The Nelson Waldorf School is a full Kindergarten to Grade Eight School. The text below provides an overview of the curriculum at the school, or you can find specific information on our Early Childhood programs, the Elementary School curriculum (Classes 1 through 5), the Middle School curriculum (Classes 6 through 8), and the Middle School enrichment programs. There is also information on High School options for our graduating students.
Waldorf education offers an integrated and developmental curriculum, Kindergarten through High School,that prepares students to successfully meet the challenges of a changing world. The curriculum is based on a holistic approach designed to present a balance of the sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Parents should expect neither the sequence nor the method found in traditional schooling. In choosing a Waldorf education for their children, parents are choosing a way of education that has been proven for almost ninety years, but which is still in the vanguard of educational practice. Appreciation and reverence for the natural world and the cultural heritage of humanity form the core. Throughout, emphasis is placed on the development of the child and the integration of knowledge with the student's own life experience.
The Waldorf curriculum and philosophy are what distinguish the Nelson Waldorf School from other schools. However, the following six unique features stand most prominently to answer the question "What makes the Nelson Waldorf School so successful at educating students from Kindergarten through Grade Eight?"
Role of the Arts
The arts permeate all aspects of school life at the Nelson Waldorf School. Fine and practical arts—painting, sculpting, drawing, singing, instrumental ensembles, woodwork, handwork, drama, movement—provide an opportunity for social interaction while teaching patience, flexibility and concentration.
Academics come alive when conveyed through an artistic medium. Every aesthetic detail imaginable contributes consciously to the totality of the Waldorf learning experience: the colors in the classroom; the colored chalk drawings on the board; the rhythm of the lesson and the day; the way the teacher speaks, moves, and balances humor with seriousness.
Main Lessons Time
Each morning begins with the "Main Lesson," lasting for two hours and taught by the class teacher. During this uninterrupted time the class teacher leads the students in a rhythmic component of the lesson and then presents the current academic subject, which the children question and discuss. The teacher engages the students with a variety of approaches: scientific, literary, historical, and artistic. Each student creates a record of Main Lesson work in books that are filled with compositions, observations, maps, diagrams, and illustrations. These colorful Main Lesson books are carefully crafted with attention to detail and artistic presentation. They are a unique and vital element of Waldorf education.
A recess and shorter periods follow the Main Lesson, with subjects such as French, choral and instrumental music, handwork, woodwork, form-drawing, painting, movement education, eurythmy (form of movement), and gardening/farming. Thus, the rhythm of the day alternates between work that requires intellectual focus and physical activities that engage the body and hands.
The Waldorf approach relies upon an interdisciplinary structure within each grade level and progressing through the years. At the core of this approach, Rudolf Steiner (the founder of Waldorf education) emphasized achieving balance between the three distinct ways that humans relate to the world: through thinking, through the life of the emotions, and through physical activity. Long before educational research confirmed the idea of "multiple intelligences," Steiner understood the need to balance the head, heart, and hands.
The Waldorf approach works with human nature and recognizes that capacities emerge in students at fairly predictable stages, while also allowing room for individual rates of maturation. Steiner saw human development unfolding in seven-year stages:
- Until age six or seven: Children learn primarily through physical activity and imitation. The goal at this stage is to provide a warm, calm, secure, aesthetic environment that nourishes the senses, the imagination, and creativity of the young child. The 3 Rs are Reverence, Repetition, and Rhythm. Through storytelling, arts and crafts, and healthy movement, a strong foundation is laid for formal academics beginning in first grade.
- From age seven until fourteen: Children at this stage learn best when academics appeal to the feeling life, and lessons are conveyed through an artistic medium such as painting, drama, music, storytelling, and other direct experiences that stir their emotions. A sense of beauty, harmony, and rhythm permeate the day, engaging children and supporting their learning.
- In High School: Themes and methods stimulate higher-level intellectual skills. Now is the time that the forces of imagination—carefully cultivated in the early years—are transformed into analytic, synthetic, and evaluative thinking skills in the adolescent.
Education at the Nelson Waldorf School embraces the living, direct relationship between teacher and student as the optimal catalyst for successful learning. Teachers typically move up a grade each year with their students. The teachers grow along with the students as they model an extraordinary capacity for knowledge, creativity, and the sheer love of discovery,motivating students toward academic success and a keen sense of wonder, purpose, and personal fulfillment.
Eurythmy is unique to Waldorf Schools. The art of eurythmy makes visible both speech and music by means of movement, in which the whole body is engaged as an instrument. Eurythmy as a subject is part of the Waldorf School curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is an art of movement that has existed for almost ninety years. Eurythmy is not based on age-long experience, like music or painting; these arts are entirely integrated in our culture and for centuries they have become an everyday phenomenon. Eurythmy is still fully in development and has consequently remained a specific Waldorf School subject. Eurythmy requires that we become inwardly mobile. When we hear sounds, we are taken along into continuous change, from high to low, from soft to loud. We are also carried along on the course of a melody, in changes of melody and melodic moods, and in the subtleties of spoken language. In eurythmy, these changes and their related inner movements are made manifest by movements of the body. This is done both individually and in groups. The body becomes an instrument, making visible what otherwise is only audible, i.e., music/speech.
"Eurythmy: Making Movement Human" is the title of a DVD that gives an in-depth answer to the perennial question of Waldorf parents, "What is eurythmy and why does my child have to study it?" Never before has "pedagogical eurythmy" been so extensively filmed and explained by several seasoned eurythmy teachers. In addition, there is remarkable footage of performances by the Goetheanum Eurythmy Stage Ensemble and the Spring Valley Eurythmy group. Virginia Sease, Barbara Schneider-Serio, eurythmists, speech artists, and Waldorf teachers present insightful commentary on the past, present, and future of this performing art. View an excerpt in this YouTube video or obtain further information about eurythmy at Discover Eurythmy, Making Music Visible, and Eurythmy Video Gallery.