This nature story has been in my files since I first became a Waldorf teacher in 1981. It is a faded Xerox copy, whose source is lost to me. I’m sure the individual does not mind, would be happy, in fact, that his/her humble offering was of use to future generations.
Once, a drop of water found itself sailing along with many fellow travelers in a big, white cloud driven by strong winds through the summer sky. On the earth far, far below them lay a great mountain, shimmering like silver in the heat of noon. The plants that grew on the mountainside were withering and crying out for water. So down dashed the drops to rescue them with cooling rain. Each drop sank deep into the hard baked ground where the roots were, bringing them refreshment. Then came a long journey downward through the darkness, until, at last, one fine summer morning, the raindrop and his companions made their way out into the daylight of a sloping hillside. How good it was to be free again! In their delight they ran races with each other down the mountainside. Other drops joined them. Now there were so many that when they played together they became a tiny brook, which trickled down the slope. At every turn more drops swelled their company, until soon the little brook was a loud stream rushing and brawling down the mountain, leaping with a roar over boulders and stones. Animals came out of the forest to drink at the quiet pools along the banks. The stream met other streams as it hurried on and grew steadily larger. Finally the day came when it reached the broad plain and became a slowly flowing river. Boats from the ocean sailed up and down along it carrying things needed by the people who lived beside its banks. After many days of quiet floating the drops saw the great shining ocean lying far ahead. They began to taste the salt of the ocean tides, which flowed up and mingled with them. At last they poured into the sea and became part of its heaving billows. And so their journey ended for a time, until, once again, the sun shone so brightly that great numbers of drops climbed upward along with him forming clouds of mist that set sail on other airy voyages.
Now, what is there about this story? We will, of course, recognize this as a story about the water cycle. The personification of the little raindrop may seem trite to an adult, just as it might even to a third grader. I, personally, in rereading the story years later, had to take the time to allow the images to take hold of me, to live into them with my feelings. While I had to make an effort to get up into the “big, white cloud driven by strong winds through the summer sky,” the child is there traveling along on the adventure, experiencing compassion for the parched earth, feeling the excitement of leaping over the stones, just as children do at play. It is effortless; they just follow along. There is movement, both physical and emotional. They undergo a wide range of inner experiences, joy and sadness, fear and courage, aloneness and comaraderie , as well as the experience of just being carried along. They are moved inwardly. That is the key. Is there any doubt that this is a learning experience? It would, somehow, be a shame to make the whole thing too conscious, or to analyze the story right afterward, for the story has only just begun to take root.
In subsequent years, when children begin more formal scientific studies and learn to know nature from another side, these impressions remain as warm, dynamic, subtly echoing overtones of beauty and meaningful feeling, the source of which they may not even remember in the usual sense of the term. The source, of course, does not originate from the story, the story only stirs what is latent in the child.
The story here is clearly directed toward children in first or even second grade. We must ask the question of which windows of receptivity are open in the child of this age? Which areas of the inner life are calling for nourishment and stimulation? The child at this age calls for a sympathetic union with nature and all that this entails. Something is achieved through this, fields are plowed, seeds are planted, something is put by for later use. A sediment of sorts is laid down for the child, compost. Development is gradual, and it is tremendously important that we develop a sense for what is appropriate in the way we approach the children, what we bring and how we bring it.