Programs

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

“For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.” — Plutarch

What is so special about City Garden School?

Over 100 years ago, Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner worked with factory owner Emil Molt to create the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany with the goal of educating children to be clear-thinking, compassionate, and conscientious adults that could look at the world in complex ways rather than descend into war. Steiner achieved this by creating a pedagogy that centered around reverence for, and deep observation of, how we as human beings naturally develop.
The essence of our approach is founded on the understanding that every child goes through three distinct phases of development:
  • Infancy and Early Childhood (0-7)
  • Middle Childhood (7-14)
  • Adolescence (14-21)

Each of these stages requires a different approach in order to meet and engage the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social needs of the growing child. We base our educational model on three pillars: goodness, beauty, and truth.
During Early Childhood (Kindergarten), we help children hold on to the sense that the world is good. Learning occurs by facilitating self-initiated exploration through play.
In Elementary School and Middle School, we help children see the beauty in the world as part of holistic elementary school education. These years engage the vivid imaginative nature of the child through a program where academic learning is intertwined with and supported by storytelling, the arts, music, movement, and practical activity.
In the early years, an emphasis on coordinated bodies, strong imaginations, healthy social interactions, and a love of work and play lays the foundation for academic excellence as students experience the beauty of language arts and literature, the culture of the world's civilizations through history and language, and the empirical qualities of the scientific and mathematical disciplines through a lively and engaging curriculum that introduces increasingly complex and sophisticated subject matter as the students grow and mature.
When children learn in a way that honors their unfolding development (without trying to rush or speed up the process), they gain quiet confidence, mastery of skills, and sustained interest in the world around them. In short, our students can experience the journey of childhood without having that spark of curiosity and creativity extinguished.

Five Reasons Why Parents Choose a City Garden School Education for Their Child

As a parent, you can be sure that choosing City Garden for your child is a safe and smart choice. Your homework has already been done by millions of parents who’ve sent their own children to schools using the Waldorf approach across the globe.


1) Be sure your child will be prepared and successful

Research shows that 94% of North American Waldorf graduates attend university, and an incredible 50% attain a Masters or Ph.D. University professors speak very highly of the assertive and engaged Waldorf graduates in their classes. Yet, leaders and employers are not looking for people who can simply pass tests and follow orders. Graduates are successful because they are confident, creative-thinking individuals with the courage to change the world. Our alumni go on to rewarding careers and continue to value learning, work, relationships, and an ethical approach to their chosen path.


2) Our teachers are personable, insightful, and committed

CGS teachers are well-trained professionals who are experts at understanding what makes children tick. We know how to orchestrate a class of diverse learning styles and temperaments, using multiple methods of teaching to ensure that each child is warmed in their heart, skilled with their hands, and sees clearly with their mind before advancing to the next thing. In the classroom, our teachers interact with others with thoughtfulness and compassion, are capable and interested in many things, and make good decisions. They are like this so that every day your child has an exemplary role model working alongside them. Our teachers are continuously developing their skills, studying teaching practices, student learning styles, and insight into the changing relationship between human beings, the world around us, and how that affects student learning. Finally, our teachers make themselves available to parents as much as reasonably possible, hosting nearly monthly meetings with the parents of their class, regular parent-teacher interviews, and crafting detailed, individualized reports on the progress of your child.


3) CGS teachers focus on the unique needs of your child

As every parent knows, each child learns and acts in their own unique way. City Garden teachers work with your child according to their own gifts and challenges, nurturing and encouraging them just the right amount so that your child will want to be interested in and skilled at the many things they care about. Our teachers know that education is not a competition and young students don’t need more pressure. Instead, we use the philosophy “the right thing at the right time,” meaning that we take the necessary time to discern how your child learns, what they need and when and we know how to draw out their desire to reach for and attain it themselves. Our teachers are ready when your child is, and when we let you know how your child is doing, it is relative primarily to their own development and expectations, not just to the other students.


4) Academic excellence is only the surface of a City Garden School education

Our teachers have a century of student observation at their disposal, and they use proven learning techniques based on insight into brain and physical development, kinesthetic learning, and emotional intelligence. By engaging their minds, emotions, and bodies, students take in more, and they take it in much deeper. When our students excel at math, science and languages, it is because they learn them experientially, integrated with physical education, music, arts, drama, woodwork, fiber arts, and, yes, recess. Rather than simply teaching to the test, we make sure our students are happy, healthy, interested, and motivated to create things as they learn, making sure they are not only prepared for university, but for life as well.


5) Our school is vibrant cultural community

CGS is an independent school and therefore must charge tuition. We are not-for-profit and are known for supporting many families that couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. This economic diversity, as well as gender, racial, and religious diversity are the thread of the social fabric on which we thrive. Although Waldorf schools are not religious, the movement was born out of a spiritual idea that humanity has evolved due to the dynamic between spiritual wisdom and earthly work and that each child will also develop on this path before having their own capacity to advance it themselves. We celebrate the changing seasons, rites of passage, diverse cultural festivities, and more human ways of working together in order to show children that we are all equal under the sun, we all develop wisdom, have something to share, and are part of a much larger whole… and that is something worth celebrating.


In our kindergarten program, children learn through play, purposeful work, storytelling and puppet shows, and practical and artistic activities.
Through joyful engagement in the kindergarten, our children develop lifelong capacities for creative thinking, healthy foundational senses, self-confidence and awareness of others, and readiness and enthusiasm for academic learning.
The rewards of play-based entry to school become visible when children enter first grade and begin the academic journey through the grades. The children now have the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic readiness to explore the worlds of letters, numbers, writing, and arithmetic.
children learning Spanish in classroom

Elementary

While our early childhood education curriculum aims to awaken physical capacities and strengthen each child's will, our elementary and middle school curriculum aims to stimulate the feeling of life of our students. In the elementary grades (first through fifth), the class teacher brings lessons alive through vivid characterizations and absorbing activities that heighten students’ curiosity and engage them intellectually and emotionally.
In two-hour main lesson blocks of three to four weeks each, children create their own subject books that reflect the diversity and breadth of the curriculum through essays, scientific observations, illustrations, wet-on-wet paintings, hand-drawn maps, and form drawings. Math and language arts practice are woven into the main lessons that focus on everything from botany to local geography to grammar.
Lessons are taught experientially, and the arts and storytelling are integral to all academic instruction. Students learn to find beauty in learning, in the world, and in each other.
Children and teacher in classroom at desks
Our Middle School program is beginning with 6th grade for the 2022-23 school year and will continue to add 7th and then 8th grades in the next two school years.
Our middle school curriculum and programs are designed specifically to meet the unique emotional and social needs of young adolescents while continuing to stimulate the feeling lives of students.
Students’ awakening intellects are ready for the beginnings of critical and objective thinking, knowledge of cause and effect, and more refined observation, which they experience in academic main lesson blocks, with themes such as the Renaissance, physics, and the history of algebra. Their budding emotional lives blossom through positive and concrete modes of expression, which include the study and writing of poetry, literature, and biographies. They experience a dynamic interplay of knowledge of self and the world as they engage in a wide variety of arts – from painting, sculpting, and song to the annual production of a class play.

Middle School Enrichment

City Garden School offers an integrated outdoor learning opportunity for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders NOT currently enrolled in our full-time program. Our outdoor middle school enrichment program combines Waldorf curriculum and place-based education. Students learn about the land on which they stand. Blending science, art, natural history, literature, and movement, our program offers a profound, engaging opportunity that compliments the social development of adolescence.
This program is designed to offer students the opportunity to stretch their minds and bodies while they develop new skills and friendships.
We offer rolling enrollment for this program.

Homeschool Enrichment

City Garden School offers an option of three homeschool enrichment days per week to supplement a homeschooler's main curriculum. Children are integrated into our current kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms which allow for plenty of social interaction and deep connection with peers. We provide art-infused lessons, ample outdoor time, and an intellectually rigorous curriculum. We feel strongly about the family unit and the importance of doing things together as a family. Our goal is to help your child be successful throughout your homeschooling endeavor.
Homeschool students are encouraged to join the school for our various festivals throughout the year (see above) and other community-building activities we offer for students and their families to enjoy together.
The program runs Monday through Friday. Families will be asked to pick the same days each week for the whole year for consistency for the children and teachers. Space is limited for this special program. Contact our director at director@citygardencolumbia.org for more details.

Summer Camp

Fill this summer with fun and wonder!
The alluring scents and sunny days of summer tempt us to trade work and routine in favor of time outdoors. Our teachers understand the young child’s desire to daydream and explore during the summer season. They consciously plan experiences that allow children to unwind from the school year into a new “holiday” mood and a sense of freedom and exploration.
Designed to complement our school year programs, summer offerings engage young children with a balance of summer activities that strengthen their developing skills and capacities.
City Garden School hosts six weeks of Summer Camp for both incoming and outgoing First through Sixth graders at Rockbridge State Park. In addition, we are holding spots for alumni of our camp who would like to come back as junior counselors. Katy Shaffer and Jody Frank, City Garden Faculty, will be lead teachers this summer along with assistance from other passionate adventurers. Campers are outside the entire morning exploring the woods and the creek. We love catching frogs and crayfish, hiking, observing the forest, exploring Connors Cave, singing songs, and playing games.
City Garden Summer Camp 2022 - Session 1, June 6-24. Session 2, July 5-22. 9:00 am - 1:00 pm Daily. Sign up weekly for $160/week, or sign up for a full 3 week sessions at a discounted rate of $455. Sibling discounts available. Limited to 20 students/week. Fill out the form HERE.

We also host one week of Summer Camp for Middle School Students separate from our camp weeks for younger children. Nicole Knapp-Weber, City Garden teacher, will be the lead teacher to facilitate learning, play, safety, and adventure throughout the park. We will have games, a morning lesson about the land, geology, plants, animals, creek, creatures, etc, and then time for exploring. Middle School Summer Camp is open to students in grades 6-8 (incoming/outgoing both welcome).

City Garden Middle School Summer Camp 2022 - June 13-17, 2022. 9:00 am - 2:00 pm Daily. $200 fee due at the time of registration. Limited to 20 students. Fill out the form HERE

Extended Care

We are so happy to offer an after-care program.
After-Care (2:40 PM-5:30 PM): Have peace of mind knowing your child’s experience will extend throughout the day. A gentle rhythm guides the afternoon with more time outside and time set aside for older children to complete homework. Available to K-6th grade CGS students Monday-Friday. Not available on school-wide early dismissal days. Enrollment is limited.