“Waldorf education enables young people to be in love with the world as the world should be loved.”
–Marjorie Spock, master Waldorf teacher, author, eurythmist, and environmentalist
Our Teachers: Cyndia Ashkar, Alynn Nelson and Christopher Zinn
As the only Pre-K through 12th grade Waldorf school in the state of Oregon, PWS, now in its 35th year, has the great privilege of shepherding students from early childhood towards adulthood, using age-appropriate methodology to meet each stage of the developing human being. During these years, the young child, the grade school student and the evolving adolescent are offered a dynamic blend of will-filled activities, social and emotional skill-building, and critical thinking that will see them emerge from the school as strong, engaged, and creative young adults who are willing and able to make a difference in the world.
The process begins in the early childhood education where our youngest children can depend on the supportive environment and adult role models in the classrooms. Children of this age are naturally imitative, so the early childhood teachers lay the foundation for rich vocabulary, real world numeracy, and meaningful work. Cyndia Ashkar, longtime early childhood teacher at PWS, expressed it this way, “Imitation is the cornerstone of early childhood development. We want the children to have the capabilities and strong bodies to ready themselves for their next stage of development.”
Children are prepared by their early childhood experiences for the grades, an eight-year period when students receive and experience story-telling and experiential activities as the primary learning method. Alynn Nelson, 4th grade class teacher, notes that cultivating empathy is one of the most important aspects of the Waldorf class teacher’s task during these years. “The social arts are essential and can lead to empathy,” she says. “Learning together through curriculum, pedagogical stories, and practical activities is very effective.”
The balance among practical, the social, and the critical thinking elements are evident throughout the grades. For instance, 4th grade students tour and map Milwaukie and Portland as part of their geography block. They also take part in a “potlatch,” a Pacific Northwest Native American custom that involves sharing a feast. When spring approaches they will celebrate with other Waldorf schools in the region. Getting together with other students expands their view of the world and supports the development of the social arts.
This balance of the practical and the social continues with the Olympiad in 5th grade, as the children go through a transition towards the inwardly focused middle school years. Sixth grade history lessons reach far and wide to the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. By the time students reach 7th grade, there is an expansion of academic capability and curiosity with the study of the Renaissance, geometric drawing and more complex math study. In 8th grade the students meet the study of the American, French, and Industrial Revolutions, bringing more modern-day, thoughtful discussions into the classroom environment. Algebra and geometry are deepened, and practical activities increasingly include a more sophisticated use of sewing machines and power tools. All of this sets the stage for entry into high school.
Students enter high school in the process of going through major changes in their physical and emotional development. Yet, they are also ready to embrace the rich high school curriculum, which fosters in them critical thinking skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Here they are met with teachers who are experts in their subjects, including anatomy, geology, meteorology, astronomy, botany, algebra, projective geometry, and calculus. The rich content in English, history, drama, movement, athletics and extracurricular activities work hand in hand with the sciences to give the students a well-rounded preparation for life after high school.
Christopher Zinn, high school humanities teacher and college counselor, recognizes the multifaceted skills that emerge in Waldorf high school students. He puts it this way: “Waldorf students ask questions, are creative thinkers, resourceful and very generous. We are helping shape students based on who they are as individuals.”
We are deeply honored to have the opportunity to offer our students an integrated, living educational experience from their earliest years right up until they graduate high school. Please consider making a generous donation to our Community Development Campaign to allow us to continue to do this good work in the years to come.
“Receive the child in reverence, educate them in love, send them forth in freedom”