Early Childhood
(Parent/Child - K)

A Nurturing Program

Rudolf Steiner School’s Early Childhood program provides a nurturing foundation for the growing child.

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Beginning with our youngest students in the Parent-Child Program (age two and above), we gently welcome children into a warm, nurturing program that eases the transition from home to school, and gradually builds readiness for first grade and beyond. Rudolf Steiner’s preschool provides an environment of beauty, security, and delight within which expanding minds flourish.

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Imagination

Imaginative play, artistic activities, and crafts and songs strengthen a child’s emotional and intellectual life.

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Our approach to education meets students with a balance of activities that entice and challenge their emerging skills and capacities.

Surrounded by the beauty of Central Park, children at Rudolf Steiner School learn to appreciate the awe of nature while developing their innate desire for self-initiated exploration and movement.

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Self-Initiated Play

Our program is developed with the understanding that self-initiated play is essential to vibrant and healthy young children.

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Ample time for creative play is part of each morning. At Rudolf Steiner School, the Early Childhood program enables children to develop physically, mentally, emotionally and socially in the best positive way.

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Elementary School
(Grades 1 – 8)

Well-Rounded Days

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For grades One through Six, classes begin at 8:15 a.m., so by 8:00 a.m., the cheerful lobby at 15 East 79th Street bustles with students who have arrived – by subway, bus, carpool, or on foot – from all over the City. Students in all grades eagerly head for designated personal desks in their Main Lesson classrooms.

On Mondays, grades One through Four go first to assembly for stories or music. Otherwise, the Main Lesson starts the day for all grades – a two-period session of creative study that opens with greetings, recitation, and music. The elementary grades break at 10:15 for a snack. Then comes recess, outside, until the subject classes begin at 11:00.

Lunch, from home or our cafeteria (offering enticing, predominantly organic meals, vegetarian and otherwise), is from 12:20 until classes resume at 1:00. Twice a week then, grades Four and up are bussed to gyms at the 92nd Street Y for Physical Education. Third graders, meanwhile, have an afternoon period of exercise in Central Park. First and Second graders spend two periods of play there before their 3:00 dismissal. The day balances quiet and energetic time.

On scheduled days, orchestra, band, and athletic teams (grades 7 & 8) practice, and clubs meet. Music lessons, craft work, and study areas are available for late-staying students. There are convivial evenings – Fifth grade folk dancing, Seventh and Eighth grade parties, the Halloween and Valentine’s Day dances. Our chorus and musical groups perform at various venues.

Festivals punctuate the year. At convocation, Seniors bring roses to First graders and escort them to assembly. First graders return the floral salute at graduation. In between, the school community celebrates Michaelmas, Thanksgiving, music of all faiths in December, and the arrival of spring. Another festival of orchestral music marks the year’s end.

Grades One and Two: The Enchantment of Learning

Children begin to be ready for formal schooling at age six to seven. Baby teeth are coming out, hands are ready for pencils, minds are opening to sequenced thought, and an upwelling of feelings and interests is under way. It’s time to start the purposeful development of skills.

So the Rudolf Steiner community welcomes its First graders with symbolic ceremony: our High School’s Seniors escort the novices to their first assembly. The beginners are entering a curricular program with approach, dynamics, and structural components that apply adaptively in all twelve grades.

In these earliest years, teaching reaches the students through their pictorial imagination and their innate aesthetic consciousness. It is an enchanting experience. Preschool’s day-opening free play is replaced by a Main Lesson, the format for all grades, and it turns out to be just as engaging. There are fairy tales and nature stories, told and retold, discussed, and dramatized, honing language and memory skills. Eurythmy exercises interpret the stories in movement. As in all Waldorf learning, a three-fold rhythm of repetition enables the students first to encounter information, next to explore it aesthetically, then, finally, to integrate the new knowledge as concepts.

Freehand drawing of forms, which gain in complexity as the grades advance, begins in First grade with simple lines. Drawing also introduces the study of letters, expanding to simple sentences copied into each student’s Main Lesson book. That becomes the child’s first reader. Songs in Spanish and German, learned by ear, introduce familiarity with those languages. The pupils engage in music-making, playing their recorders. Knitting – after students make their needles from dowels – begins the handwork that forms part of the curriculum for all grades, connecting practical activity to conceptual learning. Manual work to complete a scarf of their own design. In Second grade, the literary focus in Main Lesson is on legends and fables, again told, retold, and dramatized. But students also verbalize the stories to the class in their own words, strengthening self-assurance in oral presentation, an important part of Steiner’s curriculum. Playful introduction of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives brings grammar to the fore. Handwork progresses into crocheting.

Math is introduced in counting games, songs, and imaginative pictures that explore the four processes of arithmetic. In Eurythmy, students begin the understanding of geometric shapes by tracing them in movement. Days offer plentiful physical activity: morning recess and the two afternoon play periods take place in Central Park. Second graders go weekly to the library, and choose books to read before their next visit.

Grades Three: A Step Up

The heart of Third grade studies is the human effort to produce needed food, clothing, and shelter – to make a home. All elements of the year’s Main Lessons relate to that curriculum focus. Stories from Native American lore and from the Old Testament comprise the class’s literature. As always, these tales are illustrated – in drawings of watercolors – or dramatized. Study of the stories also introduces grammar’s parts of speech, and the four types of sentences. With punctuation as a focus, too, students write compositions in class. Form drawing concentrates on sinuously running lines that prefigure cursive writing.

English disappears, however, in the songs, poetry, skits and word games that advance learning of spoken Spanish and German. By the end of the year, students have a basic working vocabulary in those languages. Recorder lessons expand into music reading. And handwork proceeds to the more dexterously demanding skill of sewing.

Third grade Math encounters the practicalities of daily life in measurement: length, weight, volume, time, temperature, money. Mental games are paired with work in long division and the multiplication tables.

New on the scene this year is homework, that hallmark of every schoolchild’s education outside of school. There is also a real adventure in learning beyond the classroom: a week-long spring trip to the Hawthorne Valley Farm where Third graders dig, weed, mulch, care for animals, churn butter, bake bread, and plant crops, some of which they will harvest in a fall trip as Fourth graders. This hands-on study adds vital reality to the Main Lesson focus on human survival and gives the class a social experience that proves the value of cooperation.

Grades Four through Six: Encountering the World

Following from the Third grade’s introduction to varieties of human habitation, we launch the formal study of geography in Fourth grade – bringing it alive, making it personally relevant at every turn. Students begin by describing – and mapping – their classroom, then their own residences. Next come school-area neighborhoods, and then the City. The final map is of New York State, and, like all the others, it includes designation of important features. In Fifth grade, the focus widens to the United States, then North America, examining ties among physical geography, climate, and human activity. Onward then to Central and South America. Sixth graders learn latitude, longitude, and the climactic zones while studying Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations and the impact of European conquest.

Student mapping is far more accomplished than typical for this age range, a competence bolstered by the freehand skills of Form Drawing. In that discipline, these grades sequentially take on the beautiful complexities of Celtic knots, Greek friezes, and calligraphy – to which the Sixth grade adds the constructed figures of Geometry, experiencing the close relationship of aesthetics and scientific precision. By now, Math has progressed through fractions, decimals, percentages, simple equations, charts and graphs, and the rudiments of business calculations. Meanwhile, in music, students continue concentrated study of orchestral instruments selected in the Fourth year, and may choose to sing in Junior Chorus. By Sixth grade, they join the band or orchestra.

New York City’s past is highlighted in Fourth grade History. Then the focus shifts to ancient cultures of the Middle East and Europe. Fifth graders study the anthropology, mythology, literature, and geography of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. Main Lesson subjects for the Sixth grade include the rise and fall of Rome, the birth of Islam, and the Middle Ages.

In keeping with these Main Lesson subjects, writing – and reading – grow ever richer as skill in Language Arts progresses through the years. Fourth graders add book reports, letters, and journal entries to their spelling quizzes and grammar work. They write stories in their Main Lesson books drawn from their study of Norse mythology. Fifth year students, whose literature includes Greek mythology, write expository essays and narratives as well as book reports. They learn to diagram sentences. The Sixth grade creates grammar workbooks for their exercises in sentence types, verb phrases, objects, and punctuation. They read Roman and medieval history, chivalric tales and ballads, and develop or strengthen summarizing skills – and understanding of character, plot and theme – in book reports.

Coursework now enters the formal realm of Science. For the Fourth grade, that now means Zoology: examination of simple and complex species, the relationships between animals and their environment and between those creatures and humankind. The week-long trip to the Farm brings close perspective to the study of domestic animals, which students feed and groom. Study also covers wild creatures in the area – deer, opossum, raccoons, foxes, and others. Capping this experience, students write their first research paper on the animal of their choice.

Fifth grade science blooms into Botany, and drawings are of the plants’ life cycle – seed, leaf, flower, fruit, back to seed. Illustrations during their class week at the Farm include vegetables as well as budding trees. They also investigate the lower orders: lichens, mushrooms, mosses, ferns, and learn the role of honeybees and other insects in plant life. For the Sixth grade, one of the highlights of Science study is Geology – from rock types, crystals and metal ores, to volcanoes, earthquakes and plate tectonics. During their stay at the Farm, after chores, there’s rock hunting, cave exploration, and a search for fossils in a limestone quarry.

Study of Science advances in other channels, too. Physics is introduced in Sixth grade, focusing on acoustics, optics, heat, static electricity, and magnetism. Learning by discovery in this and other laboratory courses also follows the Waldorf pattern: encounter, experience, conceptualize. For each topic, teachers provide a demonstration of effects. Students monitor closely, then write up their observations. The following day’s discussion works out a principe to explain what was seen. Also new in grades Four through Six is formal physical education. Classes are bussed to the gyms at the 92nd Street Y for twice-weekly sessions in activities ranging from dance to step aerobics, tumbling and gymnastics, to volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, and badminton. After school, sports teams practice and play. There are no try-outs: all students are encouraged to participate, regardless of skill level, and their contributions are applauded.

Grades Seven and Eight: Turning the Corner

Heading toward High School, the curriculum broadens and deepens the progressive flow of knowledge, skills, and creativity begun in the earlier grades. As the learners mature, so does the nature of their work. Coursework in Seventh and Eighth grades builds self-confidence and competence through independent projects. Physical education classes become single sex. Gym instruction still accentuates fitness and technique, but competitive games are introduced as well. There is interscholastic competition with other schools in soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, and track.

These final Elementary grades emphasize knowledge of the modern world, its physical and social aspects. Eighth graders are introduced to a broader perspective on urban life in a course component that may include work in soup kitchens. In wider focus, the study of global climate and weather patterns in Meteorology connects with physical geography and environmental issues. Aiming higher in the sky, students learn about Astronomy, a subject particularly attractive to Seventh graders. A mid-winter class trip to the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Vermont allows them to experience sparkling views of the heavens with a new-found awareness.

By now, students are adept at playing their individual musical instruments. Orchestra, band, and chorus undertake more complex compositions and perform both at school and in other City venues. In their artwork, painting includes both watercolors and other media. Clay sculpture ties in with Main Lesson subjects. Skill in foreign language has advanced apace: conversational accomplishment in Spanish and German expands to include reading and writing.

As always in Steiner’s curriculum, linkages among study areas are prominent. A Main Lesson of the Renaissance connects Seventh grade Astronomy to that era’s science. This coursework also discusses the importance of human Physiology in Renaissance art, while similar study of the body engages the Science class. Related Eurythmy improves awareness of bodily presence and extension in social space. Discussion of the physiological systems and functions, including sexuality, encompasses understanding of addictions and eating disorders. Information on hygiene and health correlates with the nutritional component of organic chemistry, an Eighth grade course in our well-equipped laboratory that builds on the Seventh grade’s study of inorganic compounds. Main Lesson Social Studies examines the expansion of the Atlantic hemisphere. Concentration on Europe’s past ends with a research paper on the transoceanic explorers, opening the way for Eighth graders to take up the history of North America. Expository essays and extensive notes flow from reading and discussion about the Colonial period and evolution of the United States: independence and westward expansion, Civil War, the Industrial Revolution with its waves of immigrants, forward through the 20th Century to the Civil Rights Movement.

Formal study of Algebra begins in Eighth grade. But there are prior encounters with this discipline in the application of geometric measurement to problem solving. Seventh graders also learn to apply algebraic equations to the laws of solid mechanics of fluids and gases – aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. Study of electricity expands, with students demonstrating their knowledge by each building and electric motor. Physics’ principles of levers, wheels, and inclined planes also apply handily in woodwork, guiding production of movable toys and folding stools. In Technology, keyboarding, internet research and word processing of reports and papers begins the expanding use of digital equipment that continues through Twelfth grade.

The demands of future study are in focus. Stepping up from eighth grade, Steiner students are more than ready to take on the challenges of High School.

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Class Teacher

The Class Teacher is a distinctive facet of Waldorf education. For several grades, and, in many cases, through all eight elementary grades, a class group is led and taught primarily by just one of our specially trained, multi-disciplinary instructors. This Class Teacher provides the Main Lesson and coordinates additional input from special subject instructors.

The Class Teacher’s continuity of eldership, understanding, and interaction creates an exceptionally inviting classroom context: dependability, authority, personal relationship, and trust. It is an intellectually and emotionally healthy environment, matching challenge with reassurance. As time progresses, students’ respect for their teacher’s guidance, and confidence in that teacher’s reciprocal respect for their intelligence, create open channels of communication that greatly aid the process of education. Particularly in our small classes, the resulting atmosphere nourishes the fullest development of students’ mental, emotional and physical capacities.

Benefits of this approach show themselves strongly in the spiral progress of the Rudolf Steiner curriculum. The Class Teacher, having participated in all major aspects of students’ learning – tactile, aural, aesthetic, manual, intellectual – is uniquely able to keep connections active among past and present studies related to subjects at hand. The Teacher’s thorough understanding of each student’s capabilities and interests also makes the home-school connection productive.

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Main Lesson

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The Main Lesson is a unique – and uniquely effective – factor in Waldorf education. The morning starts for every grade with a 90-120 minute period focused on one topical area. For a block of three- to four-weeks, each class examines a subject imaginatively, from many directions, and depending on age, in various ways of knowing: aesthetic, intellectual, oral, manual, through motion or creation. Each day, students record salient features in Main Lesson notebooks, which become comprehensive, illustrated displays of progress.

All Main Lessons employ a three-fold rhythm of learning, a format adapted to pupils’ developmental potentials: encounter (listen, observe); consider (discuss, interpret); conceptualize (write, illustrate or dramatize, bring to a point of conclusion). In First grade Language Arts, for instance, students assimilate syntax through oral recitation and resulting pictorial imagination – stories told, and retold, enacted, expressed in movement, and depicted in Main Lesson books. Subsequent lettering adds to these early pictures, creating students’ self-made First Readers.

Higher grades’ curriculum builds abstract thinking. But learning through artistry, aesthetic appreciation, and conceptual expression keeps pace. Middle School Main Lesson boks show accomplished, sophisticated maps and drawings, plus extensive writing: deductions and insights that expand on class readings and discussion, the students teaching themselves as they create their own reference materials.

The Main Lesson progression engages all the learning faculties – head, heart and hands – in study that is deep, broad and fulfilling.

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High School
(Grades 9 – 12)

Educational Excellence

Steiner High School students learn to think in a comprehensive, yet developmentally appropriate, way. We believe that superior knowledge is gained from intellectual challenge, met through imaginative interaction of a students’ artistic sensibilities, emotions, creativity, and personal volition. Our coursework illuminates the connections among music, art, and literature; between aesthetics and scientific precision. Steiner students, thriving and maturing in the friendly, stimulating environment of this small school, learn self confidence and poise as well as the values of cooperation. The combination of curriculum and community yields interwoven paths of progress, personal and academic, leading to the level of excellence needed for success in top ranked colleges and universities, which is where our graduates routinely attend.

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International Exchange Program

Tenth graders at Rudolf Steiner can live what they learn by studying overseas. Immersion in a foreign society adds invaluable stimulation and perspective to the understanding of language and culture.

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Steiner 10th graders, who are proficient in a foreign language, can spend part of the year at a Waldorf school in Austria, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain or South American countries. Because Waldorf education the world over uses the same teaching methods, a student from the cooperating European school enrolls in the New York City high school during the academic year, and live in the homes of the host families associated with their schools.

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Athletic Program

Our athletic teams are a vital and energetic part of the Steiner high school.

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After-school sports teams provide opportunities for our high school students to play during three seasons – fall, winter and spring.

Our students learn the importance of cooperation, commitment to others, graceful winning and dignified losing. Our school does not hold tryouts or cut students from teams. All students are encouraged to participate in the sports program regardless of skill level or prior experience.

Fall teams include volleyball for girls and soccer for boys and girls. Winter teams include boys’ and girls’ basketball and in the spring, our student athletes compete in track and field for boys and girls, and baseball for boys.

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