Nature Is Essential To Learning: A Conversation with Stephen Payne

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Your People created a Waldorf Marketing Immersion Course to teach Waldorf/Steiner school personnel how to market their schools to grow enrollment. There are two offered in 2021, with the first beginning January 11, 2021. Click here to register.

Education must be more than just learning in the head, according to Stephen Payne. As a guest on the 24th episode of the Make Meaning Podcast, he sat down to speak with Lynne Golodner about the importance of nature and education.

We also need to focus on “the ability to do,” says the resident farmer and garden teacher at Sacramento Waldorf School.

In modern society, most of us spend little time outdoors in nature. For children, especially during the current global pandemic, home life and school largely happen indoors. 

However, time in nature is essential to child development and an important touchstone lost by many education systems. The good news is that some schools are finding ways to reconnect learning with the natural world and seeing amazing results. Among these outdoor-thinking schools are a global network of more than 1,000 Waldorf schools.

** Lynne Golodner and Your People LLC have worked with Waldorf schools for the past seven years, guiding their marketing and public relations through meaningful messaging and rich relationships. Check out some examples here, here and here. ** 

What Makes A Waldorf Education Special?

Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf education is based on the teachings outlined by artist and scientist, Rudolf Steiner.

“The family were getting further away from living close to the land,” Stephen said on the podcast. “Steiner was recognizing that with the industrial revolution and the increase in population of urban settings, we were beginning to lose opportunities and experiences of teaching how to do things” by connecting with the land.

Steven Payne Nature Quote

Waldorf pedagogy is designed to promote universal human values, educational pluralism and meaningful teaching and learning.

Sacramento Waldorf School, where Stephen has been resident farmer for more than a decade, sprawls across a 22-acre campus that connects students with nature every day. It borders the American River and includes a 3.5-acre farm that is embedded in the curriculum.

That’s Stephen Payne’s world. Students know him as “Farmer Steve,”  and he teaches all grade levels about the farm’s complex ecosystem and the intricacies of farming. The curriculum relates to the developmental stage of the children. Because of this, they take on tasks that align with what their bodies, minds, and souls need to learn at each phase of childhood.

With more than two decades of experience in organic farming, Stephen understands the value of working with his hands. “Students experience plenty of indoor classroom time but also plenty of time in the arts and using their hands and tools.”

Above all, Waldorf schools seek to build confidence, connection and purpose. Stephen says that can be found at the intersection of nature and learning.

Learning is “a natural part of just being human and growing up and surviving on this earth,” he said.

How Leaning In Nature Strengthens Your “Inner Voice”

As a result of working together in nature, students gain a sense of purpose, ownership and self. They learn how to listen to their “inner voice.”

 “That inner voice is what propels us to activity,” Stephen says. “Through experiences on the farm, with tools and nature, children become more familiar with hearing their own inner drives, their own motivations.”

Stephen Payne Learning Quote

To help his students find their inner voice, Stephen often asks, “Do you listen to your intuition? Do you listen to what you have to share with yourself? Because that is the beginning of problem-solving skills.”

The reason Lynne Golodner and Your People have worked for so long with Waldorf schools is because of the importance these schools embody, making sure students are “not put in a box and are seen for who they are.”

On the podcast, she said to Stephen, “The beauty of a Waldorf education is that you can’t be anonymous. You are seen, you are heard, you matter.

How can a school market with meaning?

  • Articulate your powerful story, usually guided by details of its founding and outcomes among students. Use this story as the anchor content to promote the school.
  • Think about who needs to hear your story, and build real relationships with those people. That’s the first step toward growing enrollment.
  • Understand that communication channels should be two-way and offer mutual benefit. Even with social media, it can’t just be blasting out your own importance.
  • Align school marketing with its core values. If they have not yet been outlined, now is a great time to establish what matters to your school and let that guide your marketing!

Stephen describes ‘inner voice’ as “Being able to attach your emotional life to your work.”

Waldorf schools understand the importance of developing this inner voice early on. Just as Your People understands how important it is to utilize this skill in marketing efforts.

By focusing on purpose and story, we can revolutionize how organizations build awareness and establish their presence in the world – with meaning, driven by mission, and in pursuit of purpose.

Many Waldorf schools are challenged with marketing, uncertain how to identify, reach and connect with families who are likely to be receptive. The key to marketing Waldorf is helping people understand what Waldorf is and how its unparalleled approach builds confidence, strength and academic-artistic synergy.

Your People’s 2-month marketing immersion will empower your staff to understand and implement purposeful marketing activities that will connect your school with prospective families and grow your enrollment.