Our teaching and learning philosophy: Waldorf-inspired education
Waldorf education was founded by the Austrian philosopher, scientist and spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf schools, also known as Steiner schools, are named after the first “Waldorfschule” which Steiner founded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 for the children of the workers at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory. In Waldorf education, Steiner developed a system of education that strives to produce independent, free-thinking individuals who can offer value in any field and navigate any life challenge, while gently understanding and meeting them at their stage of development. In addition to Waldorf education, Steiner is known for the creation and development of biodynamic agriculture, curative education for children with special needs, anthroposophy, anthroposophical medicine, and various artistic expressions including an art of movement called eurythmy.
Since their founding in 1919, Waldorf schools have spread throughout Europe, then worldwide. Today there are thousands of Waldorf schools in more than 70 countries around the world, in countries as diverse as Mexico, South Africa, Canada, Italy, Estonia, Japan, Argentina, Australia, Israel, India, and Egypt, and now Cambodia. Each school in each country is independent, and the particular cultural influences of the country or community surrounding the school are brought into the school’s curriculum. Nevertheless, all Waldorf schools work with a specific understanding of child development, given form by Steiner’s philosophy of anthroposophy. Overarching characteristics common to all Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired schools are:
- Understanding of humans as beings of body, mind and spirit, and educating all three with equal weight.
- Detailed understanding of child development in seven-year phases, each of which have unique and characteristic physical, emotional and cognitive dimensions.
- A curriculum evolved by the teachers based on their understanding of child development, Waldorf pedagogy, and the circumstances of the school to meet the needs of the specific children in their class.
- Material presented creatively and imaginatively to the students by the teacher through stories, puppet shows, drawings, and other activities, fostering a human connection to the class and the material.
- Cultivation of enduring human relationships between students, teachers and parents.
- Continuous self-education of the teachers in progressive, holistic techniques.
- Emphasis on moral qualities such as truth, beauty and goodness which are brought to the children in the actions of the adults around them, in the way the school and classrooms are built and cared for, and in the content of the lessons, especially through stories and fairy tales.
- Predictable rhythms to each day, which balance activity (movement, clapping games, etc.), a time for taking in (listening to stories or lessons), and a time for artistic activity.
- Seasonal arrangement of the curriculum to be in harmonious balance with nature, local seasons, and local cultural events and festivals.
- Practical activity, including cooking, handwork, age-appropriate construction, and care of the environment included as an essential part of learning.
- Focus on children first experiencing material with their hands and bodies, then developing an emotional relationship with it through artistic impressions, and finally creating an intellectual relationship through academic learning and discussion. This is referred to as Waldorf’s “hands, heart and head” approach.
- Discouraged use of electronic devices and media, especially by young children under seven years, with focus placed instead on healthy human connection and social skills.
There are national associations of schools in different countries and regions. Gecko Garden School, as a Waldorf-inspired school, is not certified as a Waldorf school. Rather, our teachers and community strive each day to provide the fullest Waldorf experience we are capable of at that moment, in collaboration with and with the support of the international community, making us Waldorf-inspired.
Adapted from “Waldorf 101” by Donna Simmons