At the Washington Waldorf School, we prepare young people for the future by developing their full capacities for creative imagination, critical thinking, and active engagement in the world.
Washington Waldorf is one of more than 1,000 Waldorf schools worldwide, and is rooted in the pioneering work of Rudolf Steiner. Our purpose is to develop the whole human being in a healthy and nurturing environment.
WWS educates the whole child. Our curriculum is designed to develop our students academically, emotionally, and physically. In practice, this means that - in addition to a strong grounding in core academic skills - WWS students have many opportunities to engage in the arts, music, and drama, as well as practical manual skills in textile arts, metalwork, woodwork, and more. Moreover, the arts aren't simply extra classes; they are woven throughout the curriculum. Waldorf students also receive extensive training in movement and spend a large amount of time outside.
The Waldorf curriculum is developmentally appropriate. Children have very different capacities at different ages, and our curriculum is tailored to meet students "where they are." We believe young children, up until grade 1, need to spend much of their time in free play. This builds their capacities for imagination and goal setting, while also building social skills and small motor skills. Academics are introduced in the early grades, and gradually become more intense into the middle school years. At the same time, the Lower School curriculum is rich in the arts, storytelling, and drama, which cultivates the students' ability to be empathetic and compassionate. By High School, the curriculum is designed to cultivate the students' capacities for rigorous critical thinking, supplemented by continued - more advanced - work in arts, music, and expressive movement.
We create a safe and nurturing community for students and their families, while preparing our students for life beyond Waldorf. In a very real sense, WWS is an oasis, especially in the Children's Garden and Lower School, where "children can be children." As students get older, we help them engage the larger world in a healthy way that allows them to develop their independence and good judgment. Our families face the same choices and challenges as other families, and ultimately our students will have to make their way in the larger world outside the Waldorf school. Our goal is to help our students know who they are so that when that time comes, they can go forward with confidence that they are equipped to thrive.
Although there is no typical Waldorf student, our students tend to be individualistic, creative, hard working, and open to new experiences and ways of learning. Many different kinds of students thrive at the Washington Waldorf School. All students discover new facets of themselves. In many cases, students who have become stressed or indifferent in other settings blossom at the Washington Waldorf School. Even though we are a relatively small school, students experience a rich social life, and no one is anonymous.
At the same time, WWS is not equipped to support students with severe learning or behavioral challenges, though many students with unusual learning styles do well here.
We do not "teach to the test." Students are evaluated regularly, and teachers are always available to parents to discuss a child's progress. Students typically begin getting letter grades in grade 6. Every subject is graded in subsequent grades. Although we do not administer any standardized tests (with the exception of the PSAT, which we give to 10th grade students), we recognize their importance, especially in the upper grades, and prepare our High School students for the SAT and other such tests. In fact, the average SAT scores for WWS students is above the average for Montgomery County Public Schools.
We delay the use of digital media in education. This is an area where there are many misconceptions about Waldorf. We believe that young children benefit from little or no screen time. Moreover, we are skeptical about the much-touted positive impacts of instructional technologies, especially for young children, though we recognize this field is changing rapidly, and that such technologies are becoming more effective.
We do introduce digital media as children grow. By middle school, our students are beginning to use the Internet for research, and we include digital literacy and Cyber Civics in the curriculum. By the high school years, students are fully conversant in the use of computers and a variety of applications.
Otherwise, we want our students to maximize their experience of the real world rather than the virtual world. Obviously contemporary life is saturated in technology and every child must be prepared to thrive in a highly technological world. Above all, this requires a high degree of flexibility, adaptability, and creativity — precisely the qualities the Waldorf curriculum fosters. Finally, it is worth noting that Waldorf graduates are very well represented in high technology fields and media, where their special brand of creativity is highly valued.
Our graduates are admitted to a wide range of colleges and universities, and most gain admission to their top choice. Waldorf graduates stand out in the admissions process, and our personal approach means that teachers are equipped to provide highly individualized, persuasive recommendations. Many of our graduates also receive substantial merit-based financial assistance. Beyond college, our graduates excel in a wide variety of careers. Our graduates are highly creative, entrepreneurial, driven, socially minded, and grounded in themselves.
For more information about the Waldorf school movement and Steiner, visit the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
Other Waldorf Schools in our region: