Art at Waldorf schools is not just a subject, it forms part of the entire educational ethos. Founder Rudolph Steiner believed that we as humans have three aspects – intellectual, manual and artistic/creative, and that all three parts have to be advanced equally.
While most schools place an emphasis on reading, writing and maths, we take the view that it’s equally important for every child to paint, sculpt, draw, sing, knit, and dance.
Waldorf schools believe the ability to create something beautiful is not limited to a few “artistic” children but is something that everyone is capable of. Placing the “artist” on a pedestal beyond the reach of “average” students only serves to discourage all but the most talented children from tapping into their artistic sides. So many of today’s environmental and social problems require innovative and creative solutions, and what better way to produce creative and independent thinkers than by encouraging them to express themselves artistically in their own individual way?
While the Waldorf Way encourages children to develop a keen sense of the aesthetic, it also ensures they understand that you shouldn’t separate art from life and that every child’s inherent artistic ability can permeate every subject taught.
When children recite a poem, for example, they don’t only learn to appreciate the beauty of language, they also, almost by default, learn to strengthen their memory. The delight experienced by a first grader when drawing straight lines that then turn into curves helps with their later understanding of embryonic metamorphosis. And the manual dexterity developed by learning crossstitch, or how to knit using three needles, may encourage more analytical and agile thinking when it comes to making sense of calculus.
It’s a proven fact that art engages many areas of the brain and can have far-reaching effects on children’s developing minds. The Burton Study looked at over 2 000 children and concluded that those who were engaged in their school’s arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, problem solving, risk taking, self-expression, self-concept and cooperation than those who weren’t.
Art is a vitally important part of children’s holistic development, which is why it’s such an important part of the curriculum at Waldorf schools. Our aim is to thoroughly engage the developing child as their capacity for thinking, creating and feeling unfolds.
If there’s anything more you’d like to know about the role of art in a Waldorf School, please get in touch. We’d love to chat.
STEAM education is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.
It is based on the idea that there are significant areas of overlap between the practices of art and science. These areas represent an opportunity to show how creative thinking increases when it occurs across multiple disciplines. STEAM is the new catch phrase in pedagogical circles and has gained huge public popularity in recent years; however, the concept of holistic and integrated learning has been at the heart of Steiner-Waldorf Education for almost a century.
The Waldorf methodology is unique because other curriculums have traditionally worked towards a separation of disciplines (for example by limiting subject choices a scientific or a humanities package), whereas ours continues in its full breadth until the 12th year.
A Roseway Waldorf graduate will experience, as an addition to the foundation laid in KG and primary school, another 5 years of science, mathematics, drama, art, music, craft, technology and more before they enter into their final exam preparation year. These subjects are taught in a dynamic and integrated manner: art and science are never divorced.
For example, in the high school, our Class 8 pupils study the mathematical beauty of the Platonic solids. They discover geometric laws for themselves through drawing and folding each of the five platonic solids: tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. In Class 11, they will study projective geometry and work in a rigorous way again with art, geometry and algebra.
Similarly, in the Arts, mathematical concepts such as the golden ratio and symmetry in nature are explored. Through sculpture, human anatomy is given an artistic dimension which only deepens the learning that took place in the biology block. These few examples show how the STEAM concepts have always been a part of our methodology.
To many, art and science seem to be at odds – especially when it comes to creativity. Popular thinking sees art as being driven by emotions and inspiration, science by facts and information. The stereotypical artist is depicted as an extravagant individual while the scientist is jokingly referred as a socially inept “nerd”.
In fact, there are more similarities than differences in the gestures of the scientist and the artist. Both are passionate about meaningful questions – “How do I establish truth?”, “Why does it matter?” “How to make a difference?”
Arthur I. Miller, scientist and writer at University College London, says:
“Highly creative artists are driven by science. Art can also enable us to understand science better. Art is good for science. Both use aesthetics and beauty to enable us to better understand an external reality that is beyond our sense of perception.”
John Madea, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, also supports this point of view.
“We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry […], and for learning to occur by a continuous feedback loop between thinking and doing. Artists and scientists approach problems with a similar open-mindedness and inquisitiveness – neither fear the unknown, preferring leaps to incremental steps. They make natural partners. With such complementary thinking, there is great potential when they collaborate from the offset, resulting in unexpected outcomes that can be exponentially more valuable than when they work apart.”
This has huge implications for educators, and there are already extensive studies underway which are re-examining the way in which these subjects are taught in conventional schools.
For example, a recent study in America looked at 5th to 7th Grade girls’ conception of creativity, what implications this has for STEAM education and so concluded that STEAM education has the potential to increase our understanding of the many creative practices and dispositions that art and science have in common.
In this light, it is not surprising that many Waldorf graduates find themselves finishing high school with many possible life paths which could easily integrate the arts and traditional academies, in fact very often including a unique synthesis of the two.
If you’d like to understand more about Waldorf teaching methods, please contact us.
When you look at your child, you see the whole person. The child they are now, and the potential of the adult they will become. You also realise that there are significant emotional, social and cognitive milestones they will experience along that journey. This is the same way that Waldorf schools – also known as a Steiner school – looks at your child. We take a holistic view of education, appreciating that children have hands and hearts, as well as heads. Bringing all these elements into balance and harmony and introducing content and experiences at strategic moments that meet the child’s changing educational needs, is a core philosophy of all Waldorf schools.
One of the fundamental differences between Waldorf schools and mainstream schools is that before the age of seven Waldorf schools teach children through play, and teaching methods which focus on how to think, not what to think. We know that focusing on abstract academics at this stage of development has a negative impact on future learning. Children often become stressed, anxious and rigid in their thinking when formal learning happens at too young an age. We place emphasis on the development of critical life skills – being able to look after yourself, avoid violence and care for others. This emphasis on life skills builds the foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic.
In many traditional mainstream schools, subjects are taught for the sake of gaining content knowledge, whereas in a Waldorf school subjects are experienced so that content knowledge is used for growth and development. At Roseway Waldorf, we know that primary school children connect more effectively with their school subjects through feelings as a part to the intellect. This stage of development is the optimal time for nurturing imagination. Steiner stated, “this vital picture-making capacity…gives life and insight to logical and conceptual thinking.” This is why we bring some form of artistic activity into every subject and every lesson. In the lessons, there is a balance between listening, speaking, and doing …between humour and seriousness, taking in, transforming, and giving out.
When young children learn in an environment that nurtures and recognises all their senses, they go on to become emotionally secure adolescents who are more than ready to successfully navigate life’s challenges with confidence, courage and enthusiasm.
Our high school curriculum is broad, rigorous and inspiring! We do not encourage premature subject specialisation. Roseway Waldorf pupils have the privilege of five years of science, five years of mathematics, five years of biology, history, geography, literature, language studies, art, music, craft, farming and so on. The various aspects of the curriculum provide a real challenge to the individual pupil, who has to display a larger measure of independence and originality of thinking than is normally the case at secondary school level. At the end of this process our pupils are equipped not only to successfully manage Matric and enter into their chosen course of tertiary studies, but most importantly they are ready to tackle life with courage. They face new challenges undaunted, armed with the certainty that they are prepared for what the future sends their way, ready to grasp new opportunities the moment they recognise them.
The twelve-year journey through of our curriculum is designed to awaken children’s imaginations, encouraging them to communicate effectively, think critically, and develop rich perspectives about the world in which they live. We use an integrative and innovative approach to learning, encouraging our children to become life-long learners with the necessary initiative resilience and creativity to make a positive impact on their future.
We believe that once you’ve had the chance to look around our beautiful school, your question won’t be “Why choose a Steiner School?” but rather, “Why not?”
What is NSC?
NSC stands for National Senior Certificate. This is the official name of the South African matriculation examination. The NSC is determined by what has been gazetted by the Department of Basic Education in terms of what is today called the CAPS curriculum (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement).
The NSC is accredited and overseen by UMALUSI (The General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Authority). This is essentially what a South African matric is. It can be achieved, however, through two paths: one, through the Department of Basic Education, and the other, through the IEB.
Both paths lead to the same matric certificate from UMALUSI.
What is the IEB?
I in IEB stands for Independent. This means that it is a private agency offering support and input to independent schools who wish to use them for a fee. EB in IEB stands for Examination Board. The IEB offers support in terms of the CAPS curriculum examinations and sets tests and exams according to the CAPS guidelines, as well as memorandums and assessments, moderations and marking groups. It is therefore, a private examination setting and support agency.
A matriculant in South Africa writes an NSC examination either set by the Department of Basic Education or the Independent Examination Board – and receives (no matter which path is followed) a Matric Certificate from UMALUSI. UMALUSI moderates both examination paths to ensure that they comply with the content and question standards set by CAPS.
Both paths set comparable examinations and no distinction may be made by any tertiary institution in terms of admission.
The IEB offers independent schools following CAPS very good and well-prepared material needed for CAPS through the grades. This would not be of any benefit to us given that we follow a Waldorf Curriculum through the classes from KG to Class 12. Our teachers are specially prepared and trained to teach in a Waldorf School system and our teachers remain in continuous study of the Waldorf curriculum including methodologies.
In Class 13 (Matric) we follow our particular way of preparing students for their final matric examinations while ensuring that they are well able to manage school-based assessment tasks (part of the NSC matric programme). Our method recognises how young people have received a full, well-rounded, innovative and creative education in a Waldorf high school. It addresses the preparation and practice required to manage the CAPS Matric programme in one focused year. This method has proven to be very successful for our students who through their Waldorf schooling have learnt how to study (read, research, analyse, synthesise and summarise) and how to manage themselves and their work. This sparks a far more relevant question – What is the intrinsic value of an education?
Roseway has thus chosen, like our sister schools in the Western Cape, to write the NSC examinations set by the Department of Basic Education.
Waldorf Education is indeed an alternative form of education. It has often been mistaken by some as a form of unschooling.
Being alternative does not mean that Waldorf is a version of unschooling. There are points where the two education approaches meet. Both, for example, respect the fact that education should be focused not on content but on meeting the child where they are. Both systems also believe strongly in learning through life – being outside, playing and learning through practical activities. Both agree that no education should start in the abstract. That does not mean that theory cannot be extracted from the practical.
One of the main differences, however, is that with Waldorf education, it is the teacher who discerns with the guidance of a well worked out curriculum, when to introduce the subject matter to be learned. The timing introducing particular subject matter is based on when it coincides with the development of the child as a human being. Class 3, for example, sees the introduction of stories from the Old Testament that show how the Jewish people handled authority because nine-year-olds are often grappling with similar issues in their own development. While in Class 12, the eighteen-year-olds are introduced to philosophy because they are developmentally ready for complex, objective and existential thoughts.
Boundaries are another huge area of difference between unschooling and Waldorf education. With unschooling, there are often very few, or no boundaries, and children are encouraged, for example, to go to bed when they feel like it, and eat what they want for breakfast (even if it’s chocolate). With Waldorf education, we believe that because children are still learning, it’s not fair or helpful to ask them to take part in a democracy when it comes to what they will learn or play with what they will. They may well be attracted to things that could have a negative impact on their well-being, and it is the job of the Waldorf teacher (and parents) to set age-appropriate boundaries that contribute to the healthy development of the child. The impact of healthy sleep patterns and nutrition on the children’s learning ability is emphasised. Our approach is to help the child gradually develop and foster their own sense of duty, responsibility and initiative. In the early years, boundaries are largely imparted by the daily rhythm and routine of well-planned activities that balance and alternate free play with more focused activities. The security and predictability of this create a learning environment where the teacher seldom needs to impose a limitation on the children because they are held by the structure of the day. Adults working with this age must be mindful that their every action, word or mood is imprinted on the young child and that they therefore need to be a worthy model of intimation. As the children mature in primary school they look to their teachers to hold the class with loving authority and later in adolescence they relish the possibility of exercising greater personal initiative within the secure boundaries of the curriculum.
Unschooling is also known as “experienced-based learning,” “independent learning” and “natural learning.” It is a more “radical” form of homeschooling in that it doesn’t use a fixed curriculum, emphasising instead the opportunities to learn from the world around us. This more organic, self-directed learning is similar to the way in which we learn as pre-schoolers, and as adults in the world of work – if we want to know something, we research and find out the answers. If we don’t want to know something, we don’t have to.
The philosophy behind this approach is that unschooling creates an enthusiasm for learning because children are only learning about things that genuinely interest them and which they find intrinsically fascinating. This is something that doesn’t always happen with subjects in a more formal curriculum. In a Waldorf School, a formal curriculum is used as a vehicle to open genuine interest in learning and areas of personal research.
In unschooling, the parent is the teacher – not in the traditional, formal sense, but instead in the way that parents naturally teach their children about things. Together, they pursue questions and interests as and when they arise, only using more “conventional” teaching methods if the subject at hand requires it.
As an educational philosophy Waldorf schools offer their pupils a vast scope for personal expression and academic extension. In this way, pupils are encouraged to develop broad interests through being exposed to diverse subjects throughout the curriculum. While all the children are presented with maths, science, art, music and craft etc. The teachers endeavour to find a connection point for the various personalities in class, drawing each child into a relationship with the subject matter and thereby fostering holistic a holistic education that is not limited to one’s natural interests or inclinations. Waldorf teachers undergo extensive training in child development and continue this training throughout their careers.
The staff at Roseway Waldorf School would welcome the chance to unpack this subject in more detail with you and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to arrange a meeting.