Why the blackboard holds a special place in a Steiner classroom

The article below, written in 2018 by Andrew Hill, Head of School, Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School, accompanied by beautiful blackboard drawings from Orana Steiner School in Canberra, highlights the important role of the blackboard in a Steiner school classroom, and in education. 


“Looks better…sounds better…feels better”, and even makes you think better: The Blackboard is Back

“…(also) smells better, and it probably tastes better too.” That’s blackboards they are referring to, good old fashioned blackboards, with chalk.  Even chalk is cool again, to Mathematicians at least. When you thought that blackboards were going the way of the dodo, along comes the Mathematics Department at the ANU, Australia’s leading Maths department by world standards. In their brand new $45 million building, the Mathematicians have installed wall to wall blackboards. The article below from the ANU website tells it all.

It was interesting to see the response of some leading school educators, especially ones who have led the charge into technological driven classrooms. “Blackboards. Back to the Future. For the right reasons, a good option for cognitive functioning” tweeted one Head of a large and local independent school who I am sure does not want to unnecessarily jump on to the band wagon. In his view blackboards improve cognitive functioning ie they make you think better.

Glenaeon has no need to jump on band wagons. We have always valued blackboards and every one of our classrooms has one. In the high school the blackboard sits next to the white board and projector screen, happily blending wifi’ed cutting edge IT integration with teacher creativity and pictorial representation.

We value blackboards for their ability to be the teacher’s easel and blank canvas to inspire student creativity. In our view they not only help you think better, they stimulate student creativity. The teacher models creativity by how he or she uses the blackboard to represent images, ideas, geometric constructions, diagrams and whatever else is the topic of learning, and students are inspired to follow suit in their own individual manner.

Having covered more square metres of blackboard space with chalk than most people, I can also attest to the “feels better, sounds better” quality that so impresses the mathematicians. Blackboards have an intangibly warm and expressive quality: they feel good to the touch. You can create beautiful pictures, diagrams, thought bubbles, script, anything that the human mind can grasp and represent. The chalk dust is manageable, and the dusty cracks that can appear in the skin between your fingers are a small professional price to pay for the beauty you create. Every profession has its hazards, and that’s a small one compared to a shoulder reconstruction for an NRL player.

And there is something much more: as you can see from the pictures, the teacher creates beauty in the classroom. We try to live our classical ideals of Truth, Beauty and Goodness: how do you build Beauty into learning? A blackboard well used by a trained teacher is “a thing of beauty” which as Keats put it, is a joy forever.

Long live blackboards! At Glenaeon they always will.

Article: Andrew Hill, Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School, Middle Cove, Sydney, 2018 www.glenaeon.nsw.edu.au

Blackboard Drawings: Orana Steiner School, Canberra www.oranaschool.com

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