Teaching in a technology-free environment

Dirk Wareham

Dirk Wareham 1990 –

Teaching runs in the Wareham family: both of Dirk’s parents are teachers, as were both of his father’s parents. Now he himself is a teacher. Following a year of teaching high school earth science at a private Catholic school on Long Island, he returned to the Bruderhof. He is currently teaching first and second grade in Bellvale. 

In the school I worked at on Long Island, every student had a school-issued iPad, not to mention a smartphone. Now and then we’d take them to a retreat center and confiscate their phones for the weekend. Some of them were afraid to give them up at first. How were they going to survive? Of course, in the end they did, and enjoyed themselves fully: boating, swimming, and everything else.

I love the fact that our communities’ classrooms are technology-free. Without a screen in front of them, the kids are constantly faced with concrete situations and consequences. If I take my class out on a walk in the woods, and they cross a stream on a log and lose their balance, they get wet!

I am not afraid of being thought a sentimentalist when I say that I believe natural beauty has a necessary place in the spiritual development of an individual or a society. I believe that whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute something manmade and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man’s spiritual growth.
Rachel Carson, writer and environmentalist

One of the activities my classes love doing each year is maple sapping: tapping the trees, hanging the buckets, collecting and boiling the sap. They even help cut the firewood. Last year we produced one hundred gallons of syrup. We grow vegetables in our summer program. Best of all, I like to teach them something I learned as a child: how to feed chickadees from your hand.

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