Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fernanda's Story: Building a Steiner School in Sao Paolo

Fernanda is a young girl in her twenties from Brazil with whom we are sharing a house.   She is an architect who lives in Sao Paolo and has previously spent time in Italy studying English.  The globalisation of our world today is astonishing but so are the individual stories of the people I am meeting at Findhorn. 

We have got to know Fernanda quite well, over making eggs and toast for breakfast.  Breakfast is not provided at the conference venue but eaten together with your housemates.  Being in the same group for our Findhorn experience, we have also bonded over lots of laughs, shared stories and dances. 

Over lunch Fernanda tells us about a project that she volunteers at.  During her spare time she is working with a team to design a Steiner School in Sao Paolo.   The Steiner School or Waldorf education system, is based on a humanistic approach to education.  Rudolf Steiner is the founder of this method of education and the first school opened in Stuttgart Germany, in 1919.  It is an alternative method of education that is popular here in Findhorn and across Europe. 

The Waldorf education system identifies three broad stages in child development, each lasting approximately seven years. The early years education focuses on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play. In the elementary school, the emphasis is on developing pupils' artistic expression and social capacities, fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding. Secondary education focuses on developing critical understanding and fostering idealism. Throughout, the approach stresses the role of the imagination in learning and places a strong value on integrating academic, practical and artistic pursuits (From Wikipedia)

Today, there are many of these school and kindergartens spread over 60 countries across the world.  This system of education is also quite widely spread in Brazil where they are searching for a Brazilian identity to this method of teaching.  We pore over the photographs and drawings that Fernanda shares with us.  The land for this school is in the middle of a forest and has been donated by a benefactor.  The design of the buildings takes the form of individual pods that can be connected together to foster a suitable learning environment that is far less rigid that the traditional methods of teaching.  

Fernanda works on this project during her spare time.  As some of the Principles of her company are also engaged in this project, volunteering your time on projects such as this is encouraged amongst her peers and superiors.  The parents of the kids who plan to go to school there will help build the school together with the professionals such as Fernanda who have helped design it.  It sounds like an amazing project and will provide an education to many disadvantaged kids who might otherwise not have access to schooling.  It is also so inspiring to hear that young professional in Sao Paolo are willing to spend their spare time investing in the future of others. 

Fernanda, it was lovely to meet you and I wish you all the best for the success of this project and for the future plans for your life…

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