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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
A HIVE OF ACTIVITY
Beekeeping in Primary School
There is an old legend which tells of a swarm of bees making their hive in the abandoned helmet of a Roman soldier; the Spirit of Love redeeming the forces of conflict!
Perhaps that is why, in this Age of Violence, I introduce beekeeping to the small country primary school in which I taught.
The heart is the Organ of Courage.
Of course there wero the reasons; with the honey money we could afford little out-of-reach luxuries for the school. This pragmatism pales compared with the educational value in learning such a varied range of living skills as beekeeping embraces.
Each child at first approaches an open beehive with visible apprehension; white faced and slightly trembling, they peer into the humming nether world of the hive to remove a bee-encrusted frame. They are even told before-hand ‘You are likely to get stung.’ – this braces them when it (not inevitably) happens. I haven’t had a child drop a frame in panic yet!
When they replace it and move out of range again, it is a transformed human being jumping up and down before us; perhaps indifferently scraping off bee sting/s and plying the teacher with red-faced enthusiasm to ‘have another go’. The fear barrier has been broached. Naturally we provide reasonable protection for the young apiarists in the form of gloves, veils and smokers; but as children become more confident, they regard these with a certain disdain. I do insist on a hat however – mainly for the bee’s benefit, they get terribly upset tangled up in hair.
‘And what about life-threatening allergic reactions to bee stings?’ I hear my detractors cry. The parents are informed before-hand of my intentions with their sensitive offspring. I act according to their wishes, yet I have never had a child suffer a serious reaction. Some claim to be allergic, but being stung in circumstances of instruction and confidence seems to nullify the effect. In fact a certain rivalry can emerge, with some children gaining unexpected kudos from having the most stings that day! At least these may avoid the scourge of sclerotic diseases in later life – bee venom is widely used to treat arthritis and the like – it is an emollient.
And speaking of instruction, this unit should be accompanied by formal lessons on all aspects of bees – biological and behavioral. The heart is also the Organ of Truth.
As well there should be a technical strand where children learn to make bee boxes and mount frames. Perhaps the most important is the artistic element – yes artistic! Children understand their world most intensely when transformed into imaginative pictures. So we might have a story about bees; say a brother and sister were cruel to a bee, who reported this to the Spirit of the Swarm. She had the children shrunk to bee size for a tour of the hive – including facing the same dangers bees do each day; like avoiding the sticky web of Blackheart the spider! A creative teacher might also write a song, poems, paint and draw pictures – and even create a play for the Class. This artistic element harnesses the love of learning.
Beekeeping assures many adventures, especially in Spring when swarming occurs. We were registered with the local Council as swarm collectors, so that when 10,000 bees or so landed over Mrs. Smith’s toilet door, or in the bank or up a pine tree; the Class would leap into the old erstwhile ice cream van (school bus), affectionately called The Butterbox, and collect them – that was the plan at least!
On one very high swarm, a colleague tested the ‘new age’ method of calming bees – taking to them! This sadly sent an invisible miasma of halitosis and C02 over the swarm – and like ourselves, the bees hate both. The busy bee retreated down the ladder, well, not to be uncharitable, quickly!
On another occasion I was holding the collecting box under a swarm in a low tree, one boy (noted for uneven conduct) elected to hit the branch to drop the bees neatly into the box – but the whole swarm fell onto my head instead! I wonder what ever happened to that boy?
The Class would move heaven and earth (and wall paneling) to save a swarm; the other alternative was for the Council poison man to come and… we couldn’t bear to think of it! Which focuses on an important aspect of beekeeping in schools – the love of natures.
In the course of the lessons (and the story), the children are continually drawn to see the world as a bee does. They look up into the treetops to see what is flowering; they are concerned about weather changes – and they become sensitive to the rhythms of the seasons – the pulse of life.
Apiarists are privileged witnesses to wonders few other people see – like the Dance of the Bee, that cryptic, kinetic language which informs the hive where the new nectar flow is and there is such excitement when the children find the Queen Bee, surrounded by solicitous handmaidens – the mother of every bee in the hive.
Of course all children are sugar heads, having an irresistible urge to stick their fingers into the golden comb – the success of Pooh Bear is surely based on its honey associations.
And speaking of delicious; one of the sweetest sounds is that heard when an ear is pressed against the side of a happy hive. It is a song of peace, the soft wing-humming of a thousand harmonics – it is Love made manifest.
The heart is the Organ of Love.
Two brave little princesses from my class – one without the mandatory veil, both sans gloves! – search for the ever-elusive queen bee.