When Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, approached philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner about creating a school in 1919 for the children of his factory workers, it was in a city reeling from the horrors of the Great War. How might these children be protected and also empowered to help bring about a new world? Fully a century later, that legacy works on, and strengthens in the face of contemporary challenges and threats to the well-being of the earth and its inhabitants.
Waldorf School of New Orleans has offered the families of greater New Orleans a schooling alternative since 2000, as part of what has grown to be a worldwide independent education movement with nearly 1000 schools on six continents. Waldorf Education, uniquely expressed in communities and cultures across the globe, is grounded in Steiner’s profound understanding of human development and our connection to the natural world.
The Waldorf School of New Orleans provides children in Nursery through Grade Eight a holistic, developmentally appropriate program that engages and educates head, heart, and hands.
In Early Childhood classes, this means respecting the integrity of childhood itself. Within the reassuring structure of daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms, our Nursery and pre-K/Kindergarten children experience a stimulating sensory and social environment with rich spoken language, and most importantly, the opportunity to imagine and play.
Scientific evidence is now overwhelming for what Rudolf Steiner asserted a century ago: that free play, and plenty of it, in early childhood is essential to healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development later in life. To force abstract learning prematurely on young children is to squander their most precious gift – their childhood.
Free play, indoors and out (in all kinds of weather!) is balanced with daily circle time, where the children quickly pick up tongue-twisting verses, rhythmical movement, songs, finger-play, and counting games. Each day of the week has a morning activity: watercolor painting, crafts, bread-baking, soup-making, and housekeeping. Because young children learn through imitation, the adults in the Waldorf Nursery and Kindergarten must be worthy models in both gesture and demeanor, in speech and action.
Waldorf Education is the beginning of lifelong exploration and learning. In the Waldorf Grades, the Class Teacher ideally accompanies their pupils through the eight years of this journey, forming a deep bond with the students, and a committed working relationship with class parents. For the Class Teacher, the mandate is not only to be a worthy role model, but also to demonstrate authoritative mastery of the content of their lessons, taught from original, classical sources. Throughout the grades, specialty teachers bring the students handwork, instrumental and vocal music, movement, foreign language and, in the older grades, additional math.
The Waldorf Grades curriculum mirrors the journey of the growing child, bringing subject matter for each year in vivid literary and/or historical imagery appropriate to that stage of development.
You will notice an absence of textbooks in a Waldorf School! Under the teacher’s guidance, every student creates their own artistic and meticulous lesson book for each of their subjects. The Waldorf School subscribes neither to letter grades nor to standardized testing. Each Class Teacher and subject specialist writes narrative reports documenting each child’s progress, achievements, and challenges.
The eight-year journey leads the child from a fairy-tale world into modern times. Waldorf School of New Orleans graduates are prepared to transition to the best local high schools – producing at or above grade-level work in Algebra, Geometry, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Botany, Physiology, Social Studies, Language Arts and Fine Arts.
Because Waldorf Schools have proliferated across the globe, many secondary schools and colleges across the country know and appreciate applicants with a Waldorf background. WSNO alumni are readily accepted into their New Orleans area high schools of choice.
What takes place in our classrooms is of course the heart of Waldorf Education; and the soul of the Waldorf School is the community of parents, faculty, staff, and volunteers that surrounds and supports that work. To be part of the Waldorf School in any capacity is to be part of a journey of self-discovery, of connecting to deeper meaning in life and relationship.