Receive the children in reverence; educate them in love; let them go forth in freedom
It is a tribute to the visionary Austrian philosopher, playwright, artist and educator that almost a century after his death his legacy includes more than 1,000 Waldorf schools and 2,000 kindergartens around the world, the Moray area of Scotland boasting a Steiner education for all ages at two venues on the Findhorn Foundation's doorstep.
Teenagers of the Drumduan Upper School are being nurtured within the heart of the community at the Moray Art Centre until they too move to premises on the hilltop alongside Cluny Woods in Forres where younger children are welcomed at the Moray Steiner School.
Visiting both venues recently I was inspired by the passion and commitment of the adults, among them teacher Alexandra McNamara who was my tour guide at the Steiner School.
Head teacher Clare Waddington explains: "The education they receive is preparation for a future that we as adults can only imagine."
Certainly it is a world far removed from the often-sterile mainstream education I was subjected to and I delighted in the balance of artistic, practical and intellectual teaching, along with the emphasis on social skills and spiritual values. The results are freethinking and socially committed adults, some of whom are now respected fellow community members.
Once, when I was working in the community kitchen, I was alarmed to see young children chopping vegetables with very sharp knives. "Don't worry," I was assured. "They're Steiner kids and have been doing this sort of thing since kindergarten."
A deeply moving song was sung and looking around I noticed I wasn't the only one choked up with emotions, parents and friends telling me what a force for good the school has been for these young lives.
Abi Rooley-Towe is the mother of two teenage boys and says: "It is like watching two young plants growing in exactly the way they are meant to. The Steiner system definitely lives up to the credo of educating the head, the hands and the heart to create well-rounded beings."
The analogy of growing and nurturing plants is also one that Krzysztof enjoys when he traces the history of the local Steiner school back to parents and community members within the Foundation and its satellite community on the Hebridean Isle of Erraid.
The new generation should not just be made to be what present society wants it to become…
"The picture is of a seed being planted in the Findhorn Foundation which was to become the small sapling of Steiner Education in the area. It was transplanted up on Drumduan Hill where it grew into the symbol or logo of the school … a Scot’s pine! One of this tree’s seeds was again planted back into the Foundation last year – 28 years later – to be propagated in a safe and nurturing environment where seven boys and seven girls have formed the core group of an upper school. This new sapling will be once again transplanted back onto Drumduan hilltop where a new campus will be built this summer."
"The decision was made to call this the Moray Steiner School, as the vision was that it would serve the wider community and not only the Foundation, although it was set up under the Foundation as it already had a charter for a school. It was launched in 1985 and located within the Family House, which today serves the management of the community."
In 1987 it moved to Drumduan House, a grand and character-filled 19th century building, surrounded by woods with magnificent views over Findhorn Bay and Moray Firth.
Steiner was emphatic: "The new generation should not just be made to be what present society wants it to become …
All over the world Steiner schools strive to offer children a natural and unhurried way to develop. These are places where children develop a zest for life, a love of school and a lifelong commitment to learning — the child's love of learning and school becomes the adult's intellectual journey and love of life.
Looking back over the past three decades, Mari says: "From the outset this education project was blessed with so much love and commitment from the families, friends and teachers that despite the many obstacles and resourcing challenges, goodwill and clarity of purpose prevailed. It is so very heartening to witness the care, creativity and courage that enables the children and young people to flourish today!