Okanagan Waldorf School Curriculum
At Okanagan Waldorf School we aim to cultivate a dynamic and caring community that provides a living education so that children may manifest their full potential, both now and in the future. We offer parent and child programs and part-time drop-off morning preschool, as well as a kindergarten through grade 8 curriculum through Okanagan Waldorf School. We also offer full birth to school-age full-day child care on our campus through our Early Years Centre. To find out more about our child care programs, please click here.
What is the Waldorf philosophy?
The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919, when Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Germany wanted to develop a school for the children of his employees. He not only wanted to see these children excel at academics, but wanted to ensure that their emotional and social development was a priority; especially considering they were all living through the aftermath of the Great War.
To develop the pedagogy (the specific method and practice of teaching) Molt turned to Rudolf Steiner, a world-renowned artist, scientist, and philosopher. Steiner agreed to take on the task of developing the pedagogy and establishing the first Waldorf school, under the conditions that it be: self-governed, artistically and culturally enriching, comprehensive, and inclusive.
The Waldorf philosophy was developed after careful observation and understanding of the developmental needs of children, at each stage, with a goal of educating young people to be independent thinkers and problem solvers, capable of creatively meeting the challenges (new and unforeseen) of their times.
What does a Waldorf education offer?
Waldorf school curriculum offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education.
The Okanagan Waldorf School vision of ‘enlivened education’ captures the spirit of Waldorf education as we integrate the arts and experiential learning provided by our rural campus into all academic subjects. We aim to inspire lifelong learning for all students so they may continue to fully develop their unique capabilities.
In British Columbia, Waldorf schools also have the advantage of receiving support through the BC Ministry of Education. OWS is an accredited Group 1 independent school, meaning our elementary programs meet the learning outcomes as prescribed by the province while also integrating the comprehensive Waldorf way of bringing academics to life.
What are the benefits of Waldorf education at Okanagan Waldorf School?
The Bridge Land for Learning Campus
Okanagan Waldorf School is on The Bridge Land for Learning campus, a 20+ rural campus that is bordered by a creek on one side and farmland on the other. The campus boasts a 1 acre Community Garden and over 10 acres of forest, all of which are interwoven into the student’s daily activity and education.
Time in nature supports all aspects of health and development and fosters a respect for our natural world. In addition, time in nature lessens stress and anxiety naturally and offers a safe (distanced) activity during a pandemic.
Waldorf educators strive to bring out what lives in each student but are careful not to overemphasize one trait or skill over another. All students study math and science and learn foreign languages; they all play an instrument and sing in the chorus; they all learn handwork and take movement classes and perform in the class play. The goal of Waldorf Education is to expose children to a wide range of experiences and to develop within them many interests and capabilities. This, in turn, leads to well-balanced young people with high levels of confidence in their ability to apply skills developed in one area to another, and the knowledge that they can master anything.
Continuity of Care
Okanagan Waldorf School shares its campus with the Early Years Centre, a new child care facility that offers care from birth through school-age. This centre provides children with on-site before or after-school care; and offers pro-D, Spring Break, and Summer camps, all at the same location as where they attend school. Continuity of care is valuable for children to feel settled in their day – one campus, one setting, one group of peers, shared educators.
Having an onsite child care centre also supports families in providing care for a wide range in their children’s ages at the same location.
An Unhurried Childhood
Our educators intentionally create an atmosphere and daily rhythm that allows children to live in the moment, freely explore nature, engage in wonder, and utilize their imagination through play and exploration, especially in the primary grades. The capacities of wonder and creativity are valuable and contribute greatly to later academic success – our teachers understand this and work to foster curiosity and a connection with the environment. The resulting mood and benefit is a rich, unhurried educational experience; one that contrasts greatly to the sometimes frenetic pace of life.
In our Kindergarten classrooms, for example, we offer project-based and sensory-rich activities where children learn by “doing.” Each day children spend time playing, working, and exploring outdoors, either the garden or in the forest. They engage in activities such as baking bread, finger knitting, woodworking, painting, and gardening. Children enjoy listening to storytelling, participating in puppet plays, exploring speech work and practical number sense, and celebrating multicultural festivals.
Hands-On, In-Depth Education
Waldorf education at OWS is experiential. Students learn by doing. Subjects are introduced aurally, visually, and kinaesthetically – even (and maybe most importantly) math! Understanding is enhanced through stories and art, striving to meet each child where they are strong and build where they are weak.
Teachers incorporate the academic lesson with music, stories, art, and outdoor activities; all with the intention of engaging the student in a multifaceted way – where their breadth of understanding can be maximized, and even challenged.
Integrating art with all academic work develops new ways of thinking and working, as the students literally take the work into their own hands. Our students experience a deep investment in their learning as they create their own textbooks (we call them ‘main lesson; books) with compositions, observations, illustrations, and diagrams of their studies. Rather than relying on pre-digested material presented to them in conventional textbooks, the act of creating their “main lesson” books allows children to absorb the lessons their teachers bring them and to make learning their own.
In their daily morning (or “main”) lesson, students (from Grades 1-8) spend up to two hours concentrating on one subject which then rotates every 3-4 weeks among academic disciplines. This allows students the chance to study each subject thoroughly and from a number of vantage points (art, music, lectures, experimentation, kinesthetic movement), which contributes to their enjoyment—and deep understanding—of the subject matter.