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History of WWS

The Washington Waldorf School (WWS) was founded as a grade school in 1969 in Washington, DC, by a dedicated group of people deeply committed to Waldorf education, including a professor at the University of Maryland, Clopper Almon, as well as dedicated professionals, Gene and Esther Smith and Roberta van Schilfgaarde. They were able to engage an experienced class teacher to come from England, Karl Hoffman, who had begun his teaching in Austria. First opening its doors in a church basement in Northwest DC with eleven families within two years they moved to Hearst Hall on the National Cathedral grounds and expanded to pre-K through 8th grade. Mr. Hoffman led the school through its infancy, mentoring new teachers. In the pioneering years, class teachers taught additional subjects such as handwork, woodwork, and art. Over many years, subject teachers specially trained in their fields have been added to the elementary grades.

Plans to develop a high school motivated the move in the fall of 1982 to the current six-acre site on Sangamore Road. Our high school was added in 1984, beginning with two full-time teachers, one science/math teacher and one history/humanities teacher. Over the years the program has evolved to include a full program of academics. The first class graduated in 1988. Over the past several years we have had the pleasure of welcoming alumni back to our school as parents of children enrolling at WWS.

In the spring of 2012 we signed a lease with Montgomery County for up to 30 years on our current building. This is an important new chapter in the life of the School, which gives us the opportunity to make significant capital improvements to our building, including adding a gymnasium/community space, enhancing our reception area, replacing the roof, and replacing the HVAC system, as well as making other smaller improvements. We will provide more details on these initiatives in the coming months.

History of Waldorf Education

In the social and economic chaos that followed World War I, Emil Molt, a German industrialist and manager of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, called upon his friend, the philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, to formulate a new kind of education. Both men believed that to affect a renewal of human societies, education must change. The prevailing social mode that viewed education as the provenance of the state must be replaced by the perception of education as a "cultural deed."   The first Waldorf School, established in Stuttgart, Germany, was revolutionary for its time – a comprehensive co-educational school open to children from all social, religious, racial, and economic backgrounds that aimed to cultivate each student’s capacity to think clearly, feel compassionately, and act purposefully in the world. 

Schooled in modern science and philosophy, Rudolf Steiner was a spiritual thinker whose articulated philosophy is commonly called Anthroposophy. While Anthroposophy is not taught at Waldorf schools, it does inform the curriculum and methodology, which recognize the need to respect both the material and spiritual realities of all humans. Waldorf schools thus strive to educate not only the intellect, but also the child's full and essential humanity—his or her ability to feel and to do, as well as to think. The Waldorf curriculum also recognizes that our common humanity develops in clear, predictable, and understandable stages, which should be honored, not rushed.

Since the first Waldorf school opened in Stuttgart, in 1919, Waldorf education has spread throughout Europe and the United States - the first American Waldorf school opened in New York City in 1928- and now exists in 45 countries. At last count, there were nearly 1,000 schools and 1,200 kindergartens worldwide. Each school is self-administered and independent, but follows the essential curriculum designed by Steiner. Teachers develop their understanding of children by working from their own experience, as well as Steiner's insights into human development.