Based on a comprehensive understanding of human development, Waldorf education offers children of all ages the opportunity to thrive through a challenging and stimulating academic program integrated with the practical, fine and performing arts.
“The right thing at the right time”
The Waldorf curriculum is structured to reflect the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 7 years (early childhood), from 7 to 14 years (grades and middle school) and from 14 to 18 years (high school). This deep appreciation for evolving comprehension enhances the student’s awakening and shapes the detailed facets of the curriculum, as well as the changing methods of teaching from early childhood through high school.
A landmark study by the renowned Gessell Institute of Child Development, which has been observing developmental milestones in young children for over 60 years, reconfirmed the fact that the developmental phases of childhood haven’t changed in the six decades that they have been monitoring them. Although the demands of our external world continue to speed up, children develop at their own, natural pace, which cannot be hurried. Waldorf schools respect this pace and believe in the natural unfolding of each child.
Early childhood programs focus on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage the development of healthy bodies, creative play and imagination. In the grades, the emphasis is on developing students’ artistic expression and social capacities, fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding. The high school curriculum meets the adolescent’s new capacities for critical thinking and independent judgment, as well as their compelling interest in life’s big questions: What is justice? What do we mean by truth? What will give my life meaning? How can I make a difference in the world?
Three-fold nature of knowing
Each lesson in the Waldorf classroom is brought in a three-fold manner: through the intellectual capacities (thinking), artistic and emotional capacities (feeling), and practical skill-building capacities (willing). This “head, heart and hands” approach integrates learning with the natural stages of growth, resulting in well-rounded graduates.
Social health of the community
Waldorf schools both model and instill a deep sense of community as students become aware of their relationships to their classmates, their school and the world. Through the close connection with teachers, peers and other adults in the schools, students develop trust, social skills and spiritual awareness by respecting and caring for each other, their environment and the earth.
Main Lesson Blocks and Track Classes
Students study both core curriculum and unique academic subjects in main lesson blocks—a month-long double period each morning. These extended blocks allow students to deeply penetrate the subject matter.
Track classes follow the main lesson blocks. Some disciplines are taught through both main lesson and track classes.
A School without Textbooks
Teachers rely on primary sources rather than textbooks, and students create individual “main lesson books” that reflect their proficiency and deepen their understanding of the subject matter for each main lesson block or track class.
Main lesson books reflect the breadth and depth of the curriculum through essays, scientific observations, drawings or paintings, and hand-drawn maps.
“Phenomenological” Approach to Science
The sciences are taught experientially and follow a “phenomenological approach,” which means that the teacher sets up an experiment and calls upon the students to observe carefully, ponder, and discuss what is happening—thus allowing them to discover the conclusion (law, formula, etc.) for themselves. Approaching the subject matter in this manner develops true scientific thinking as an organic skill as well as competency within the student.
Starting in middle school and continuing through high school, each year the curriculum brings a new topic in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology. This allows students to gain an ascending spiral of knowledge in the various fields of science rather than studying one discipline per year.
An Extraordinary Humanities Curriculum
A rich immersion in the humanities begins in early childhood, as each day children listen with rapt attention as the teacher tells a fairy tale or nature story. Progressing through the grades, the children absorb the legends of saints, multicultural folklore, Native American tales, Norse mythology and sagas; stories of Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece; the History of Western civilization from Rome through the Middle Ages, the rise of Islam, the Age of Exploration, the Renaissance and Reformation, Dante’s Inferno, Parzival and Russian literature. (Go here for a full list)
In the early years, by “living into” these cultures through legends and literature, children gain flexibility and an appreciation for the diversity of mankind. By the end of their Waldorf journey, the students have travelled from the classical world through medieval history, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Exploration, and revolutions in Europe and America up through the present day.
Art Is a Signature of Waldorf Education
Our high scholastic discipline is balanced by the ongoing integration of the fine, performing and practical arts. Daily participation in the arts engages students emotionally in their own learning and develops self-awareness and aesthetic sensibilities. Students who work through their education with color and form; with music, drama, and speech; with clay, wood, fiber, metal, charcoal and ink, have not only worked creatively to activate, clarify, and strengthen their emotions, but have carried thought and feeling down into the practical exercise of the will.
By participating in the artistic process, students create beauty and objects of value, and strengthen their capacities of imagination, self-control, and clear thinking—capacities that carry over to academics as well as to everyday life situations.
Nature Immersion and Earth Stewardship
Studies continue to show that the more children spend in nature, the healthier, happier, and more creative they are. Yet only about 25% of children of all ages spend time playing outdoors every day. Waldorf education respects the restorative benefits of the natural world and provides our students with a full gardening curriculum, which includes studies in farming, botany and meteorology, rich curricular field trips in nature , and lots of inviting outdoor space for joy-filled recess.
Assessment and Grading Practices
WSP provides the healthiest possible learning culture for our students through our innovative assessment and grading policy. At WSP, we foster a healthy rhythm of learning free of unproductive stress or competition, ensure that students are evaluated on articulated, visible and relevant learning goals, and encourage students to strive for excellence in order to reach their highest potential in all endeavors rather than do merely enough to arrive at an arbitrary end. We also strive to develop those qualities that cannot be measured through testing, such as creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, civic-mindedness, empathy, leadership, compassion, and zest for life.
At WSP, students and teachers develop a relationship of trust and mutual regard. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child.
In the journey through the grades, the teacher generally stays with the class for all eight years. The security from these long-term relationships enhances learning, confidence, and social and emotional skills, while ensuring that each child gets his or her individual needs fulfilled.
At the high school, our small, supportive and close-knit community ensures that each student is known, respected, valued and challenged.
All of our teachers:
- Engage students by teaching in a dynamic and collaborative manner.
- Establish within each student his or her own highest level of academic excellence.
- Spark inner enthusiasm for learning and work.
- Help students find meaning and future direction in their lives.