STEINER EDUCATION The nature or seasonal table is used in Steiner education to encourage pupils and teachers to appreciate the changing seasons. It is used as a focal point for festivals, celebrations and storytelling.
For many Steiner kindergartens and schools the seasonal table takes a specific form – a long flowing cloth is used to create a back drop and coloured silks are used for the foreground. Stones, crystals and interesting pieces of wood are arranged in groups to make scenery.
A NEED FOR RHYTHM For many children in today’s society their connection to nature and the passing of the seasons is in danger of being lost. Educator, Carol Petrash believes that maintaining this sense of rhythm is of utmost importance, “Young children thrive on rhythm – not the rigid holding onto a timetable but the rhythmic flow of one thing into another. It gives them a sense of security and wellbeing to know that as it was, it shall be again.” The seasonal table provides a space for emphasising this connection and celebrating it.
MAKE YOUR OWN All you need is a small space to display the seasonal items that you collect. It could be a low table top or a windowsill. If you don’t have much space, a shelf on a bookcase can be used or you could make a display to form the centre of the family dining table. You might like to place this in a special area of the home and to encourage a different level of respect for the seasonal table so that the small objects are handled carefully and replaced after use. This gives the table a special significance and separates it from being just a play area. Having said this, it is important that children feel able to touch and move the items; that it is not too precious to be enjoyed by younger members of the family.
IMPORTANCE OF COLOUR Different shades and colours can be used throughout the year to create a particular mood. As a guide, deep blues, white and silver can be used to signify winter, pale yellow and green for spring, bright yellow, green and pink for the summer months and in autumn time the colours of the changing leaves and rich bounty of the earth such as orange, red and brown can be used. You might choose to hand-dye a piece of cheesecloth in four colours in preparation for each season using a selection of natural dyes. Alternatively you might find some suitable old linen, sheets or napkins in a charity shop that are appropriate.
THE WINTER TABLE If you are creating the scene on a tabletop, pin a piece of cloth (1mx1m) about half a metre up the wall and allow it to drape down onto the table’s surface. Pin in any loose edges. If you are using a bookcase a small piece of cloth can be laid on a shelf. Now the fun begins and you can start collecting pieces to make the scene. Go for a family walk in the woods or the garden and look for small pieces of branch or bark, unusual stones, leaves and fallen twigs. Flowers and plants can be used to great effect to demonstrate the changing seasons and at this time of year we might use bare branches and evergreens rather than flowers, perhaps with a few berry laden boughs for colour. Place the twigs and branches in a vase of water at the back of the display and arrange the other objects around this.
MORE IDEAS You might choose to display a wreath woven from a piece of willow on your seasonal table. Take a piece of willow or creeper and weave it into a circle. If necessary secure with a piece of string or ribbon, which can also be used to hang the wreath above the table. Decorate the ring with greenery and berries. A small dish or saucer can be made into a mossy garden for the gnomes and fairy folk. Gather a little moss from a place where it grows prolifically (and don’t remove too much) and place in the dish. Mist regularly with water to keep it fresh.
A PLACE FOR FAITH In December you may want to celebrate your faith through the seasons table. Christians might choose to set up a full nativity scene with Mary and Joseph approaching a stable in preparation for Christmas Day. A memorable way to mark this journey is by using a pathway of stars cut from golden card – one to mark each day of Advent. For Earth based religions and those that celebrate the Winter Solstice you might choose to display greenery decorated with tiny golden stars and perhaps a group of woodland creatures and fairy folk gathered round a small candle. Gnomes and white and blue crystals are also a popular choice at this time. This is the darkest time of the year with the shortest days, when the earth appears to be sleeping and brightly lit candles and golden stars against a black or midnight blue backdrop celebrate the returning of the light. Those who celebrate Hannukah might place a small menorah of candles on the table amongst the greenery.
CARING FOR THE SPACE You could turn care of the seasonal table into a weekly activity, going out for a walk, and collecting new items and then adding them as part of your weekly rhythm. As new items are added you might like to talk about where they have come from and what they mean to the person who found them. Water the plants and replace the water in the vase to maintain the health and vitality of the plants. Keep this area neat and beautiful and this care will impact on your children’s approach to the environment and the world around them.
SPECIAL ITEMS TO COLLECT IN WINTER White candle Gold stars White and gold crystals such as Quartz and Citrine Blue crystals such as Lapis Lazuli Evergreens such as ivy, holly and laurel.
FURTHER READING All Year Round (Hawthorn) Making Flower Children (Floris) The Nature Corner by M. Leeuwen and J. Moeskops (Floris)
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