Sunday, December 1, 2013

human anatomy

the four systems for eighth grade

high jumper chalk drawing

the biped leg model

In eighth grade anatomy, it is all about RELATIONSHIPS and GROWTH. We discovered the interconnected network of systems between the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. To function at our optimum level, we must coordinate the workings of the body. A notable exercise the students engaged in was the Quadruped Game. While ambulating as a quadruped, they had to perform tasks such as explore the forest floor for food and to watch out for and outrun potential predators! This led us to hypothesize about theories why human evolved into bipeds. From there we discussed the angle of joints and the muscles that enable us to stand in an upright manner. Along with the model above, it was a great way to compare the animal world with the human world. The model proved very useful and allowed for a dramatic demonstration on how the elasticity of muscles act on the rigidity of bones to allow us to stand upright.

For the nervous system, I created a table that matched 8 parts of the brain with specific functions of each of those parts, and discussed how all the parts must act in concert. The parts and their functions (not exclusive) are:

The fourth system we discussed was the reproductive system. We reviewed the eight-petal flower of Biology/Biography, and touched on fetal development and maternal health.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

brave new world

history for the eighth grade

In American History Part I, the students will travel through about 400 years of development from colonization to industrialization. In Week One, the theme is "A Brave New World," where the British colonists face the challenges of a new environment and learn how to create a new way of life, religions, and government. It ends with the building of the Thirteen Colonies. In Week Two, the theme is "A Fight for Freedom," where sides are drawn between the loyalist British colonists and the separatists, culminating in a fight for independence between the Redcoats and the Rebels. It ends with the drafting of one of the most important documents of our nation: the US Constitution. In Week Three, the theme is "A Nation Divided," and with the fundamental tenet of human freedom hanging in the balance (slavery), it pits brother to brother, North against South, teh Civil War. Lincoln plays a key role in this historical saga that will live on as the bloodiest, costliest war ever fought on American soil. In Week Four, the the theme is "Full Steam Ahead," and after the nation rebuilds itself, it becomes one of the world's leading industrial giants.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

a sweet life

organic chemistry for eighth grade

my chalk drawing for the block, 4 feet x 6 feet

What better way to start off the year than with a heaping serving of sugary sweet organic chemistry! Oh those carbohydrates are so much fun! Along with proteins and fats, the students discovered the building blocks and properties of these groups of organic compounds. With saccharades, we studied their solubility and correlated the length of saccharides with their usefulness. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are readily available sources of energy. Polysaccharides such as starch are a stored form of energy. Polysaccharides such as cellulose, the most abundant organic compound in nature - think trees, are insoluble and are a structural form of energy. Trusting the caramelizing propeerty of sugar, we made, well, caramel. We ate chocolate pudding as well, using corn starch as our thickener.

With proteins, we listed their functions and spent some time studying enzymes such as amylase and catalase. We made the analogy that an enzyme is like a maid-of-honor. A maid-of-honor helps along (catalyzes) the transformation of the bride to the wife, and at the end of the ceremony, the maid-of-honor, like an enzyme, does not become part of the product - only the wife gets married to the husband! It works.

We also studied two individuals: Milton Hershey, the captain of chocolate and philanthropist, and Dr. Marie M. Daly, the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry, becoming well-respected as an activist and researcher.

We topped off the block with another sugary sweet favorite: ice cream - which combined carbs, proteins, and fats - yummy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

new crew

teaching the class of 2014

A new year, a new group. I return as eighth grade teacher after graduating the Class of 2013 at Davis Waldorf School. While it may be true that the Waldorf model of teaching is an eight-year journey with your class, it seems in the modern day, this lofty goal is becoming somewhat of an urban legend. Waldorf centers its curriculum on the development of the child, and it follows intuitively that, next to the parents of the children, a teacher who also grows along with the students will be able to fully meet each child in his or her growth. While my biography did not previously include a journey through the grades with this group, I would say that even just four weeks into the school year, I am connecting with them in an unexpected but happy and welcome way.

It may be that the immediate feeling of closeness is due to the fact that I have been on the same campus with them for the past three years.  Or, I'd like to think the synchronicity of unexpected and non-premeditated crossings of paths has its own lively way of bringing people together at just the right moment in time. Maybe they need me, maybe I need them, maybe we just simply hit it off!

Whatever the reasoning may be for this developing bond, I just know that we are heading towards an awesome year of growth, learning, building, doing, being. It's their time.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

art of teaching

G7 physiology and G8 anatomy 

Teaching G7 physiology and G8 anatomy is a challenge in the Waldorf classroom! There really are not many resources on it. I have had to myself compile ideas from various sources such as my own textbooks and online journals. Then, I added my own layer of ideas and imaginations - after all, that is what Rudolf Steiner had expected we would do in our teaching!

Whether you are teaching in a classroom for your students or in a home school for your children, you might find this post with an outline for blocks useful as a starting point.

I have included in this post the five key elements of the physiology or anatomy blocks. I then list four concepts within each of the four systems for physiology and anatomy. In this way, you will have a guideline for a four-week block. Most likely, you will conceive of your block in your own special way to meet your beautiful students.

I have updated this blog post to include a link to an eBook I wrote that addresses the topic of reproduction. You might find it helpful in opening a conversation with your teen! The eBook contains illustrations and a week's worth of ideas for a lesson on the reproductive system. Click on the photo here.

Be Authentic, Enthusiastic, Interested, Open, and Understanding. Tie in the Artistic, Musical, Performance, Language Arts. Use your own brand of teaching and skill set to infuse the science blocks with vibrant life!


1. THEME. In the arc of your year, each block has some kind of underlying theme or message you want to convey. With anatomy, for instance, my theme combined the geometry of the cylinder and the social value of standing on solid ground. The umbrella themes for the upper grades are WELLNESS, SELF-IDENTITY, and HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

2.  PERSONAL RELEVANCE.  Draw the children in with how learning about their bodies is important to each of them specifically.

3.  HISTORICAL OR BIOGRAPHICAL CONNECTION. Acknowledge the work of historical figures who have contributed to the study and progress of the concepts, and those where anatomy or physiology play an important role in their lives.

4.  INTRODUCTORY CONCEPTS. These are the actual science concepts you wish to introduce to the students.

5.  PATHOLOGY, DISORDER, or SOCIAL CONCERN. Offer examples of the social impact of disease occurrence related to the body.


G7 student main lesson page

WEEK ONE: Digestive System - Flow of EARTH
1. The Five Core Values of Food
2. Anatomy and Function of the Digestive Tract - including the idea that digestion happens before the first bite
3. Healthy Choices (Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats)
4. Biography of an Olympic athlete, or someone you might know who is struggling with a nutrition disorder.

WEEK TWO: Circulatory System - Flow of WATER
1. Components of Blood (Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, and Platelets)
2. Blood Flow through the Vessels and the Heart
3. Blood Typing, Blood Transfusion
4. Biography of Hippocrates or Galenus

WEEK THREE: Respiratory System - Flow of AIR
1. Tree and Human Relationship
2. Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, and the Alveoli
3. Healthy Lungs, Unhealthy Lungs (Smoking)
4. Biography

WEEK FOUR: Reproductive System - Flow of FIRE
1. Male and Female Parts
3. Female Fertility
4. Spermatogenesis

An extra note regarding the Reproductive System: In the week, it was beneficial for the boys and girls to have a break out discussion with the boys and a male teacher, and the girls with a female teacher to discuss more gender-specific concerns. Another option is to have students anonymously place questions in a box for the teacher to answer in a whole group situation.


G8 student main lesson page

WEEK ONE: Skeletal System 
1. Bone Shapes and Function of Protection and Action
2. Bone Growth
3. Bone Structure - Compact Bone with Osteons, and Spongy Bone with Marrow
4. Joints and Fulcrum Action

WEEK TWO: Muscular System 
1. Three Types of Muscle (Skeletal, Smooth, and Cardiac)
2. Muscle Structure
3. Sliding Filament Model
4. Biography of Olympic Athlete

WEEK THREE: Nervous System
1. Central Nervous System - the Brain and Spinal Cord
2. The Neuron
3. Peripheral Nervous System - Somatic and Autonomic (Rest/Digest vs. Fight/Flight)
4. Biography: Ivan Pavlov

WEEK FOUR: Reproductive System 
1. Review of Eight Petal Flower of Seventh Grade  (This will soon be an eBook!)
2. Fetal Development
3. Maternal Health
4. Biography or Invite someone in your community who is a midwife or who is pregnant!

An extra note on Fetal Development: One of our more memorable activities was using a balloon during my presentation and I blew it up to match the size of the uterus as I talked about fetal development. When the uterus was at term, I had the students put their own balloons under their shirts to mimic being pregnant - it was fun and silly.  But....serious too - one of the girls whose balloon she wore under her shirt was adjusting it when it slipped out. One of the boys in class, thinking he was funny, grabbed the balloon, and popped it. My female student was visibly upset to lose her baby. So a lesson there for all of us - these things we do for our students really do matter.

NOTE: For the G8 Anatomy participants: soon, I will post the illustrations as promised that tie in the different systems.

Dr. Rick Tan

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

graduation and beyond

DWS Class of 2013

The Davis Waldorf School Class of 2013 graduated this year, June 8. I had the honor and privilege of being their class teacher for three years. I have grown to love them and cherish their soulful ways. While I am no longer their teacher, I hope to always be present somewhere in their hearts. I hope that I had made an impact on who they are becoming. It is my wish that beyond the sunset, they will love and be loved.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

mahalo, hawaii

the meaning of ohana

The Davis Waldorf School Class of 2013 had the privilege of spending their eighth grade field trip on the Big Island of Hawaii. The young men and women who joined me on this excursion have stories to tell and memories to hold. No words or pictures could do justice to what they now carry in their hearts. They have formed lifelong connections with each other and with this amazing, sacred land. This is the meaning of ohana. Family. We found a family in the facilitators of Hawaii Outdoor Institute. In Waipio Valley, we stayed on a private taro farm where the owner, Les, embraced us with his charisma and we were quickly working the taro paddies, called loi. In this land, he considered us part of one big family. It was the family of earth; we were all stewards of the earth. In Hawaii, where 11 out of 13 ecosystems are represented, where the top ranked beaches reside with some of the highest volcanoes on the planet, the island pulses with the synergy of  ohana. In all its quiet majesty, Hawaii is also home to the most endangered species of animal and plant life.

Engaged in activities that created bonding experiences such as hiking, swimming, preparing food, camping, snorkeling, and sailing together, the eighth graders took ohana into their soul lives. The eighth grade students also learned a life lesson: each of us must take ownership of our world, that it takes each individual to care for our planet and its resources, that we must consider each other and the earth itself as one big ohana, for a family loves, and with love comes compassion.

Mahalo, Hawaii Outdoor Institute. Mahalo, DWS Classof 2013 (for the honor of being your teacher). Mahalo, Hawaii. 

We are ohana.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

conceived in clay

modeling embryonic development with Christian Breme

The February Teachers' Conference at Steiner College promoted the "artistic process as the essential paradigm for education." Art has long been a part of human culture, evident in cave drawings as far back as 10,000 years. In one respect, the artistic process is not a new paradigm at all. It does, however, offer a fresh perspective that boldly regards the arts as the driving force behind child and curriculum development.

Christian Breme, a sculptor and art teacher at the Rudolf Steiner School in Basel, Switzerland, taught a workshop in clay modelling of embryonic development. Having had a conventional learning experience in the sciences, it was a fresh perspective for me to study embryology in the medium of clay. Working with clay, which started cold and warmed gradually in my hands, the stages of development takes on an interactive, dynamic quality that you would not get simply by looking at pictures. In the process of modeling the clay, altering its physical character, transforming it, one can appreciate the development as a continuous process.

Friday, February 8, 2013

from Dornach

a visit from Christof Weichert

Christof Weichert and I

This week, Davis Waldorf School hosted Christof Weichert to share his insights with parents and faculty regarding the Waldorf Movement. Mr. Weichert has served as the head of the Pedagogical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. He travels the world to inspire Waldorf educators with his insightful and humorous lectures.

I personally had not heard of him until his visit with us. It was not until he decided to come and visit our classroom early in the week to watch us practice our eighth grade play "A Hunch about Munch," that I experienced his warmth, kindness, and joy of teaching. Somehow, we ended up having dinner together. Over sweet and sour pork and spring rolls, we talked about family, teaching, and Waldorf. He revealed to me that he had penned many of his plays for his upper grades students when he was a teacher; and it was from this history that he enjoyed the script I had written for my students. His positive feedback was encouraging. He told me that in Waldorf, the curriculum was embedded in art. "We do art," he stated. 

I asked him what he thought was universal in terms of Waldorf throughout the world - what do people derive from the philosophy of Steiner, regardless of whether a Waldorf school was in the Philippines, or China, or the US, or Europe?

"That's easy," he said. "The development of the child. Every child wants to learn, every child wants to grow. Every child wants to be loved."

Christof had to leave at the end of the week, and he made it a point to visit our classroom one last time. He gave the students some final words about their play practice, and I gave him a copy of our play at his request. The picture above was taken in our classroom on this day. He reminded me to keep in touch.

Safe travels back to Dornach, Mr. Weichert.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

open house

a night at Davis Waldorf School

my chalk drawing of a Canadian national park

Mrs. Kost, our strings teacher, leads an ensemble

Davis Waldorf School welcomed families of current students and the outer community to experience the spirit of Waldorf at our annual Open House. Each grade and teacher showcased the curriculum in  their classrooms. While parents invariably start at their own students' classrooms, families are encouraged to begin in the early childhood and work their way up the grades. The progression of how the curriculum meets the developing child becomes artfully and thoughtfully demonstrated.

The early childhood classrooms, softly lit, swathed in hand-dyed silks, the smell of fresh-baked bread in the oven, resemble your favorite aunt's home, with welcoming rugs, pine furniture, and nature's toys of branches, pine cones, and felted wool. Guests will sense that these spaces were designed to embrace the young child in a warm, loving hug.

The lower grades' classrooms begin to show signs of academic work - the core language mechanics of the alphabet and phonics, and math skills introduced through stories, imagery, creativity, and demonstrations by the teacher. Chalkboards are filled with drawings and meticulously rendered lettering and numbering. Students' main lesson pages show how the curriculum is artistically and lovingly delivered. 

In the upper grades, guests will sense that the classroom spaces begin to support a more academic rigor as the students take on ancient civilizations, Buddhism, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Revolutionary War. Written work and higher level artistic techniques and mediums are showcased.

In the eighth grade classroom, the breadth of our curriculum was on display: a full-sized skeleton and main lesson pages with pen-and-ink cross-hatching for human anatomy, pajamas sewn with a machine in handwork, stools from woodwork, main lesson pages resembling newspaper headlines from the Industrial Revolution, chalk drawings from art class, our strings ensemble performed a couple of pieces, picketing signs with "Women's Right to Vote!" for our eighth grade play.

Our Open House allowed families to walk the journey that our students make each and every day at Davis Waldorf School.

Monday, January 21, 2013

short stories

the elements of good story writing

Our eighth grade short stories block is combined with our play practice. (I'll post something on our play later.)  The students were introduced to the six elements of story writing:

Point of View

They will analyze what each element brings to the story, and how each are interrelated in driving a story. The students will then write their own short story!

My chalk drawing above is from a photograph of a national park in Canada. A beautiful "setting!"