Private School Focus on The Brooklyn Waldorf School

by Joyce Szuflita on November 25, 2009

Joyce SzuflitaIt is impossible to deny the charm of a Waldorf classroom. When you step into the Brooklyn Waldorf School located directly behind BAM in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, it feels like you are entering a cozy environment that is removed from time.

In this Brooklyn private school, the classrooms are small and suit the class sizes; 14-18 children in the mixed age kindergarten and around 8 in the upper grades. The school currently serves nursery through 4th grade (one class on a grade) and they are adding a grade each year to 8th grade. There is also a Parent/Child and Bridge program for younger children. The school is growing and has a very active real estate committee that is committed to finding a location to expand within the Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill neighborhoods.

They adhere closely to the Waldorf method. This focuses on age appropriate learning and a nurturing environment that embraces the innocence and play of childhood well into the early grades in a non-competitive way. This environment is cheery and colorful, focused on the children exploring the world through their senses and imaginations. Large motor exercises and songs begin the day and breathing focuses the attention. Crafting is a way of “educating the will.” It helps develop small motor skills as well as helping the children understand process and the motivation to complete tasks.

In the early grades, myth and folktale themes are used throughout the day to enhance all subject areas. In a second grade classroom, the teacher described a math lesson in which the process of division was a fairy that liked to share things equally with his friends. She supported this with a story and colored chalk drawings on the board. The children read literature and incorporate artwork into all of their writing.

Based on the writings of Rudolf Steiner, the Waldorf method demonstrates his philosophy of Anthroposophy. There are elements of non-denominational spirituality that are woven throughout the day. Along with literature from many cultures, there are Bibles in the classrooms.

Even though much of the teaching focuses on European tradition, there is a focus on the diversity of cultures. Spanish and Mandarin language instruction is school wide. The children use recorders and flutes in their early musical instruction and in fourth grade they advance to violin instruction.

Waldorf education requires a commitment from the family to partner with the school in supporting the innocence of childhood. Viewing media in the early grades is considered counterproductive to the focus of the classroom. In the admissions process the school will interview the whole family, including all siblings that may not be attending the school. They follow the ISAAGNY timelines. They have a sibling priority and there are usually around seven spots in the nursery program, 5 or 6 spots at kindergarten and availability on the upper grades. They have a multi-tiered tuition system.

About the Contributor: Joyce Szuflita is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of Brooklyn schools.

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