Five Things That Make EBWS Unique
While many schools claim to educate the “whole child,” Waldorf schools were founded 100 years ago on the concept of “head, heart and hands.” Want to know what sets an East Bay Waldorf School education apart from others? Below are five things that make our approach unique:
- A deep respect for childhood and children
Rudolf Steiner emphasized what modern human development is exploring today, that the first years of life are vitally important for setting children on a healthy path. In a culture that often chooses to rush childhood, EBWS believes that foundations are laid during the first 7 years of life that deserve our support and patience. Children need a child’s pace, regular rhythms, real life experience and loving and understanding interactions with their families, caregivers and teachers. Our early childhood program supports this approach with a play-based curriculum based on the image of home and time in nature that shows young children that the world is good.
From 7-14, children need a developmental curriculum that meets them where they are, inspires them and shows them that the world is beautiful, and our grade school program does just that. EBWS grades and subject teachers believe that if children are surrounded with beauty, they will develop an appreciation of beauty, self-respect and learn to care for their environment (both inside and out) with reverence.
- A truly holistic approach to education that is both unconventional and traditional
Grounded in time-tested best practices, children enter our grades program at age 6.5-7, where they are exposed to a rich “Renaissance” curriculum. Due to the variety of subjects and practical arts explored, children inevitably find many things that they love, from history to farming and from handwork to physics.
”Main Lesson,” a two-hour block of academic learning devoted for 2-3 weeks to a particular subject occurs every morning. Many of the blocks use actual historical documents, literature, and biography. In studies that range from botany to zoology, all subjects incorporate poetry, storytelling, movement, song and observation, to meet a variety of learning styles and to allow the lessons to be absorbed from many angles. What’s more, children create their own lesson books — learning to write and draw to explain their ideas and understanding. In this way they internalize what they have experienced and learn in a much more powerful way than any standardized test can offer.
“Embodied learning” is a hot topic in educational research, but Waldorf schools have been using this approach for 100 years. Did you know that knitting in the early grades helps establish patterns that help with multiplication tables? Would you rather hear a lecture on gravity or drop the apple for yourself, come up with a rationale, and then learn about what Newton discovered? Or maybe you just discovered it for yourself? From drama to string instruments and from form drawing to fiber arts, our students engage in learning with their hands in a way that augments what they learn with their minds.
- Reconnecting children with nature
There is no nature-deficit disorder here! Adventures in nature and camping are a key part of the education at EBWS. Children learn reverence for the earth and each other when they spend time in nature. Our curriculum supports children’s time and experience in the outdoors. If you haven’t had a chance, we invite you to visit our awe-inspiring 11+-acres of tree groves, frog ponds, grassy knolls, organic gardens and playgrounds integrated into the natural landscape. The air is pristine, the surroundings are quiet, and the 1,100 acre Wildcat Canyon, full of favorite hiking paths, gives classes a chance to clear minds, develop bodies, sharpen observation skills, garden, harvest, explore, climb, play games, and feel the wind on their cheeks. At EBWS, every age spends time outdoors in recess, chores or formal study, and all classes have dedicated gardening and hiking periods.
- Old-fashioned values as a key to unlocking potential
Sometimes it seems that our world has forgotten that we are made up of much more than our minds. At EBWS, we broaden our focus, so in addition to developing children intellectually, we add a corresponding focus on the inner traits they need to live with purpose and satisfaction and share the world with their fellow people: willpower, resilience and concern for other human beings.
In first grade, children learn that in addition to being their individual selves, they are part of a whole, and that “1” can be the largest number. As they go through the grades, children at EBWS help each other in the classroom, do chores that benefit others, write thank you notes, and partner with younger children — all tasks that build persistence and a caring attitude that will allow them to take their intellectual skills and other talents and turn them into a gift to themselves and the world.
- Education on a human scale
At EBWS, education happens between people — and on a human scale. As in the days of the “little red schoolhouse,” children at EBWS are seen and understood as unique individuals with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses that their class teacher and subject teachers seek to develop into a “whole” person. This is thanks to the unique approach of Waldorf education where our teachers stay with the child for multiple years, working with the child and collaborating with their parents to build a balanced child over time. Instead of being averaged and compared, children have a real relationship with their teacher that embodies respect and growth over the long term. Teachers seek to be people worthy of emulating and inspire their students’ active interest in the world. Parents come to know and trust their child’s teacher to be a partner in developing their child to their fullest potential with healthy, robust bodies and well-integrated brains, social and emotional skills, confidence in their abilities, and strong executive function capabilities.
What’s more, Waldorf educators believe children need to directly interact with their class subjects, environment, and nature. At EBWS, children learn the essential tasks of being human: gardening, cooking, making your own knitting needles, knitting your own socks, and caring for home and for others.
“We want to be pioneers for a future educational system… We want to be pioneers in the sense that we do not believe that a few external changes will lead to a better social condition, but that a change must occur at the heart of science, art, and education to bring about the desired condition of humanity. A real education takes care that body, soul and spirit will be intrinsically free and independent. And real education takes care to put people into life.” — Rudolf Steiner