What is Waldorf education?
“Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf Education is based on a developmental approach that addresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child– the heart and the hands, as well as the head.”
~ From AWSNA, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
The first Waldorf School was located in Stuttgart, Germany, and founded to benefit the children of workers at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory. Today there are over 750 Waldorf schools world-wide, with over 250 Waldorf schools in North America. For more information about Waldorf education, visit AWNSA’s website: www.waldorfeducation.org.
Waldorf methods and curriculum are time tested and present a cohesive program that challenges the whole child, socially, academically, and artistically. Waldorf pedagogy is based on developmentally appropriate, rigorous academics delivered through an arts-infused curriculum and has a proven ability to reach and inspire students, including:
- Developmentally appropriate practices — based on child development principles and scientific evidence regarding brain development and the growth of neural and cognitive structures. Its goals include: (1) develop skills and competence in all areas (intellectual, social/emotional, and physical); (2) develop positive feelings about learning; and (3) be responsive to individual differences in developmental stage, ability, and interests.
- Integrated/interdisciplinary curriculum — gives students the opportunity to experience the world around them as an integrated whole and makes learning relevant to their own lives. It facilitates active, engaged learning, and encourages children to bring all of their intelligences and experiences to the learning activity.
- Cooperative learning — helps facilitate community building. Cooperative project work builds on social and academic skills and often requires students to employ creativity and ingenuity as they discover the problem solving process.
- Thematic study — provides students the opportunity to explore a concept in depth while giving teachers the flexibility to modify the curriculum to meet student needs.
- Experiential Learning — allows students the time discover, integrate and experiment with new information and ideas before the teacher expects mastery, ensuring that students have a clear, correct and complete understanding of the material and its context before they are asked to recast it in the form of lesson books, projects, artwork, formal assessment and other demonstrations of mastery.
Why is the academic material presented in a block schedule?
Subjects are studied in blocks of a few weeks rather than separated into discrete class periods each day. In the course of each lesson block all academic disciplines are addressed through a common theme. This allows the teacher to create lessons within a theme that are targeted towards the specific interests and skills of the students in her class. It allows the class to delve into lessons, exploring a time period in history, or new mathematic concepts through multiple learning experiences — academic, artistic, musical, social, and kinesthetic.
What is the advantage of arts-based academics?
The arts provide a highly effective tool for learning, exploring and mastering material. This approach recognizes the direct link between art, music and movement, and high academic achievement. Woven throughout a rigorous curriculum, the arts support children’s deep understanding and academic success in unique and developmentally appropriate ways, including: verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, visual/special, bodily/kinesthetic, as well as musical/rhythmic.
An arts-based curriculum embraces a myriad of learning styles and ensures that each student has the opportunity to completely participate in his/her own education and discover unsuspected talents.
Why the emphasis on community and parent involvement?
A strong school community provides a rich environment for children and their families. When parents share their time and skills in support of the school through fundraising, organizing events, or supporting the classroom teachers by working together on school projects, children benefit from the growth of the school community. Adults model good working and social skills when each individual brings his or her skills to work together to create a healthy, vibrant, and strong school-based community.
Where can I find more information?
The Oxbow Parent and Student Handbook contains a list of books about Waldorf education.
The following links may also be of interest:
Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
A coalition of organizations working to protect childhood
Provides useful information to Waldorf teachers, parents and anyone interested in Waldorf education
Provides resources for early childhood educators and parents interested in Waldorf early childhood education
At Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, Technology Can Wait
New York Times article from October 2011