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“Waldorf schools, which began in the esoteric mind of the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, have forged a unique blend of progressive and traditional teaching methods that seem to achieve impressive results — intellectual, social, even moral.”

-From the Atlantic, Schooling the Imagination

If we think about navigating the future, what tools are most relevant for individuals to carry in their backpacks as they embark into a world that can be harsh, chaotic, and wildly unpredictable?

Explore some of the ‘differences’ with Waldorf Education below and discover the why behind some of the common questions around Waldorf Education.

Why "slow tech"?

Technology is valuable and holds an important place in our world. The rush, however, to place a tablet or computer in the hands of young children has been shown by substantial research to bring a slew of negative consequences. Our goal is to nurture students with capacities for critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity that empower our Middle School students to begin engaging with technology as a tool for innovation.

We value learning to engage with the world around us before easily making the transition to working with technology as a tool in our modern world.

We believe in slow tech, not no tech.

Why do students make their own textbooks?

Our goal is for students to internalize knowledge rather than memorize facts to check boxes on exams. By writing and illustrating their own textbooks (known as Main Lesson books) every year from first to eighth, students live into the material at a level that nurtures true understanding and engagement. The result is a tangible book each year of beautiful, prideful work, and a vivid grasp on the subject matter that extends beyond the surface level into genuine understanding.

Why so much nature?

We believe a connection to the world around us and the early development of healthy habits is critical to our student’s success. Our thinking is reinforced by countless studies, including research from Yale University that states with great impact: “The studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.”

Spending time outdoors isn’t just enjoyable — it’s also necessary. Many researchers agree that kids who play outside are happier, better at paying attention, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.

Why do we take our time with reading?

Our goal is for students to love to read rather than resent it for the pressure it puts on them or feel as if they have “fallen behind” in any way. Reading is far too important to be rushed and, in our experience, slow and steady wins the race to nurturing enthusiastic, lifelong readers. Our students begin the reading process in 1st grade and continue a steady build of their skills. Ironically, like the Tortoise and the Hare, our graduates are often reading well ahead of their age group when entering high school.

Why the emphasis on movement?

The opportunity for students to run, jump and skip their way through a world of imagination cultivates creativity that translates into critical thinking and dynamic problem-solving. Creative play supports invaluable social skills, and develops the parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning, creative problem solving and self-control. Movement is, therefore, entangled with multiple learning elements including math, language and rhythm as a way for students to more deeply engage by learning through their whole bodies.

Why do we knit?

We see this work as ‘will work.’ In creating spaces for the human will to be the driving force behind creations, we strengthen the capacity for action and internally motivated creation: a critical skill for adults capable of building, creating, changing, and impacting the world around them. Our students spend a significant amount of time working with their hands, including knitting, painting, molding, woodworking, and sculpting. When considering knitting, we see an opportunity to develop fine motor skills hand-eye coordination, strengthen counting skills, and the chance to learn a lesson in perseverance. Students draw on an inner sense of drive and motivation to bring their creations to fruition. Work they stand proudly behind.

Why do we tell stories?

Waldorf educators teach through stories. A eurythmy teacher skips around a circle with a class while telling a story about a squirrel. A language teacher tells a story in Spanish while illustrating the tale with puppets. Teachers often base games on imagery from a story. Class teachers teach history through biographies and math through engaging stories that illustrate a concept.

Oral traditions have been used throughout the majority of human history as a way to spark imagination, curiosity, and wonder in the world around us and within one’s self. You’ll find stories woven daily into the curriculum from Kindergarten through eighth grade as one way students engage with new ideas and perspectives while laying a foundation for knowledge that reaches the level of knowing, not just remembering.

Why is CGS different?

Waldorf Education emphasizes rigorous academics, dynamic artistic endeavors, and the nourishment and development of human capacities. We believe in the development of both skills and capacities. The whole human being is taken into consideration in every element from Kindergarten to 8th Grade. The result is individuals who not only carry knowledge and skills but are self-aware, internally developed, and emotionally in-tune. Human capacities such as perseverance, creativity, and empathy are as much a part of education at City Garden School as academics that explore diverse perspectives and complex subject matter. We believe in nurturing children capable of engaging in conversation and impacting the world around them.

More Ideas...

On Technology

”Teaching is a human experience and technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”

-Paul Thomas, Associate professor of education at Furman University in The New York Times

On Math

“Creativity is essential to particle physics, cosmology, and to mathematics, and to other fields of science, just as it is to its more widely acknowledged beneficiaries- the arts and humanities.”

-Lisa Randall, Theoretical Physicist at Harvard University

On Science

“Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”

- Carl Sagan in Psychology Today

On Free Play

“Free play is nature’s means of teaching children that they are not helpless.”

-Peter Grey, Professor of Psychology at Boston University in The Atlantic

Additional Resources...

Outdoor Learning:

Amidst Pandemic, Waldorf Schools See Resurgence in Outdoor Learning –No matter how it is defined, one thing is consistent: the results of learning outdoors are overwhelmingly positive and include benefits for academic performance, health and well-being, and child development.

Outdoor classes and ‘forest schools’ gain new prominence amid distance learning struggles — Outdoor education may be a solution to the myriad difficulties of remote learning

5 Benefits of Outdoor Education — An outdoor education program builds community and culture, raises expectations and standards, increases the connection between students, and develops positive associations around school and the outdoors

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv – This groundbreaking book coined the term “nature deficit disorder.”

Another article about Richard Louv’s vision is Envisioning Nature Rich Cities.

The Overprotected Kid The Atlantic

What happened when one school banned homework – and asked kids to read and play instead? The Washington Post

Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today The Washington Post

It’s official: muddy kids learn best The Guardian

Limiting media and screens:

Why Waldorf schools wait to teach academics until first grade:

How do Waldorf students fair in high school, college, and beyond?

Waldorf Alumni Speak Out

Waldorf Alumni Speak about the Impact of Their Education

The most comprehensive study completed on Waldorf high school graduates: Standing out without Standing alone: Profile of Waldorf school graduates.