Maple Village Waldorf School is part of a worldwide movement of more than 1,000 institutions whose approach to education is founded on the ground-breaking work of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). The first Waldorf school opened its doors in 1919 for the children of workers in the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The innovative school attracted immediate interest among people seeking a new way of educating children and other Waldorf schools were soon founded. By 1928, the growing movement had spread to North America with the founding of the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. In the last 40 years the number of Waldorf schools and related Waldorf teacher development institutes has grown exponentially making Waldorf Education one of the fastest growing education movements of this century.
Waldorf Education is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.
When you enter a Waldorf school, the first thing you may notice is the care given to the building. The walls are usually painted in lively colors and are adorned with student artwork. Evidence of student activity is everywhere to be found and every desk holds a uniquely created main lesson book.
Another first impression may be the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers you meet. These teachers are interested in the students as individuals. They are interested in the questions:
- How do we establish within each child his or her own high level of academic excellence?
- How do we call forth enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, interest and concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world?
- How can we help pupils find meaning in their lives?
Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. They achieve this in a variety of ways. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioral rewards to motivate learning. It allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning.
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 or 7 years, from 7 to 14 years and from 14 to 18 years. Rudolf Steiner stressed to teachers that the best way to provide meaningful support for the child is to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content to the children that nourishes healthy growth.
This text originally appeared in the AWSNA publication, Windows into Waldorf: An Introduction to Waldorf Education.
“When children relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and alive, and what they learn becomes their own. Waldorf schools are designed to foster this kind of learning.”
—Henry Barnes, a longtime Waldorf teacher and the former Chairman of the Board of AWSNA
A Brief History of Maple Village Waldorf School
Maple Village Waldorf School (MVWS) is located in a quaint residential neighborhood in Long Beach, California. The school was founded in 2008 by a group of passionate parents and teachers who met through a local home-based Waldorf-inspired program. Through outreach, the original group grew to include other educators and professionals, resulting in a larger community effort. They spent three years studying and researching together before forming a Board of Trustees and various dedicated committees. After one year of deliberation, the founders decided that Maple Village would be a private school – rather than a public charter school – in order to be free to offer a true and whole Waldorf curriculum to the greater Long Beach community. Our school began with one parent/child class, including a built-in parent education component. We have since added a full and thriving early childhood program, including four parent/toddler classes, two preschool classes, and two kindergarten classes. We enthusiastically launched our grades program in the fall of 2011, which now includes Grades One through Eight.