Early Childhood at Cairns Hinterland Steiner School commences with a structured Playgroup for 2 and 3 year-olds. The kindergarten for 4 year-olds operates three days a week and the kindergarten for 5 year-olds operates four days a week. Our Prep program operates for five days a week.
In the kindergarten and prep years we seek to provide and foster an environment that is more like a home rather than a classroom. A warm, secure and calm atmosphere is created where, surrounded by beauty, the young child’s imagination and creativity can unfurl within their play and work.
Every feature of the kinder and prep, from the choice of colours to the play equipment offered, has been carefully selected to provide the optimum environment in which the young child can unfold.
The children are not introduced to an academic programme. They are simply allowed to be children. A great deal of what they need to learn at this age can be achieved through their own rich and rewarding world of self-directed play. The teacher maintains an unobtrusive, but loving and watchful presence.
The children are free to join the teachers in a range of wholesome, home-based activities, crafts and artistic pursuits. They may be involved in baking bread for morning tea, working in the garden to grow vegetables that they make into soup for lunch, growing flowers for flower garlands or fairy rings, sweeping and mopping, washing dolls clothes and hanging them out to dry, building cubbies, weaving or sewing, painting, drawing, wood work, singing and ring-dancing.
Each day the children and the teachers come together to sing songs, recite verses and poems and participate in ring dances and finger plays. Later in the day they all meet again for story time, where they are exposed to traditional folk and fairy tales and simple nature stories. The teacher provides the children with rich and beautiful oral language experiences which provide a wonderful foundation for the language work that comes later in their educational journey. Similarly, we are building foundations for the other areas of learning: developing body geography through guided movement, which helps with reading, developing the foundations for math work through rhythmical and counting activities, and daily exposure to the world of nature and a focus on seasonal elements lays foundations for science work, etc.
The children enter Class One in the year they turn seven. All academic work is taught in an artistic and holistic way so that it remains a living, evolving, creative process.
The children are also given a grounding in practical skills. They are involved in gardening, cooking, building, farming, looking after animals and maintaining the school grounds. In craft lessons they make things they will need to use in their daily school life, like recorder bags, book bags and pencil cases. We undertake these activities with the aim to develop well-rounded, capable and practical adults.
All children are involved in music and the arts. They may be involved in choir, singing groups and recorder or string ensembles. From Class One the children all learn recorder and in Class Three they participate in violin or cello lessons. The children are immersed in dramatic arts activities throughout their schooling and classes perform plays throughout the year.
The sports programme in our school is often linked to other subjects. In Class Five, for example, the children study Ancient India and Mandarin, thus the focus of some of the physical education lessons may be Yoga and Tai Chi. When Ancient Greece is being studied, athletics is offered and this culminates in the children hosting and competing in a classical Olympic Games. Co-operative games and team sports are also a strong focus of the sports programme. Teamwork, individual effort and mate-ship are highlighted rather than the competitive aspects of sporting achievement.
The school year is enriched with the celebration of various festivals. The children prepare for these and the excitement mounts as the festival day approaches. At Cairns Hinterland Steiner School, we celebrate Easter, a mid-winter Festival of Lights, the Michaelmas festival, music days, an Open Day, an annual Bush dance and Advent.
The Class Teacher
One of the cornerstones of Steiner Education is that, wherever possible, one teacher journeys with the children through the six years of their primary school education. We believe that a deep understanding of and a meaningful relationship with each child can be developed through this journey. In a Steiner school the path to knowledge occurs through the child’s relationship with the teacher as a loving authority.
Over six years the children and the teacher develop a very deep relationship that allows the children to feel a strong sense of security, bringing stability during the periods of turmoil that occur along the path of childhood development.
All children participate in specialist lessons, where they learn to relate to other teachers and adults. However, it is the Class Teacher that is the central figure throughout each child’s schooling. The Class Teacher also endeavours to establish strong bonds with the children’s families, so that each child’s needs may be supported by the two spheres of home and school, working together in harmony and support of one another.
While the Class Six and Seven students remain on the Primary campus their entry into the Middle School years is supported by their teacher who begins to prepare them for entry into and transfer into the upper years of High School.
During Class Eight, students undertake a personal ‘Project’ and present their findings to their peers. Aimed at expanding their horizons, students are required to work with a mentor to develop a new skill. Students get to choose their own topic with past years’ projects having included building a boat, writing and publishing a novel, building a harp and restoring an old car.
The students are encouraged to move from strongly teacher led learning into taking personal ownership of their learning through developing a culture of doing and interest in all subjects from a personal perspective.