Pi Day, Creativity & Memory

Pi Day, Creativity & Memory
March 14, 2019 Roberto Maiocchi

It’s March 14, or 3/14 — the day we celebrate Pi!  While this day may go unnoticed by some, at EBWS, it is celebrated — with competitions around memorizing Pi and making pies.  There were a lot of gorgeous (and delicious) pies made by 5th and 6th graders.  The winners were a coconut key lime pie (Tastiest Award — to Carter),  a savory cottage pie (Most Unique Ingredients Award — Tristan), and a lemon curd pie (Most Decorative Award — Amelie), all of which showed nice creativity as well as having “good crumb.”  Baking is a great activity that combines science and aesthetics, and requires concentration and persistence.  Congratulations to Carter, Tristan, and Amelie!  To quote Paul Hollywood, “It was a good bake!”

Our students really engaged in the Pi memorization task — with the winner being the 6th grader who memorized Pi to 164 decimal places!  Congratulations, Nina!  Second and third place went to Salihah, with 130 digits and Scarlett with 62 digits. All this just since Monday.

How can students memorize something like this in just 7 days?  Waldorf students build strong memorization skills because they begin learning through recitation in preschool — first, in the form of a story or song — just learning it by hearing it over and over. As they grow, that recitation changes form until they can, for example, memorize everyone’s part for the 3rd grade play, or recite in its entirety “The Jabberwocky” in 5th grade.  It’s a funny side effect of how children learn in our school. Rote knowledge and memorization is the opposite of what teachers build in Waldorf Education.  One of the goals is helping students develop their capacity to think actively about the ideas and experiences they encounter in the world; it is not to memorize answers for a test.  But when your teacher goes to the trouble to speak with knowledge and interest about a topic — rather than just relaying the information in a textbook — it sets a model for the children about taking an interest in the world, so students listen.  And that listening does something.  Waldorf kids build amazing capacities over the course of their eight years of grade school.  Sometimes it’s subtle; until you realize on Pi Day what these kids have been building, and how rare these qualities increasingly are.  What’s it worth to really take an interest in what you are learning?  To engage your will in memorizing a number or baking a pie?