Teaching Methods

Waldorf School_FALL_2015_IMG_2311

Differentiated Instruction

“When students read the Odyssey in the high school, one of their assignments is to take a chapter and turn it into a poem. Students are given a high degree of latitude in how to approach this. The first choice is whether or not to do it individually or as a group. Then, they can approach it as a modern story and relate it to a contemporary conflict, or not. Some will opt to approach it musically. Perhaps with a harp being plucked in the background as what is read is both melodic and lyrical. Or, maybe it is more of a rap, with the focus on the beat, meter and rhythm of the prose. In this English class, there are many different ways to approach the same task and demonstrate knowing.” – High School English Teacher

Structure of the Day

IMG_0060

The Waldorf School of Garden City uses a combination of a block and more traditional schedule.

Main Lesson

The day begins with the Main Lesson – a two-period, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary inquiry into all elements of a major subject area. Teachers lead the students through a rich array of subjects in the various academic disciplines. With three to four weeks dedicated to each Main Lesson class, our students take time to explore every subject in the context of its history, culture, and impact. Primary source materials, rather than textbooks, bring students directly to the great and enduring ideas of mankind. Field trips deepen students’ understanding with firsthand experience. Independent research extends classroom discussions. For homework, students return to their block class topics as they amplify, condense, restate, transcribe, and illustrate their reading and reflections in main lesson books. The books may include references, research, essays, creative writing, scientific observations, charts, maps, and artistic work, and are both a record and a culmination of their study. These books become valuable resources and cherished creations, kept and referenced by students for years.

Break: 20 minutes

At the conclusion of the Main Lesson, students in the high school have a twenty minute break. During this time students can purchase an organic snack in our cafeteria, bond with classmates, connect with teachers, or enjoy some fresh air outside among our specimen trees.

Yearlong Core Academic Classes

After the 20 minute break students begin a more typical schedule in a series of 45 minute classes which meet for the entire year in core academic subjects such as Math, English, Science, Foreign Language and History.

Fine and Practical Arts

The arts are a key element in our curriculum and are required of all students for all four years of high school. Often complementing the main lesson subjects, this wide variety of arts classes offers new understanding of form and function, explores permutations and possibilities, and teaches skill and precision. Like Main Lesson classes, the arts are offered in blocks which rotate students into different artistic media roughly every six weeks.

Other

All ninth and tenth grade students participate in a music ensemble of their choosing, which meets two 45 minute periods per week. Additionally, there are times of the year where a major dramatic and musical production that include the whole class in both Tenth and Twelfth Grade takes place. Students meet twice a week for Physical Education, Movement and Elective classes throughout the year.

Experiential Learning

“For the tenth grade main lesson course in Meteorology, students were asked to test relative humidity while climbing the peaks of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Using a sling psychrometer to measure the amount of water vapor in the air – that is, its humidity, students benefitted from interacting with this tool, rather than just reading about the concept of relative humidity itself. The sling consisted of two glass thermometers containing a liquid, usually mercury. One thermometer measured the air temperature while the other one measured the wet-bulb temperatures. Being out on the mountains, students learned that such tools have real purpose. Whether measuring the humidity in the air or wind gusts, the readings helped determine the safety and viability of continuing their hike during the inclement weather they experienced. Through this type of practical application, these central meteorological concepts are likely to remain with the students for a lifetime.” – High School Science Teacher

“During eleventh grade English class, students read Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the book, the reader is brought into the experience of what it would be like to be born into the world as an adult without language. After reading this chapter, students are tasked with running through a typical day, without the benefit of using names of ordinary objects. Students experience how challenging this task is and only then are they asked to revisit Shelley’s work. Without providing students the opportunity to experience this directly they are likely to miss important details.” – High School English Teacher

IMG_0463 (1)

Design Thinking

“In the eleventh grade Electricity and Magnetism main lesson, students are tasked with constructing a generator or a tesla coil. They are provided with a list of materials (magnets, copper wire, wood dowels and the like). The goal of the project is for the students to independently create a complex project that exhibits the principles of electromagnetism, electrodynamics, electrostatics and magnetism. Once created, students are asked to demonstrate their apparatus. Their project is graded on production quality and functionality.” – High School Physics Teacher

“In the ninth grade students are asked what their idea of utopia is. What does their ideal society look like? What’s important to them? Then, they work in small groups to bring these ideals to life. They need to collaborate with other people to create a shared vision of all the different things group members’ value. Working as a group they create a society that epitomizes all that they hold dear. They have to make sure that in their process they are still holding on to their original intentions. The final step is to share with the class the society that they have created. They do this in many different ways, by constructing myriad artefacts. Making flags, singing anthems, creating history books of their country’s history and origins, preparing local cuisines, a vignette of a day in the life of their leader, topographical maps, tourism brochures and videos, fashion/clothing, language and printed currency. The curiosity and desire to complete a finished presentation that conveys their core principles captures the imagination of the students. They are very inspired to create the world in the way that they would like to see.” – High School History Teacher

Small Class Size

“As a teacher, I am able to do things with a group of 14 that I could never do with a group of 30. Just practically speaking, we sit around a table together. We can get to know or students in a meaningful way. There is no place to hide, you have to participate. Our small size replicates real life business situations. I teach through case studies and scenarios–students are presenting constantly and working in groups daily. I ask them to think on their feet and teach them how to provide constructive criticism to their classmates. Within the small nucleus of the class, real trust is formed and students are able to take appropriate risks.” – High School Business Teacher

“Because of our small size, ninth and tenth grade students are able to participant fully in the Model UN including our trip to Manhattan in the spring. Because of the skills developed over multiple years, our students have consistently earned spots on the most coveted seats on the security council (30 slots for 2,500 participants)and crisis committee (10 students for 2,500 participants).” – High School Model UN Advisor