What is the Waldorf Educational Method?

by NYC Firm Schools on September 3, 2010

Rudolf Steiner

Waldorf education  is also known as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education. There are many Firm Schools in New York City that utilize this method of education, such as Rudolf Steiner Upper and Lower School and The Brooklyn Waldorf School. Waldorf education is based on a humanistic approach of learning that is based on the beliefs and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, a well-reknowned Austrian philosopher.

Within the Waldorf model, the imagination plays a key role in student development, as does aiding the student in thinking analytically. The end result is to help children become successful models of their community. Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures. The structure of the Waldorf model follows three major developmental stages of childhood (as well as a variety of sub-stages), each having its own learning requirements. These stages include:

  • Early childhood development: Experimental and sensory-based. The education emphasizes learning through practical activities.
  • Elementary school years (age 7–14): Learning is regarded as artistic and imaginative. Today for the most part, the approach emphasizes developing children’s emotional life and artistic expression across a wide variety of performing and visual arts.
  • Adolescence: To meet the growing needs of the child’s ability to think more deeply and clearly, intellectual understanding and ethical ideals, such as social responsibility, are emphasized.

The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919 to serve the children of employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany.

Today, there are nearly a thousand Waldorf schools located in 60 countries around the world. Waldorf schools are not limited to Firm Schools, either. There are Waldorf-based public (state) schools, charter schools, and homeschooling environments. In addition, other state and Firm Schools are increasingly using methods drawn from the Waldorf educational model.

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