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These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different. Read more in this helpful comparison from the Spring Garden Waldorf School
Waldorf teachers appreciate that technology must assume a role in education, but at the appropriate developmental stage, when a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child's natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age. ~ Excerpt from NYTimes Opinion, 5/2014, Author, Beverly Amico
Children need the capacity to use discernment about how, how much, and what to do or not do regarding internet exploration and media usage, which can be quite compelling. A maturity is required to understand that everything done on line should be considered public and permanent, no matter how private a communication may be considered. Mistakes are expected, but less likely when the child is ready to manage using this technology. There is a time and place for using the wonderful tools media and technology provide, but handing them to an easily influenced child warrants thoughtful consideration.
Computers and digital technology are not part of the early grades curriculum, although mechanical technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels. In Middle School, students use computers for research and mastery of touch typing. School work begins to transition to typed rather than hand-written. In high school, students learn about the hardware by dissecting a computer. They learn computer language through math and web design and coding. Even in High School, though, students take notes by hand. Computers and digital aids are used in the classroom as teaching tools across disciplines and students utilize computers and digital equipment at home for research, to aid in their schoolwork.
Waldorf schools are not art schools. The curriculum offers a holistic education in all academic disciplines that fully integrates the arts into its teaching methodology. Why? Because research continues to show that the inclusion of the arts in academia increases aptitude, retention of information, and creative thinking in areas such as math and science, and has a positive effect on emotional development as well. While some Waldorf students go on to have careers in the arts, most pursue other varied fields after graduation and college.
Our goal is to foster passionate readers who continue reading for pleasure throughout their lifetimes. To that end, we introduce reading in a developmentally appropriate way, when students are more comfortable with the written word and fully ready to engage. We begin Implicit Literacy work in our Children’s Garden, using a large oral vocabulary, rhyming phonemes and attentiveness to sound. Other physical capacities needed to read and write including eye tracking, left/right brain crossovers, midline inhibition, and proper pencil grip are supported in our play-based Kindergartens. Explicit Literacy instruction begins in the first grade by teaching consonants and vowel names and sounds through an artistic approach of drawing, painting, movement, and speech. This artistic, deliberate process engages the children with great interest, and by the end of first grade, children are writing and reading sentences and short texts, as well as creating their own reader by the year’s end. Word families and phonics instruction is used in addition to a Whole Language approach, reading and writing high frequency sight words. Students typically begin formal, smaller reading groups during the second half of second grade. This thorough and artistic approach to teaching literacy has been proven to build a solid base for advanced comprehension and vocabulary skills in later years.
All sciences begin with simple nature experiences in kindergarten and the early grades, zoology and botany in fourth and fifth grades, and advance with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism and electricity in Middle School to chemistry, biology, botany, zoology and modern physics in High School. The emphasis is on direct encounters with observable phenomena: Describe what happened. Evaluate what you have observed. What are the conditions under which the phenomena appear? How does this relate to what you already know? Then students are asked to think through the experiment and discover the natural law that stands behind and within the phenomena.
Eurythmy is an artistic form of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. This training of moving artistically with a group stimulates sensitivity to the other as well as individual mastery. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms.
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. WWS educates all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds and seeks to bring about the recognition and understanding of all world cultures and religions through an increasingly diverse curriculum. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interests.
Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian philosopher who lived in the late 19th/early 20th century. Among his many endeavors was the birth of Waldorf education, established by Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919 for the children of the workers of the Waldorf cigarette factory in Germany. Steiner is also credited as the father of biodynamic farming and a branch of German idealist philosophy known as Anthroposophy. At the heart of Anthroposophy is the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one's own spiritual development. Anthroposophy is not taught to Waldorf students, but Waldorf education holds as its primary intention the ideal of bringing forth - in every child - his or her unique potential in a way that serves the further development of humanity. The curriculum, pedagogy, and teaching methods are designed to nurture this potential.
We recognize that Steiner’s writings have sometimes been used to justify racial and cultural bias and WWS rejects any such use or interpretation as a part of our Waldorf educational philosophy. Read a Statement From the WWS College About Steiner’s Writings.
WWS adheres to Maryland state guidelines on vaccinations. The health, safety, and wellbeing of children are our forefront concerns. Along with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, WWS encourages parents to consider their civic responsibility in regards to the decision to immunize against any communicable disease, in consultation with their family physician. WWS is in full compliance with the state of Maryland vaccination policies.
The DC area is known for its transient nature and we are well versed in welcoming students throughout the school year and across the grades. Students may need to take supplemental lessons - in instrumental lessons or world languages for example, to prepare them for classroom work. We find that most students new to Waldorf education embrace this engaging and artistic style of learning with excitement and enthusiasm regardless of grade level.
At WWS our class teachers typically remain with the same class for multiple grades; Typical loops are 1-5 or 6-8, or 1-8. In this way, the teacher gets to really know each student as an individual and can consider each individual's development, needs, and learning style. The children, feeling secure in this long-term relationship, are more comfortable in their learning environment. A class community of families can be created that often continues beyond graduation.
A full assessment of each student's progress is provided in the form of a year-end narrative assessment in all subject areas coupled with matrices providing explicit information about student progress. These assessments are supported by teacher conferences and class meetings throughout the year. Grading begins in Middle School. In high school, GPAs are included in unofficial transcripts to indicate a student's academic standing to colleges and universities.
We believe that standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student's knowledge, intellectual capacities, or ability to learn. Thus our curriculum does not put focus on standardized test-taking preparation, particularly in the lower and middle grades. In high school, we provide PSAT and SAT preparation courses and some students choose to take outside instruction as well. Our students perform well on the SAT.
Waldorf students have been accepted in and graduated from a broad spectrum of notable colleges and universities. Waldorf graduates reflect a wide diversity of professions and occupations including medicine, law, science, engineering, computer technology, the arts, social science, government, and teaching at all levels.
According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:
- 94% attended college or university
- 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
- 42% chose sciences or math as a major
- 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
- 91% are active in lifelong education
- 92% placed a high value on critical thinking
- 90% highly value tolerance of other viewpoints