Squamish Waldorf School is one of more than 1,000 Waldorf schools in 64 countries worldwide, constituting one of the largest independent school networks internationally. In the national conversation about education we are hearing more about moving away from standardized testing and too-early, high-pressure academics, the benefits of less screen time and more outdoor play, and the importance of handwork and handwriting. None of these ideas are new to the Waldorf environment, and have both research and experience to validate them. Based on a nearly 100-year-old methodology, Waldorf education enjoys a long history and tradition, yet it is as fresh and relevant today as ever.
THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME
Rather than providing students with the largest amount of information as quickly as possible, our curriculum is designed to meet the specific needs of students at different stages of their development. We meet students where they are developmentally, intellectually and emotionally, to inspire a lifelong love of learning. Our deep and varied curriculum includes age-appropriate, rigorous academic work, as well as rich artistic experiences that combine to make learning an adventure, not a chore.
Children spend generous amounts of time outdoors every day, in all weather. Not only is being outside in all weather in integral part of the Squamish lifestyle, it is an important part of our curriculum. Being outdoors in all kinds of weather establishes a strong connection to nature and encourages hands-on exploration in science. In the outdoors, children use their imagination, dig and collect, organize and collaborate. In addition, physical activity has a positive impact on early brain development and children return to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn.
MUSIC PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE
Whether by singing a song while we put on our boots, learning songs for a seasonal festival, or playing flute and violin, music plays an important role in Waldorf life. Not only does music strengthen cognitive abilities, it brings energy and focus, it lifts our spirits and even reminds us of mathematical relationships. It may be of interest to read these recent articles about the benefits of music:
MORNING HAND SHAKE
Every morning, teachers shake each student’s hand, greeting them, meeting their gaze and connecting with them individually. So much can be learned during this brief contact, when we see the children in front of us with new eye, and then bring them exactly what they need.
THE BENEFITS OF HANDWORK
At its very simplest, completing a handwork project instills feeling of accomplishment and pride, but there are many developmental and academic benefits as well. Starting with finger knitting in Kindergarten, handwork builds focus, self-discipline and patience. What’s more, handwork activities strengthen fine motor skills, improve memory and challenge the brain. Studies and observations suggest that learning to knit in first grade strengthens math and reading development.
APPRECIATION OF INDIVIDUALITY
Every child has a unique learning style. Our curriculum provides information through all the senses to meet a wide range of learning styles. The curriculum presents a full range of activities, indoors and out, each day to meet the needs of each individual child.
Waldorf education is holistic, addressing the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of the child, and we work to bring these aspects into harmony and balance. Our “head, heart and hands” approach nurtures and acknowledges the whole child. Because young children connect with subjects through their feelings more than their intellect, artistic activity is part of all our subjects and lessons. Practical work — from cooking and gardening in the Kindergarten, to house building in third grade, to service projects in the middle school — all help students experience how they make a difference in the world.
Our science lessons and activities, especially those directly in nature, are also holistic. Our curriculum engages the senses, honing powers of observation and sparking the imagination.
In adolescence they can draw on inner strength and security to navigate new terrain in their education and in their lives. Each year, this result is evidenced by the poise, confidence, enthusiasm and courage of our graduating class.
WE TEACH HOW TO THINK, NOT WHAT TO THINK
A Waldorf education focuses less on acquiring information and more about what do to with that information. In early childhood, free play and imagination prepares the basis out of which abstract thought and intellect will develop. In the upper grades, the power of abstract thought blossoms as children to easily create mental images which later leads to creative thinking. This important preparatory work yields a strength for building intelligence throughout life.
WE ARE AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL
While meeting B.C. Ministry of Education requirements, we are also not directed by the teachers’ union. We have the freedom to design our curriculum based on Waldorf education. We are a non-profit, charitable organization governed by a Board of Directors. Independent schools in B.C. receive half the funding of public schools. In the public system, the building and property are given freely to the school. Independent schools rely upon tuition revenues, some government funding, fundraising and philanthropic gifts to meet their operating and capital expenses.