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Bringing Science to Life
A professional development program for science teachers

group photo of course attendees

2009 course participants.

photo of students at optics demonstration

A presentation by the group that worked on optics during the 2008 course.

Teaching science—whether in middle school, high school, or college—is a challenge. And teaching it in a manner that allows students to experience and question the world is an even greater one. Too often their world is one in which receiving information takes precedence over active, self-directed exploration, a world in which nature unfolds its splendors in digitally enhanced magnificence on a flat screen, a world in which science is more a matter of answers than questions. How do we awaken in students a sense of wonder for direct experience? How can this grow into true interest that stimulates exploration and leads to deeper understanding and engagement in life?

Unfortunately, our modern culture and our educational system do little to prepare us to guide students along this path of experience-based learning. To question what we take for granted and to engage in open-ended inquiry is as much a struggle for the teacher as it is for students. Too many explanations can cloud our vision, just as too little insight can leave us blind. How do I as a teacher learn to see with fresh eyes? Can I learn to practice the capacities that I hope the students will attain?

Bringing Science to Life is a week-long course that wants to address these questions in relation to science education. It is for practicing teachers; most participants have been high school teachers but the course has also been attended by and is valuable for middle school teachers as well. The summer sessions are a mix of seminars, group project work, and dialogue. The seminars and projects explore the concrete practice of phenomenological methodology, the living relation between experience and scientific concept formation, and the spiritual psychology of learning.

Collegial dialogue is an important part of this course. Since peer exchange and active involvement in the learning process is an important and often neglected component of effective adult education, there is opportunity to consider educational questions that the attending teachers feel to be most pressing in their day-to-day work.

You can read here what teachers have said about this course.

Bringing Science to Life - Coming to Our Senses
A Course for Science Teachers

2012 Summer Session: July 8 to July 14

How can we infuse science teaching with more life? One key aspect is to help students experience the phenomena from a variety of perspectives, and where direct experience is not possible, to portray the phenomena in a way that engages the students in their thinking, imagination, and feeling. Out of such work understanding can grow that connects the students with the richness and riddles of the natural world.

This year we will focus on an experiential and phenomenological approach to color, light and darkness. It is through our senses that we establish direct connection with the natural world, with other human beings and with our own bodies. We participate in the life of world through our senses. This participation crucially informs the way we feel, think, and act. Without rich sense experience we cannot truly be rooted in the world. This poses a special challenge for all of us in the 21st century, since our lives are so highly mediated by man-made technologies. Do we still gain a vital connection to things? What is the ground of our concepts? What can spark the will to engage in a world in which we are no longer at home?

As educators we have the wonderful profession of guiding our students on pathways into the world. In our Bringing Science to Life course this year, we want to focus on the senses, our primary gateway to experience. We want to research the nature of sense experience itself and the qualities of different senses. Based on these explorations we will discuss the significance direct encounter in learning and how this can be achieved in a variety of ways through different disciplines. In the course we will draw on R. Steiner’s work concerning the differentiation of the senses and their relation to science and education.

Morning Seminars (9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

• Immersion in a variety of sense experiences
• Reflections on knowing and the creation of knowing
• The sense in learning

Afternoon Activities (2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

• Work in subject-groups -- the senses in different disciplines
• Presentations by participants

Evenings are free for collegial exchange.
The course begins on Sunday, July 8, at 7:00 p.m. and ends on Saturday, July 14, at 12:30 p.m.

Course Staff

Craig Holdrege is a biologist, educator, and the director of The Nature Institute. He was a Waldorf science teacher for 21 years and has been involved in teacher education since 1994.

Henrike Holdrege is a mathematician and biologist, and a Nature Institute staff member.

Jon McAlice has been active in the international Waldorf school movement for many years as a teacher and lecturer, and has a special interest in teacher development.

“This work has been extremely stimulating and relatively new for me. Aside from bringing alive the plant world and refreshing my senses, I have truly enjoyed the quiet contemplative method that has been used to introduce new ideas and carry us through a process of thinking.” 2010 summer course participant

Tuition: $560 (less $30 if you register before May 1).

Tuition includes all materials, as well as morning and afternoon snacks.

Registration: Please complete and send a registration form and payment in full
by June 1.

We are pleased to be able to offer a limited number of partial tuition reduction scholarships. To apply for a scholarship, please complete the Scholarship Request Form.

Cancellation Policy:  If you cancel your registration more than two weeks prior to the beginning of the course, you will be refunded the course fee minus $50. If you cancel less than two weeks before the course begins, you will receive a refund of the course fee minus $100. There is no refund once the course has begun.

Lodging and Meals:  We can refer participants to local families who rent rooms ($25 to $50 per night). Camping at nearby state parks is approximately $15 per night. Participants will be responsible for their own meals. The Hawthorne Valley Farm Store has extensive organic food and deli selections and is within walking distance of The Nature Institute.

To print out a registration form, click here.

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