Teaching the right thing at the right time.
Based on a comprehensive understanding of human development, Steiner Waldorf education offers children of all ages the opportunity to thrive through a challenging and stimulating academic programme integrated with the practical, fine and performing arts. The Steiner Waldorf curriculum is structured to reflect the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 7 years (early years), from 7 to 14 years (Classes 1 to 8) and from 14 to 19 years (Upper School).
This deep appreciation for evolving comprehension enhances the pupil’s awakening and shapes the curriculum, as well as the changing methods of teaching from early childhood through the Upper School. Although the demands of our external world continue to speed up, children develop at their own, natural pace, which cannot be hurried. Steiner 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. From Class One, the emphasis is on developing pupils’ artistic expression and social capacities, fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding. The Upper School curriculum meets the adolescent’s new capacities for critical thinking and independent judgment, as well as their 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 Steiner School 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
Steiner Waldorf schools both model and instill a deep sense of community as pupils 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 Subject Lessons
Pupils study both core curriculum and unique academic subjects in main lesson blocks—a approximately month-long double period each morning. These extended lessons allow students to deeply explore the subject matter. Subject lessons follow the main lesson blocks. Some disciplines are taught through both Main Lesson and Subject lessons.
A School without textbooks
Teachers rely on primary sources rather than textbooks, and pupils create individual “main lesson books” that reflect their proficiency and deepen their understanding of the subject matter for each main lesson block or subject lesson. 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 pupils to observe carefully, ponder, and discuss what is happening—thus allowing them to discover the conclusion 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 Class 8 and continuing through the Upper 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 classes, 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. 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 Steiner 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 in Steiner 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. Pupils 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.
The restorative benefits of the natural world
Studies continue to show that the more time children spend in nature, the healthier, happier, and more creative they are. Steiner 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, field trips in to nature and plenty of inviting outdoor space for joy-filled break time.
A secure journey
In the journey through the classes, 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. In the Upper school, our small, supportive 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.
The Origin of Steiner Waldorf Education
Rudolf Steiner was born in what is now Croatia in 1861. He wrote and lectured on a wide range of contemporary issues including architecture, medicine, philosophy, science, economics and social reform as well as education. Steiner-Waldorf schools, biodynamic agriculture and a variety of therapeutic and curative initiatives are amongst the most well known practical applications of his work. Our approach to education is based on Steiner’s educational insights, specifically those that relate to child development. These form one aspect of what Steiner called ‘anthroposophy’, literally, ‘human wisdom’, or ‘knowledge of the human being’ .
These ideas are contained in Steiner’s approximately 4,000 lectures and some 50 written works. Many of these can be accessed on line at the Rudolf Steiner archive: www.rsarchive.org . Anthroposophy is a developing body of research and not a belief system, indeed Steiner was at pains to make sure that people scrutinized his ideas and put them to the test; he did not want them simply to be adopted or `believed`, but he did invite people to engage with them. In his lectures on education he gave many indications for suitable subject matter and approaches to teaching for different ages but always stressed that teachers must be free to interpret these indications in their own way.
Steiner schools do not teach anthroposophy, indeed some would argue that it cannot be taught in any conventional sense. Our schools endeavour to work `out of anthroposophy`. The implications of this can best be understood by reading the Principles and Aspirations of the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education,
These principles are prefaced by the statement: “Steiner Waldorf educators study and research aspects of anthroposphy in order to inform and develop their work within the schools and places of learning. The philosophical and methodological approaches that underlie anthroposophy are regarded as tools for personal and profession al development; they are not taught within the school, either as a subject or a belief”.