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Waldorf Schoolers make contraptions

See the hard way! Kids at experimental school make wacky contraptions

Domino effect: Caleb Rosenberg named his machine “Caleb’s rule” and packed it with more action than a Hot Wheels track.
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Sometimes it is more fun to do things the hard way.

A group of sixth- and seventh-grade students from the Brooklyn Waldorf School in Bedford-Stuyvesant showed off their science projects on Friday, including a tornado vortex, a fog tsunami simulation, and several Rube Goldberg machines, elaborate contraptions that take many steps to accomplish simple tasks. An instructor said that making the devices is the perfect type of education for middle schoolers.

“These projects are exactly what children this age should be doing,” said teacher Giannina Zlatar. “This is real-life stuff, working with real materials.”

The kids made a variety of devices using whatever they could get their hands on.

A pair of sixth graders created a contraption that incorporated a marble, plumbing pipe, string, toy cars, blocks of wood, mousetraps, and a basketball to create a long chain of events that ended with the ball hitting a Staples-brand push-button that plays a recording saying, “That was easy.”

The undertaking required a lot of trial and error, a participant said.

“It was a very fun project and it taught me to have a lot more patience than I usually have,” said 12-year-old Luca Yang. “I had to try a lot of times to get it to work.”

Other projects that the kids showed off included a marble run, a camera obscura, and a machine that tests users’ heart rates after they listen to different kinds of music.

“Kids need to know what it is like to work with things and have to make changes and persevere,” said Vlatar. “Kids spend so much time on the computer these days that they think that everything is easy. They need to learn that they world does not work like that.”

Waldorf schools base their curricula around the teachings of early 20th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. They emphasize storytelling over textbooks, hands-on experimentation over science demonstrations, free-form play over sports, and music education — students at the Brooklyn Waldorf school learn to play recorders early, then switch to violins in third grade, according to a post by the New York City Private Schools Blog.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Brooklyn says:
Nice to see that at certain schools, learning has been successfully replaced by goofing off.
It's certainly a good idea to give kids some space to be creative and explore, but without structured learning they will have trouble developing the discipline to do things that are not what they happen to feel like at any particular moment. I also wonder if they will lack the basic groundwork knowledge required for certain professions. I don't think scholl should be torturous, or all about memorization. I do think that structure, in and of itself, teaches useful lessons to children. I also believe that being able to watch and learn from a demonstration, as well as conducting an experiment yourself will give a rounded understanding.
On top of understanding, I believe this style of education has also lead to children who have no respect for others (children or adults) as they are constantly told to follow thier own wishes. A good thing about the difficulty of structured education is that it teaches you that you must sometimes do what others want. It's not always exactly what you feel like doing that matters most.
April 30, 2014, 8:59 am
Howard from Brooklyn Heights says:
I respectfully suggest that you don't know what you are talking about. Waldorf education may be unorthodox, and a little odd at times, but it is actually an extremely choreographed type of teaching. It's quite disciplined and not at all the free-for-all that you suggest. You might want to do a little research before making assumptions.
April 30, 2014, 11:54 am
nic from fort green says:
I thought that it was an amazing experience,it taught me a lot about how a vortex works, how fog tsunami is
created and much more!!!!!
July 21, 2014, 5:11 pm

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