. In their art work, the effects of light and shadow on solid objects are studied systematically and the principle of perspective is introduced. In the teaching of mechanics in the same class, the principles of the lever, inclined planes, watermills and similar sources of power involves an understanding of the laws of cause and effect.In the following Class telegraphy and Morse Code are taught, among other things. First exercises in deciphering take place. In the craft lessons simple mechanical toys are designed and constructed so that wheel and axle are put to practical use and the combination of various parts of movement become transparent as they are applied in different ways.Specialists take over from the class teacher in Class 9. Physics now offers a basis for understanding what goes on in history. The Industrial Revolution is taught, and both the mechanism and the effects of the steam engine as well as that of the mechanical looms using punch-card control systems, are considered in detail. Having had practical experience in making shopping nets and hammocks, that is to say going into "networks" in the field of textiles in the Middle School, the Upper School deals with electrical networks. The wiring of houses, the way switches work and the structure of networks give a sound basis for the subsequent work on the theory of combinations and dual systems of number that appear in maths lessons of Class 9.Class 10 is thus well prepared to cope with the thought structures underlying Information Technology. Understanding computer storage depends on understanding relays and switches, on knowing how primitive punch cards work and what combinations of knots in a network are possible.Biology now contributes, giving a basic understanding of the nature of organisms. Understanding the functioning of the human eye helps young people to go on to the laws of automatic control technology. The historical perspective of Galileo's "New Thinking" and the first scientific formulation of problems is taken up in the physics lessons. Therefore, the structure, the functions and the working of computers can now be introduced. The necessary steps can be taken from the "automata" of antiquity (Heron of Alexandria) to the programming of simple volume calculations in BASIC. With embryology in Class 11, the difference between machines and organisms, between processes of construction and of organisation can be clarified. Physics is now concerned with the cathode ray, semi-conductors and with atomic theory.
Waldorf educators are continuously involved in the process of developing openings within the framework of the curriculum for a better integration of technology. The transformation of technology is shown to be part of the cultural development of humanity. Through experience in the practical field, the young people experience hands-on examples of these transformations. This helps to de-mystify the idea of technology as something abstract and remote from normal human activity. It leads to a sense of wonder for human ingenuity, respect for nature's powers and cultivates a profound sense of participation and responsibility.
H. Becker / M. Riepe / M. Rawson