Teacher from Baltimore finds educational lessons in German Waldorf Schools

October 2014

Ashley Silvernail is a College of Education graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in children’s literature and a sixth-grade language-arts teacher in Baltimore. Over the summer, she participated in the Diversity in German Education program offered by the German-American Fulbright Commission, which offers an overview of the German school and post-secondary education system.

Through the program, Silvernail observed the German education system firsthand in several different classes, ranging from first to sixth grade and including learning disabilities education and Waldorf education, an alternative educational style that gives teachers a high degree of autonomy in their curriculums and emphasizing qualitative over quantitative assessment.

Silvernail was surprised by the effectiveness of the Waldorf education style.

“I had imagined that Waldorf schools would be artsy and non-disciplined,” she said. “Yet seeing the freedoms the students had to excel through the arts while still mastering the common skills was refreshing.”

Silvernail said she saw students learning discipline, mathematical and science skills in agriculture class. They learned math, patience and determination in woodshop. And in sculpture class, they read myths and integrated these texts into their work.

She said she is now able to take what she learned and integrate it into both her research and teaching style. In her classroom, she is allowing her students to have more control of the lessons by having them write the class syllabus.

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