Nature close-to: a scientific approach

Nature comprises numerous living communities that interact in relationship with one another. To understand them scientifically means to see them as a whole, to research and come to know them carefully.

The teaching of biology should be living and practical. It is most living when it allows a direct meeting with natural phenomena. Direct experience of nature metamorphoses into new skills, especially if one does not merely observe, but deepens one’s observations through one’s own research and experiences directly the laws of nature.

Looking for tracks

Understanding the living context of a landscape

Given today’s environmental situation, ecology has a very specific mission. This is why in the marine biology practicum in the eleventh class (17 year olds) at the Zurich Atelierschule it is not just a matter of precise examination of the different organisms, but also their interactions in their various life communities. For this course we chose the Atlantic island, Ile d’Yeu, twenty kilometres off the West coast of France. Within a small area one can find a very diverse mosaic of biotypes and biozones (e.g. mud flats), that lends itself to comparative analysis. To ensure lively thinking and an inter-disciplinary approach, we study astronomy on the one side and, on the other, non-biotic factors (climate, atmosphere, water and light) that give their stamp to a life space. In this way we can understand the life that characterises a landscape.

The island affords a multitude of different life regions; on one side, the sand dunes with a magnificent vegetation comprising diverse Mediterranean plants; on the other, steep cliffs with important mud flats and a vegetation deformed by the wind that remind one of the mountains of Middle Europe.

For practical field biology, the topics are given by the sand and mud areas (especially by snorkelling excursions to discover algae and to observe the diverse fauna), the vegetation of the dunes (forms and types of growth, plant associations and their transitions between different states of plant and animal communities), and the plants that colonise the cliffs. These observations are brought together in a comparative analysis of the different life spaces based on all the students’ observations.

To discover and experience the great relationships of nature

A global view, the cosmos included

Students produce a written account of what they have observed and deepen their study by working in groups in ways that enable them to understand overall relationships on a basis of concrete studies. Astronomy and regular observation of the stars helps one understand the earth not only as a whole, but in relation to the cosmos.

One of the students (Simon Zurrer) reports: “Now a year later, I recall the enthusiasm of the whole class: Three weeks on this incredibly beautiful island, daily work in nature whatever the weather, the freedom of movement with bikes, the discussions about nature and the environment; the shared experience of the class, the nightly astronomy observations using a telescope, the microscopic studies of sea water and plankton… All this and much more made the practicum an unforgettable experience which heightened my awareness of and interest in the ecological fragility of our planet.”

Dr Ulrich Wunderlin

Literature:
Bildung und Lebensgestaltung ehemaliger Schüler von Rudolf Steiner Schulen in der Schweiz: eine Absolventenbefragung; D. Randoll/H. Barz (Hrsg.);  ISBN 978-3-631-56491-2

42 Portraits of former Steiner-Waldorf students, Price: CHF 5.– (plus postage), available from www.steinerschulen.ch

Donate Online

Former Steiner-Waldorf school students build the car of the future

The Piffaretti brothers are builders of the Lampo electric sports car. 

Marco Piffaretti has developed an entirely electric car; his brother Dario has helped build the prototype. The car was unveiled at the March 2009 Geneva Motor Show. Marco’s goal is to build cars analogously to low energy houses, meaning with high efficiency. An electric motor is six times more efficient than internal combustion. At the same time, it respects the environment, especially because of its use of solar energy.

Marco’s path of life was determined by his first physics lesson at Lugano Steiner-Waldorf School. His teacher, Carlo Rizzi, took the whole class into town with a gong. He struck the gong at the end of an alley, so the students at the other end could experience the difference between the speeds of light and sound. They did not begin with the theory, but the experience. Ever since, Marco has sought to understand phenomena directly
www.protoscar.com

His brother, Dario, has a precision engineering workshop that researches flexibility and precision, obliging him to understand quickly his client’s requirements. What struck him most was the way his teachers at Zurich Steiner-Waldorf School accompanied and supported him in finding and following his way in life. Despite earlier difficulties with mathematics, they succeeded in awaking his interest in the subject. Had he not discovered the pleasure it can give, he would not have been able to run his own business.
www.metaltool.ch