Waldorf Education 100

A school that cares about social and emotional development, as well as academic performance. A school that has reverence for nature as one of its core values. A school where teachers are intentional about being a lifelong role model for their students, following them throughout the grades and connecting with them on a deeper level. That includes owning your mistakes, admitting you are not always right but always willing to learn and listen. A school where teaching is less about transferring knowledge and more about awakening the child’s full range of faculties – the ability to feel, to act and to think.

The heart of the Waldorf method is the conviction that education is an art — it must speak to the child’s experience. To educate the whole child, his heart and will must be reached as well as his mind.

Rudolf Steiner

I learned about Waldorf Education in 2008 and I was immediately hooked. But I only got really involved when we had our first child in 2010. Since then, it has been a wonderful journey not only for my children but for myself as well. Waldorf Schools are much needed in the world we live in today. The video below was produced in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Waldorf Education to show its relevance in today’s world, including testimonials from several schools.

In this brief introductory article, I want to pay my little tribute to all the celebrations happening worldwide and share a little bit of history and my personal journey.

The first Waldorf school opened on September 19, 1919, in Stuttgart, Germany. In the wake of World War I, Rudolf Steiner was invited to create a school that would truly meet the needs of children and prepare them for life. The first school served the children of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory workers, hence the name. The 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). Most Waldorf schools keep this principle.

His educational system was based on his philosophical and spiritual models that also shaped his work in many different areas including medicine, architecture, arts, economy and agriculture. Looking at his legacy to the world, it is noticeable how his work moved from an abstract to a practical approach throughout his life.

I spoke about Rudolf Steiner’s fateful realization after the tragedy of the Great War. He understood that it would no longer be in accordance with the aims of the spiritual world to continue guiding individuals through the vehicle of an “Esoteric School.” At first, he struggled to find a new way. It was only as individuals and small groups began to ask him to renew and revitalize their own professions — medicine, the ministry, and agriculture among them — that Steiner recognized that the modern path of spiritual development and Initiation was meant to arise out of the everyday work that people undertook. Would it be possible to develop a training for vocations and professions that would make the workplace a Mystery Temple? Could the working life, the “daily grind,” become a new path of Initiation?

Eugene Schwartz

Nowadays, there are more than 1,000 independent Waldorf schools in 60 countries. This represents one of the largest independent school movements 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.”

Fortunately, we are seeing a renewal of nature-based and outdoor education. I can’t stress enough the importance of allowing children to spend time in nature. Not only it increases physical health, patience, self-discipline, capacity for attention and recovery from mental fatigue. Being in nature also fosters more sustainable ways of being in the world.

Today, the average child can identify over 300 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals. One could say the same for adults… How are children to grow up and know what things are important to save and protect if they can’t even name them?

Tanya Murray

Some well-intentioned schools try to push technology as early as possible into the classrooms in an attempt to prepare the kids for the future. But what future do we want to build?

Valdemar Setzer is a Senior Professor of Computer Science at the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sao Paulo – one of the most prestigious institutions in Brazil. He also embraces the Waldorf education and recognizes that exposing kids to technology at an early age is not only unnecessary, it can also be very harmful.

If you don’t want to take the word from someone in Latin America, let me take you straight to the Silicon Valley where top executives from Google, Apple and Yahoo made the conscious decision of keeping their young children away from technology, not only to make them more prepared for life but also to allow them to lead more meaningful, happy lives.

You can watch a short documentary about the school here, including testimonials from faculty, parents and former students.

We tend to think our brains tell our hands what to do. And, of course, that is sometimes the case, but our hands inform our minds, it is a two-way street.

Carolyn Siegel – High School Art Teacher

To know the world is to know the self and to know the self is to know the world

Denise McCluskey – Former Biotech and Genetic Researcher

For those and many other reasons, Waldorf education is very important to me. In 2014, my family and I heard the call to grow the movement. We lived in a city with 3.3 million people and only one small Waldorf school. Five families started imagining a new school. One year later, in 2015, we shared our hopes and vision with the community. In 2016, we achieve legal status, found a property and engaged in a year-long journey to prepare our faculty in a co-learning environment where they could become part of our community rather than just employees. On February 2017, the school welcomed its first three classes.

We moved to London Ontario in December 2016. That means we were not able to witness the school we helped build, but we were blessed with a strong Waldorf community in our new home town. The London Waldorf School is getting ready to celebrate forty years next spring. The local festivities for the 100th anniversary of Waldorf education included a new beehive on the roof of the school, a very special lunch for the students organized by the parents and an evening event for the friends of the school. Merwin Lewis composed the song “Imagination Never Dies” especially for the occasion.

Tell me a story that I may learn,
That in my heart a flame may burn
To warm the world around,
To light the clear blue sky.

Tell me a story that I may stand
Steadfast and free, upright and grand,
My feet firm on the ground,
My head held proudly high.

May I live throughout the years
With a sparkle in my eyes;
May courage come to conquer fears;
May love in all its glory rise.

Tell me a story both true and wise:
Imagination never dies.

Word & music by Merwin Lewis

What does it look like beyond 100? That is a question that many of us are asking ourselves, especially with the urgency of our climate and social crises. Torin Finser who dedicated more than forty years to the Waldorf Education takes a stab at it and he points out that we are going to need a new courage to lay down a different path as we walk.

If you are curious to see what that a Waldorf school looks like, our Winter Fair is on December 7. It is a great opportunity to learn more and make new friends.

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