WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION
Waldorf education’s objective is to nurture capable individuals, who create meaning for their lives, and who become freethinking and acting individuals. Waldorf education seeks to educate the whole child in his “head, heart and hands.”
Waldorf education is based on a thorough knowledge of the inner life of the child and follows his developmental stages. First, the child is brought to experience things actively and then to feel these things, before finally approaching them intellectually.
The curriculum aims to be as broad as possible (covering liberal arts, humanities, science, math, art, music, handwork, languages, etc) and it approaches academic subjects through artistic lessons and hands-on activities.
Teaching is less about imparting information, and more about awakening the child’s full range of faculties – the ability to feel, to act and to think – at an age-appropriate rhythm.
EXPERIENCE, REFLECTION, COMPREHENSION
“The great power of concentration of Waldorf students is certainly reinforced by an ancient practice but increasingly neglected one: time for observation and reflection.”
– Mikka Bojarsky, science teacher at the Sacramento Waldorf School
In most schools, teachers first present a scientific principle or theorem and then illustrate it with a demonstration or an experiment. The students are given information and observe its proof.
Waldorf teachers proceed the other way round – they present students with an experience of phenomena before focusing on the principle to be studied. Seeing the world through one’s own eyes always comes first.
Having experienced of the phenomena in question, it is then left for the students to digest and reflect upon. The following day, they return to class with their questions and thoughts. It is in this way that ideas are actively teased out and students come to comprehend the scientific principle, which is presented last. The Waldorf teacher’s goal is to teach students how to think, not what to think.
Rudolf Steiner was a European literary-critic, philosopher, scientist and visionary. He was born in 1861 in a small village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which later became part of Yugoslavia.
He studied philosophy at university and worked at the Schiller-Goethe Archive. Not satisfied with having lived and studied in Hungary, Austria, Germany and Switzerland; Steiner traveled tirelessly across Europe, seeking to understand not only the world around him but also the inner nature of human being.
Steiner gave over 6,000 lectures and his collected works include 350 volumes. All spheres of human activity received his consideration – he spent long hours answering those who were inspired by his thinking and who wished to renew their work as doctors, pharmacists, farmers, artists, scientists, politicians, economists, theologians, and educators. His progressive vision for the art of education is now practiced in Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired schools worldwide.
THE FIRST WALDORF SCHOOL
In 1919, in the wake of World War I and at the request of Emil Molt, director of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, Rudolf Steiner was asked to create a school that would truly meet the needs of children and prepare them for life.
While taken for granted today because progressive thinking has had a general impact education, Steiner’s foundational criteria for the school were radical for the time. The first Waldorf School was open to all children (regardless of their gender, background or attainment), for example.
A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
100 years after the founding of the first Waldorf school, there are now close to 1000 Waldorf schools, 2000 Waldorf kindergartens, many teacher training institutions and hundreds of centers that provide remedial education to thousands of children in over 60 countries. Waldorf education is the fastest growing progressive pedagogy in the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that the Waldorf movement’s “ideals and ethical principles…correspond to those of UNESCO.”