The School Day
The day begins with the Main Lesson – a two-period, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary inquiry into all elements of a major subject area. Main lesson topics are approached from diverse directions in multiple modes of study for up to four weeks. The middle part of the school day includes classes in English, History, Math and Allied Sciences, Foreign Languages, and Electives, which meet four or five times a week throughout the year. At the end of the day, a double period is scheduled for the arts, which are taught in blocks of three to six weeks and meet three times a week. Physical Education and Music ensembles meet once a week for a double period.
The masterworks of prose and poetry are studied in several literature main lessons each year. Through literature, students examine the questions and themes of human experience. This develops critical thinking, and helps students find direction in their search for self and for the meaning of life. Students in every grade also receive English instruction in year-long courses. In contrast to the month-long main lessons or seminars, the year-long English curriculum is designed in a four-year sequence of classes. English classes meet daily throughout the year and build skills in grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, critical analysis, and research.
The history and social studies curriculum explores both United States and world history and attempts, whenever possible, to place American history in a global perspective. Students explore history and social studies through a variety of media including textbooks and other reference texts, primary documents, in-depth narratives, monographs, newspapers and periodicals, and documentary film.
History main lessons offer in-depth study ranging from ancient times to the present. Students begin 9th grade with a two-part main lesson on Atlantic World History, reflect on World Civilizations in grades 10 and 11, and conclude with a main lesson on Contemporary History in grade 12. This sequence helps students recognize the features, achievements, crises, and turning points in the history of great world civilizations.
In addition to main lessons, students receive instruction in history and the social sciences though year-long classes. Students are required to complete a minimum of two year-long courses for graduation, and they may choose to take up to four years of history by supplementing required courses with year-long electives.
Mathematics and Allied Sciences
All courses in mathematics and science both demand and encourage systematic thinking, methodical inquiry, and formal understanding of objects. Courses use numbers to generalize about the world, and then model relations and structures as broadly as possible in the style of theorems, rules, and laws. Over the four years of high school, students participate in more than twenty main lesson seminars in mathematics and natural science. There are also six weeks per year of coursework in the laboratory. During these sessions, students prepare for scientific inquiry in the main lessons through hands-on experience with physical substances and extended observations of phenomena.
Students in grades nine through eleven take yearlong courses in essential mathematics with additional laboratory science. These classes meet daily and emphasize steady extension of fundamental skills and gradual development of good reasoning habits through orderly practice with quantitative forms. This work includes symbolic derivation of conclusions that typify mathematical activity, as well as practice in measurement, estimation, and the handling of precision instruments. These are courses in mathematics and allied sciences – titled “math/science” to reflect their integrated approach to a fundamentally unified subject. In each grade, the class is divided into two sections by skill level, each with a different teacher. The two sections typically meet separately; for some activities and investigations, classes meet as a whole.
The approach to science in the high school is broad, deep, and enthusiastically brought to the students. As in the middle-grades, the intention of all of our science courses is to be phenomena-based. The teachers strive to expose the students to experiences that allow them to develop their understanding of phenomena and only afterward to attach concepts and vocabulary to this understanding. Throughout the four years of main lessons, a wide range of topics related to physics, chemistry, and biology are studied, and each topic is addressed with a particular expertise and a hope of developing expertise in our students. All students participate in at least one main lesson each of physics, chemistry, and biology in each of their four years of high school.
Moving from ninth grade through the years to twelfth grade, the science curriculum moves from more concrete ideas into the world of abstract thought. Ninth grade science main lessons examine the chemistry of life and hydrocarbons, the physiology of their own bodies, and the qualities of mechanics and substances that can be actively worked with in the classroom. By twelfth grade the students are learning about evolution, light, and radioactivity–subjects that require more flexible thinking and comfort with abstract connections.
In the high school, we offer French, Spanish and German, Levels I to IV. Three years of language are required to graduate. If a student chooses to continue a language they have studied earlier in their education, they will take a placement test to determine which level they will enter. Some students may also decide to take a second language as one of their Electives. In tenth grade we offer a Foreign Exchange Program, where students study at a Waldorf school abroad. By graduation, students are fluent enough in reading, writing, and speaking to make their way in countries where those tongues are native.
Fine Arts and Practical Arts
The arts are a key element in any Waldorf curriculum. Over four years of high school, our students study Black-and-White Drawing with charcoal and pastel chalk, Watercolors and Mixed Media and, as seniors, Oil Painting. We offer classes in Sculpture, and students work with both clay and stone. Freshmen and sophomores can choose an elective in Graphic Art and Illustration; sophomores and juniors can participate in a Digital Photography elective. Additional afternoon crafts classes include Basketry, Weaving, and Bookbinding. 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.
Eurythmy is a series of expressive movement exercises unique to Waldorf education. In Eurythmy classes, students learn how to bring music and poetry into physical expression, thereby gaining a better understanding of these arts. Eurythmy also teaches dexterity, grace, poise, balance, and concentration.
Music is vital to the school’s educational experience and is an essential element of the Waldorf High School Curriculum. Every student in our high school participates in both an instrumental and a vocal ensemble. Students with prior study in brass, woodwind, string or percussion instruments may join the Jazz Band, Orchestra or both. Students with no prior instrumental experience may choose either African Drumming, Brazilian Drumming or Guitar classes. Students who wish to take up a private instrument and join the Jazz Band or the Orchestra are encouraged to do so. Every student in grades 9 through 12 sings in our High School Chorus, which meets twice a week and performs at assemblies and concerts throughout the year. Students in Chorus sing a wide variety of repertoire from diverse cultures and languages. Those students who wish to further their choral experience are encouraged to join The MetroGnomes, an extra-curricular a Cappella ensemble. In addition to the performing arts, students in Grade 11 study History Through Music in a main lesson seminar. Eleventh and twelfth grade students may also choose a music elective such as Music Theory and Composition.
Drama figures prominently in the arts and literature curriculums. In our drama program, we introduce basic acting, the history of drama and plays from the great classical and modern playwrights, including Sophocles, Shakespeare and Anton Chekhov. Each senior presents a major play before graduation. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in the extra-curricular High School Drama Club, which presents two fully mounted theatrical productions per year.
The school believes class trips are important experiences for the students. While the destinations and the regularity may vary, students usually take one trip per year. The trips are organized in relationship to the content of the curriculum in 9th, 10th and 11th grades. For example, the 10th grade has a farm experience as part of their Ecology block, and the 11th grade works with villagers at a community for developmentally challenged adults during one of their literature main lessons. The trip at the end of senior year includes a community service component.