Fostering Creativity, Imagination and Initiative in Adolescents

Register now for the upcoming workshop for Upper Grades and High School teachers in Santa Rosa at Conference reading materials have been added to the workshop page.

February 17-19 at Summerfield Waldorf School

with San Francisco Waldorf School and the Waldorf School of the Penninsula

From Jon McAlice on the conference theme:

Only at the end of the first teachers’ course did Rudolf Steiner offer some thoughts concerning adolescent education. He refers obliquely to the challenges arising in education following puberty and makes it clear that as teachers we face a new challenge to “bring into the child’s soul life what comes from the nature of the limbs”. He points out that “just as the soul-teeth appear as a capacity to learn to read and write, an activity of imagination and a permeation of inner warmth announces what the soul develops” following puberty. The task of the teacher is to “emphasize particularly anything that depends on the soul’s capacity to fill things with inner love, that is, everything expressed by imagination.” And he concludes by saying that “[w]e are more justified in requiring the seven-year-old child to develop intellectuality through reading and writing than we are in neglecting to bring imagination continually into the power of judgment” that awakens in the young adolescent.

What is imagination? And what role does it play in adolescent development? How do we as teachers strengthen this new capacity in our students?

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High School Conference

Warm greetings for this holiday season!

With the recognition that meeting adolescents today requires something different from us as teachers, three Bay Area high schools are joining to form a working conference for Waldorf teachers.  We plan to meet in February in Santa Rosa to explore aspects of developing imagination, initiative and thinking in teenage students.  We will wrestle with the transition from standing in front of the students to standing beside them as they mature, and as our societal relationship to the access of information changes.  How are the the tasks of teaching and learning affected? How do we foster creativity and imagination today?

All upper school and high school Waldorf teachers are welcome to attend!! See the Conference Flyer for further details. Registration is open on the Workshops page.

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From Mathematical to Imaginative Thinking

What is the nature of mathematical thinking?  How does a child engage in mathematics at different stages of development?  What is the step from mathematical to imaginative thinking? 

In just 10 days, we will meet in NYC to explore these aspects of teaching math! Colleagues will describe classroom experiences with the Ten Theorems.   We will work with mathematical exercises in projective geometry, described by Rudolf Steiner in 1921 (GA76, Lecture 3), to practice moving on the path from mathematical to imaginative thinking.   You can still register on the workshops page online.  Meanwhile, here is a glimpse into the weekend’s theme.

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Math Research Colloquium - November 9-11, 2018

Registration is open on the website Workshops page!

As fall arrives, we look forward to gathering with Math teachers at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan to share experiences of student learning!  For the second year we have collected and published Ten Theorems, invited you to work with them in the classroom, and to write up a description of your research.

Which of the ten theorems are you most intrigued by?  Would you like to share your teaching experience with one of “The Ten Theorems Take Two” at our Math gathering in November?

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Teaching Math – Action Research

In November 2017, teachers presented results of working with one of “The Ten Theorems”. In 2018, we would like to deepen this action research. We have a new list of theorems, “The Ten Theorems Take Two”, and more specific questions to take with you on the journey into the classroom. This year, we invite you to bring a problem or theorem to students in at least two different grades, ranging from grade 6 to grade 12.

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An Ecology of the Etheric in Education, Part III

There is a good deal of controversy concerning the effects of digital technology (and the media it makes possible) on child development and health. Although pediatricians around the world recommend severely limiting young children’s’ access to digital devices, software companies continue to develop and market so-called “educational apps” for young children. How young? There are many apps aimed at 2-year old children, the so-called “toddler”. These are children who have learned to walk and are in the most vital period of language development. The relation of the development of language to the way we think has been the focus of a number of studies. In German idealism, the three capacities of uprightness, language and thought and their relation to one another were viewed as the primary signature of the human being, what set humans apart from their animal and plant brothers and sisters. Rudolf Steiner took this thought a step further describing how in the process of acquiring these capacities a child lays the foundation for future qualities of relatedness. The way a child comes to experience himself or herself in relation to the world is colored by the way they learned to walk, by the quality of authenticity in the language they imitate and by the clarity and steadiness of thought expressed in their surroundings.

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Transforming the Classroom to Meet New Needs

Register now for this gathering of young colleagues on April 6-8, 2018!

As a new generation of teachers has taken up the task of teaching, we are met with ever changing needs from our students.  By exploring these questions and looking into student observation practices, we hope to receive the insights needed to craft the learning environments and methods that meet the developmental needs of our students today. 

The conference will be held in the Harlemville, NY area from Friday evening to Sunday early afternoon. Although intended for younger colleagues, anyone, regardless of age and experience, who feels connected to these questions is invited to attend. For more information see the Conference Details or contact Kristin Buckbee  Register online on the Workshops page.


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2017 Science Conference Lectures

Next week, we will gather in Santa Rosa for the fifth Phenomena to Insight science teachers working conference to explore the themes of life and light.  More detailed information about the conference can be found by clicking through the buttons on the workshop page.  Please register now if you are planning to attend!  You can do this online or by contacting Beth at

We will have two open lectures as part of the conference this year.  Both will take place in Sophia Hall on the Summerfield campus, and offer windows into the conference themes. Read this blog to find descriptions of the lectures, as well as an excerpt from a related article by Wilfried Sommer.


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CCS Blog and Conference Update

In our 10th year at the Center for Contextual Studies (CCS), as the number of workshop events increases, we are taking steps to streamline our communications with you.  We are combining our individual email contact lists and connecting them to the Blog on the Website.   We will send out updates on the Blog no more than once per week, and they will include information about upcoming events, short essays written out of our experiences, as well as longer pieces which will then be catalogued on the “Writings” portion of the website.   If you would like to publish something from your teaching or research work, please send it along!

For this initial Blog, we would like to introduce an article on the “writings” page and to remind you to register for the upcoming February teacher conferences.   You are receiving this email because you have attended a CCS event in the past or have been referred to us as someone who might be interested in attending in the future.  If you wish to stop receiving emails about events or writings from CCS please choose your preferences in the link below.  You may unsubscribe completely, or you may choose to only receive event notices.

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Ten Theorems Take Two: Project 2018

The first installment of our Ten Theorems Project culminated at the Teachers’ Colloquium in New York City in November, 2017. Four teachers took up the research task of working on one of these theorems with their students, documenting that work, and reporting on their work at the Colloquium. Their research papers are available on the "writings" page

We are now inviting submissions for Take Two of the Ten Theorems. In addition to the wonderful “puzzle problems”, like Mrs. Wiggs’ Cabbages from the 2017 list, we invite you to also submit theorems that would require a longer-term approach. Could one theorem motivate an entire main lesson block? A semester of track class? A full-year course? Perhaps there is something of interest from your own mathematical work, the “unpacking” of which could provide material for the students you teach.

Please forward your submissions to Beth Weisburn, and to Marisha Plotnik, before February 28, 2018.

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An Ecology of the Etheric in Education, Part II

Our warmest wishes for a creative new year, full of exciting discoveries and insights!

In the coming year the central focus here at the Center for Contextual Studies will continue to be the nature of the etheric and the role our understanding of the etheric plays in education. The winter conferences in Santa Rosa, the gathering for younger teachers this spring and the planned summer seminar in Hillsdale, NY will all address different aspects of the question of the etheric in education and how we can cultivate a stronger relationship to these forces of formative vitality.

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An Ecology of the Etheric in Education, Part I

For some time now I have tried to better understand how the changes that have taken place since Steiner’s time affect what is needed in education. The world is certainly much different than it was then. Human impact on the environment has changed the natural world on a scale we have yet to fathom. The cultural environment of children has certainly changed. Gone are the uniquely place-based characters of villages, regions, and neighborhoods. Even cities have lost much of their differences. And the shifts in how we find a relationship to the divine, how we regard the acquisition of knowledge and the growth of understanding point to a deep change in the spiritual life of a child’s surroundings. What do these changes mean for the way we think about education?

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The Ten Theorems Launch

It's been quite a delight to try out your submissions and assemble our final list for the November, 2017 Mathematics research colloquium.   You can find The Ten Theorems by selecting the button on the "The Ten Theorems Project"  page of this website.  We think there's something here for everyone, from sixth graders to twelfth graders, things with numbers and things with geometry. Now the fun begins!

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Economics Gathering Report

Over the weekend of December 6th, 2016, 12 colleagues met at the Maine Coast Waldorf School to discuss the place of economics in the Waldorf school curriculum.  The wide ranging conversations covered topics, including places in the K-12 curriculum where we find elements of economics; topics for a high school main lesson in economics; the role of the Threefold Social Order in the curriculum; and a list of reference materials on various economics topics.

Steve Crimy and Robert Sim have written a report summarizing the December economics event which can be found on the "Writings" page.  

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Science Teachers Conference Update

In just over two weeks, teachers will gather in Santa Rosa to explore the stages of scientific understanding in relation to the birth of the astral body, beginning with sixth grade, in morning demonstrations with Wilfried Sommer and Craig Holdrege.  

Themes of "sustainability" and the "atom" will be addressed in the afternoon sessions.   

Does the sense world provide a knowledge and wisdom that is beyond the mechanical aspects of atomic concepts?  If yes, how are we able to grasp them?  Wilfried Sommer, Wade Cavin and John Petering will work with these questions in Physics and Chemistry experiments.

The terms “sustainability” and “sustainability education” point to our relation to earth.   Craig Holdrege, Jon McAlice and Ronni Sands will collaborate to lead an exploration of aspects of sustainability, especially with respect to the Waldorf school curriculum.

If you plan to attend, register now for the Science Teachers’ conference, so that we can prepare!


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February 2017 Workshops

As the days grow shorter, and the weather colder, at CCS we are planning back-to-back events for the week of February 18-25, 2017 at Summerfield Waldorf School, working with these themes:

      Finding a new approach to understanding the will

      Understanding the relation between science and the birth of the astral body

These events will provide a context for teachers to work together, to focus on what Waldorf education can become and to grapple with the challenges coming towards us as educators.

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Education today

Writing about education today is not easy. There are many, many theories, programs, curricula and approaches vying for attention. Adding something to that mix is not necessarily productive. Yet, as a teacher, I find little in contemporary educational writing that addresses the radical challenge we encounter in children today. We live in a time in which many, if not all, the fundamental assumptions we hold concerning education must be reassessed. Why? Because the sociocultural context in which they were developed no longer exists. Our children are growing up in a world that bears little resemblance to the world that gave birth to what we tend to think of as education. Even the most radical educationalists of the past century or so could not have imagined the world we live in today.

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