Practical Skills Therapeutic Education

Unit Overview - This unit will enable learners to develop knowledge and understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s principles of human phasic development.  It will also include his notion of the 12 senses and explore the importance of movement through the three planes of space in the context of working on a biodynamic holding and its therapeutic value within an educational curriculum.


1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the 7 year rhythm in human development (400/500 words)



In his book written in 1907, 'The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science' Steiner sets out some very interesting and persuasive arguments relating to child development.  Most fascinating, is his view regarding 7 year rhythms in child development.  In this piece of writing, he clearly states the phases of human development; 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 and in doing so he sets out a method of education specifically designed to these phases.  The insights he provides give educators firm principles for how education might be designed to suit and enrich the child across a range of disciplines.


I feel that the following quotation from the beginning of the book is a very important one:


'Life in its entirety is like a plant. The plant contains not only what it offers to external life; it also holds a future state within its hidden depths. One who has before him a plant only just in leaf, knows very well that after some time there will be flowers and fruit also on the leaf-bearing stem. In its hidden depths the plant already contains the flowers and fruit in embryo; yet by mere investigation of what the plant now offers to external vision, how should one ever tell what these new organs will look like? This can only be told by one who has learnt to know the very nature and being of the plant.'

'The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science' Rudolph Steiner 1907


In saying this, Steiner espouses that there are some universal principles that can be applied to human phasic development.  These principles have been later developed and enhanced to form the basis of education for the child, and they have been adopted by the Steiner School movement as general guiding principles for the curriculum for every child.


Between the ages of 0 - 7 The Physical


'The foundation is laid for the development of a strong and healthy Will.'


'By a right application of the fundamental educational principles, during the first seven years of childhood, the foundation is laid for the development of a strong and healthy Will. For a strong and healthy will must have its support in the well-developed forms of the physical body.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


'There are two magic words which indicate how the child enters into relation with his environment. They are: Imitation, and Example.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


The students that I work with on a daily basis, are always over the age of 7, but it might be argued that many are occupying this 0-7 phase because some of their developmental stages have been missed as a result of their turbulent childhood experiences.


'Aristotle called man the most imitative of creatures. For no age in life is this more true than for the first stage of childhood, before the change of teeth. What goes on in his physical environment, this the child imitates, and in the process of imitation his physical organs are cast into the forms which then become permanent. ‘Physical environment’ must, however, be taken in the widest imaginable sense. It includes not only what goes on around the child in the material sense, but everything that takes place in the child's environment — everything that can be perceived by his senses, that can work from the surrounding physical space upon the inner powers of the child. This includes all the moral or immoral actions, all the wise or foolish actions, that the child sees.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


To my understanding, these passages speak of the critical role modelling in all aspects of our work with children.  Role modelling is the single most powerful part of the teaching and guidance process.  Creating a productive atmosphere and supportive ethos around the child allows them to blossom in their critical early phase.  This is the main part of my work at Eyam Edge, providing productive and positive learning experiences that have the capacity to guide students towards mutual goals, with a myriad of learning opportunities along the way.


'Last but not least, there is the cultivation of the sense of beauty and the awakening of the artistic feeling. The musical element must bring to the etheric body that rhythm which will then enable it to sense in all things the rhythm otherwise concealed. A child who is denied the blessing of having his musical sense cultivated during these years, will be the poorer for it the whole of his later life.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


Rhythm and music I have found to be a source of fascination and enjoyment for the children I work with.  The act of sitting and sharing a song can often be a very settling start to the day.  I am of no doubt that it plays an essential role.


Between the ages of 7-14 The Imagination


'For this reason it matters above all that the boy and girl should have as their teachers persons who can awaken in them, as they see and watch them, the right intellectual and moral powers. As for the first years of childhood Imitation and Example were, so to say, the magic words for education, so for the years of this second period the magic words are Discipleship and Authority.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


From a craft and horticulture perspective, it is key that the child has the guidance of a skilled practitioner who can communicate the right messages about the subject and the spirit of learning. The culture of a place and the culture of a community is of vital importance.  Thus the community becomes the 'village' where a collection of skills and insights helps to structure the education of the child.


'In the history lesson especially, the teacher should lead his teaching in the direction thus indicated. When telling stories of all kinds to little children before the change of teeth, our aim cannot be more than to awaken delight and vivacity and a happy enjoyment of the story. But after the change of teeth, we have in addition something else to bear in mind in choosing our material for stories; and that is, that we are placing before the boy or girl pictures of life that will arouse a spirit of emulation in the soul.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


Using various historical figures we can support learning and emulation through their achievements and we can communicate our reasons for our support of these individuals and nurture respect for the human attributes that we give value to in our learning community.


'Reprimands give at best but little help in the matter of habits and inclinations.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


Between the ages of 14-21 The Spirit


'With the age of puberty the astral body is first born.'


Much of what Steiner says about the age beyond puberty is also concerned with the importance of not

approaching this third phase of development too early.  In other words In order to be ripe for thought, one must have learned to be full of respect for what others have thought.' Rudolph Steiner 1907.  He further emphasises this thus:


'Man is not in a position to judge until he has collected in his inner life material for judgement and comparison. If he forms his own conclusions before doing so, his conclusions will lack foundation.' Rudolph Steiner 1907


In this phase 'Only now, therefore, can we approach the child from without with all that opens up the world of abstract ideas, the faculty of judgement and independent thought.' Rudolph Steiner


There is much less written about this phase of development, because there needs to be less prescription and more room for independent thought and independent action.  This is mirrored in the Ruskin Mill Trust pedagodgy which culminates in 'self generated concious action'.


The child has stepped through the first two developmental phases and emerges - as if from a chrysalis - ready to take flight with free ideas and independence.


2.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the three planes of space and their relevance to a PSTE curriculum.


The signature crafts of the RMT method include some of the following:


  • green woodwork
  • woolcraft
  • metal working (Blacksmithing)
  • pottery - clay and jewellery
  • glasswork
  • woodland management
  • farming,
  • catering
  • horticulture.


“[...] the sagittal plane linked with the frontal (focus), the sagittal with the horizontal (grasp), and all three together – sagittal, frontal and horizontal (step). The result is nothing less than the vertical line of our ego-experience. This line lies in the sagittal place separating right and left and runs through our entire organism and our entire existence. Only when it is constantly experienced in focusing, grasping and stepping do I experience myself as an individual” (König, 1983, p. 49).


Each of the crafts offers the opportunity to move across the planes of space, in order to 'constantly experience' the meaning of being an individual.  In my reflection for (3.1) below I describe the experience of making a greenwood stool with students and I link this to the 12 senses.  The way that the planes of space have therapeutic value can be equally applied to green woodwork.


In particular, splitting wood, working on the shave horse, working on the pole lathe, each providing a constant linking of the planes of space.



3.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the 12 senses (with specific reference to the lower four senses) and their relevance to a PSTE curriculum.


Steiner's notion of the 12 senses is a powerful one.  The RMT understanding of the importance of developing these senses through a sensory integrated curriculum delivered through PSTE is of fundamental importance to the student learning experience across the Trust. Eyam is no exception.


This is a reflection of how the four lower senses of balance, life, touch and movement are developed through the learning experience of making a greenwood stool from start to finish; from tree to seat.


'Fell Tree > Cut Branches > Make Pieces > Make Chair > Sit at Table'

RMT Practitoner's Guide


Sourcing the wood


There is a world of learning that can take place in understanding types of wood we might use, and in having a vision for the wood and a coherent plan of what to do with it.  This also provides opportunities for sensory development and integration of the four lower senses in the student learning experience.  Through the touching of the materials comes certainty. The process of making a functional item, in this case a stool, involves the sense of touch having a task.  This might be expressed through touching the bark, through touching the split edges of the billet, through the feeling of angular edges becoming smooth on the shave horse.



Over time the life sense might become apparent through the physical sensations of the body. As the resistance of the material is met and overcome.  There will be pain, which is the 'extreme manifestation of the life sense.' RMT Practitioner's Guide.


Movement occurs in the mind as we move from the larger picture and zoom into detail. What we going to do with the materials we have found/sourced? We have a plan and there is an intention and vision of an end product. This may involve discussion and modification of ideas.


When a plan is set and an intention is clear we have a path to follow. An achievable and supported task enhances the life sense because a problem occurs in that we have all the aspects and something to make and the will to make it. There is a purpose and clear incentive and goal which is supported by a tutor with the skills to make this happen. Balance is enhanced because the student has a role model to help them achieve something that otherwise is unachievable. Balance is also enhanced because there is an understanding of the elements needed to create a specific item in terms of tools and materials. In preparation of the stages of building the stool, the tutor prepares the students by role modelling the physical movements and aspects of touch and balance necessary to achieve the task.


Using the Tools


Through use of the tools we might ask questions around our muscle sense movements. In relation to the tools, can we be master of our entire body? Where in our body are we not in charge? We have a life sense of our own physical constitution.  As the shaping of the stool components occurs we might reflect the difficulties and time consuming nature of the work.  As stated in the RMT Practioner's Guide, 'Pain is learning, it is painful to learn.'


In terms of the 4 lower senses, it is not necessary to individualise them since all 4 work harmoniously together when a student is engaged in a process and supported by a role model.


With each aspect of the process, balance, touch and movement all work together with a strong vision and understanding to meet resistance within the materials while simultaneously allowing the student to encounter resistance within themselves.


When the student encounters and overcomes/acknowledges this resistance within themselves and can persevere, they experience a distance from aspects of themselves that might otherwise disturb the flow of the life sense. They become distracted from their daily personal disturbances and deeply engaged in a process that is both involving their self but at the same time giving them a rest from issues that normally causes anxiety or discomfort.


Since the process of making the stool is a staged and methodical experience, the student, if able to follow the process from start to finish, encounters a situation where they created a whole from parts- a successful and useful item from an idea or intention.


Each individual tool process can be whittled down to miniature versions of this whole idea. Therefore the entire process split down into individualised steps works to strengthen the overarching benefits to the lower senses.


If we think about the actual item: The wooden stool and its uses we can look at a collection of stools around a table for the use of a community or group. We begin to focus of being part of something bigger than ourselves which lends itself to enhancing the life sense and having balance between the inner world and outer worlds. In terms of touch, we use the stool to be part of a community or to take part in a community focused activity and by doing so, we are placing our body against a natural item that is supporting us. If we have made this item, we have essentially created an item that has the purpose to hold (touch), balance and create a resistance to our movement. From our sense of movement comes our sense for a goal.


If we look at all these aspects in relation to self propelled conscious actions- moving forward- in making the stool from scratch, the student has successfully created a purposeful item for the use of themselves and others. With all the skills involved in each step of the process, the student has moved closer towards stepping into a world where they are able to leave their internal world and use their skills to create something that will be useful and last a long time. The opportunities beyond this task become manifold as the student realises that their will and bodily action can be beneficial not only to themselves but to the larger world.
















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Created by Jim Hildyard