Rather than teaching theory first, we begin with observation and experimentation. In the very early grades, students first meet science through stories and songs. Direct observation of phenomena in nature is supported with our daily walk in nature and day-long field trips to farms, to go hiking, or other ecological centers in our area. In physics and chemistry (grades 6 - 8), a Waldorf teacher sets up an experiment, calls upon the students to observe carefully, reflect and discuss, allowing them to discover the underlying scientific principles for themselves. The goal of this approach is to develop precise observations, accurate reporting, independent thinking, and sound judgment - and to make science a relevant part of the children's everyday lives.
The Waldorf-inspired approach to study in all branches of science is phenomenological. Students follow in the steps of the historical inventors and scientific explorers as well as learn from contemporary innovators who are engaged in the "leading edge" of inquiry in these fields.
In class students and teachers share their observations and explore questions that arise from these discussions. Theories are developed based on empirical data that posit possible causes and influencing factors. Finally conclusions are reached which are then compared to accepted scientific theory. By engaging in the essential process of scientific inquiry for themselves, students grow confidence in their abilities to observe, question and reason. This experiential approach provides a context for learning, letting students see how inquiry leads effectively to knowledge, and how they can engage in the exploration of the world around them.