Students complete a course of study that prepares them for the intellectual challenges of high school: language arts, Mandarin and Spanish, sciences, and mathematics through Algebra I. There is also instruction in music, handwork, movement, and outdoor education. Unique to the school is a full integration of the arts through the curriculum, an approach that builds creativity in thinking. With deep preparation and attention, students excel at San Francisco Waldorf High School, Bay Area independent and public high schools, boarding schools, then colleges and universities worldwide.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies - History
- Form Drawing
- World Languages - Mandarin and Spanish
- Outdoor Education
Literature, speech, poetry, plays, composition
Reading begins with writing: children create their own book of the alphabet based on stories, told orally, that build a sense of the musical nature of language. Books and plays are carefully selected for content and use of language. Biographies help older students understand history and their own journey as human beings. Students practice grammatical concepts and creative expression, composition, reports, and oral presentations through grade school, and explore literary works in class plays.
Students have instruction in handwriting—printing and cursive. They practice grammatical concepts and creative expression through the grade school years. In their annual class plays, students explore literature, history, and the beauty of language. Compositions, reports, and oral presentations augment the curriculum.
Developing competence and confidence: counting to Algebra I
First graders learn to write Roman Numerals and Hindu-Arabic numerals, and second graders explore the concept of place value and borrowing. Third graders are interested in big numbers, even beyond billions, and weights and measures, distance, time, and money are explored. Increasingly complex concepts engage fourth and fifth graders: factoring, decimals, proofs, metrics, and more. Fifth graders explore ancient mathematical systems in conjunction with their study of ancient civilizations. Daily mental math practice evolves through the grades, building students' powers of concentration and memory, and an integrated understanding of math concepts.
Year-long math courses supplement math Main Lesson blocks beginning in sixth grade. By this time students have emerging powers of abstraction and are ready for more advanced mathematical challenges; courses help students develop higher order thinking and reasoning skills. Sixth graders learn probability and statistics, exponents and roots, number theory, order of operations, and area and perimeter of polygons, business math and geometry. Seventh graders are introduced to algebra, one and two variable linear equations, squaring a binomial, and algebraic properties. Students practice square root algorithm and more advanced power and root techniques.
The Eighth Grade Main Lesson block is geometry and the track course is Algebra I. Students may master the content and move to Honors Geometry in high school or deepen their algebraic foundation in 9th Grade.
Observation, experience, scientific discovery
Before they are ready to delve into scientific terminology and inquiry, young children experience the natural world. They hear stories of nature and have forays into natural areas. They also work with a gardening teacher each week.
Fourth graders study comparative zoology and fifth graders study botany. Plants are observed over time and in relation to their natural environment through excursions into nature and imaginative descriptions.
Middle schoolers take up multi-year studies of physics (acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism, electricity, mechanics, astronomy); geology; chemistry, and anatomy and physiology. Working with the science teacher, students use scientific format to describe experiments; emphasize clarity in illustrations and explanations.
Global cultures and historical themes
Early graders hear engaging stories of people and places: mythology, folk tales, and stories of saints, wise people, and the cultural heritages of their classmates. Third graders look at how human beings began living on earth; how people sheltered, clothed, and fed themselves; and learn about farming, agriculture and house-building. They study stories of the Hebrew tribes. Third graders are at an age of some separation and identify with the practical nature of the curriculum. Fourth graders take up local geography, mapping the classroom, home, city, and beyond. They study California history and the geography of North America, then move to local, state, and continental geography and history. They study stories of the Norse people and their mythology.
Older classes explore world history chronologically from ancient civilization to modern times. Fifth grade begins with the ancient cultures of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The study of Ancient Greece culminates in a multi-school Pentathlon. Sixth graders study Roman laws and create their own classroom laws. Seventh graders explore the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration; by eighth grade, students trace the development of modern nations. Geography studies continue through the middle school years: Europe and the Mediterranean; Latin and Mesoamerica; Africa and Asia.
Precise mastery lines, curves, and shapes
This exercise, unique to Waldorf education, helps students develop a sense of balance, proportion, and symmetry while improving fine motor skills, artistry, and mental picturing. It begins first grade when students take up writing and penmanship, an excellent preliminary exercise for second grade cursive writing. Second and third graders practice vertical and horizontal symmetry, four quadrant forms, and inward and outward spirals. Fourth graders also learn braided and knotted forms. In fifth grade, the final year, free hand geometric forms serve as a transition to the use of compass and straight-edge in sixth grade geometry.
Unique dual-language study: Spanish and Mandarin
Children develop contrasts in linguistics and culture. Early lessons are filled with songs, poetry, stories, and rhymes that help children absorb the feeling of the language, and understand and honor the cultures of those who speak the languages. Meaning is acquired slowly through repetition and accompanying visuals, gestures, intonations, and body language.
Second graders begin to respond conversationally, and third graders put pencil to paper, recording the story of elefante or mariposa. Students discover the Old Chinese characters from the pictures they draw and explore the progression to the modern characters. Stroke ordering is taught with colors of the rainbow – first a stroke of red, then orange, yellow, and so on.
Fourth grade marks an important curricular change: oral language acquisition is enhanced through reading, writing, dictation, and written exploration of grammatical structures. Students have the capacity to identify parts of speech, and are able to make written and oral presentations of their cultural studies. This process deepens and expands throughout fifth grade, where grammatical instruction in Spanish includes verb conjugation, personal pronouns, and gender agreement.
Middle school students have new abilities to think conceptually: they choose to specialize in either Spanish or Mandarin beginning in 7th Grade, doubling instructional time. Language classes become skill-based classes which require practice, consistency, and analytical thinking. Selected biographies and works of literature, such as Don Quijote de la Mancha, inspire students of this age.
Choral and orchestra instruction in every grade
Music lessons support focus and concentration, enhance academic learning, and create an appreciation for beauty in the world. Music reminds us that we are joyous beings of body, mind, and spirit. First and second graders sing in unison, learn the pentatonic flute and pentatonic lyre and simple rhythm rondos. Imagery and imitation is the basis for instruction. Third graders have note-reading instruction, explore instrument families, and sing in simple rounds.
Fourth through eighth graders learn an orchestra instrument (taking individual lessons outside the school day) and all students participate in their class orchestra. Repertoire is chosen for its melodic integrity, appropriateness of key and meter, and the way it harmonizes and balances each individual class. Fourth and fifth graders are just beginning to achieve a basic level of mastery over their instruments. The teacher emphasizes listening and tuning.
Sixth through eighth graders take on pieces that are challenging, diverse, and grounding. Harmonious and noble pieces by Classical composers appeal to the students of this age. Students also have the desire to be seen and heard as individuals and are drawn to music with clearly differentiated tone qualities. Students perform in the Spring Concert, a highlight of a year of music, and upper grade students may also perform pieces they compose or select at an evening showcase.
Young students tend the urban garden
The school uses biodynamic farming and gardening techniques, an approach that ensures the health of a complex ecosystem. The biodynamic farmer pays particular attention to soil health and crop rotations. Children plant, dig, harvest, hear stories of nature, develop an understanding of seasonal cycles, beneficial insects, tool usage, plant cultivation, and food preparation. Their work as farmers supports sensory integration and provides time for healthy outdoor movement. Third graders study agriculture and farming, and prepare—with fresh produce often grown on campus— a harvest meal for their parents and greater class community.
Development of fine motor skills, concentration, aesthetic sensibility, and mathematics skills
First graders turn wooden dowels into knitting needles and begin to knit. Second graders cast on and off, knit, purl, change colors, and sew pieces. Simple stories and verses guide children through their work and the children learn to work together.
Third graders learn crochet, a new challenge in hand coordination. In their study of farming, the children follow the transformation of wool—from sheep to spun wool to cloth. Fourth graders embroider and learn stitches from varied world cultures. Each cross-stitch requires precision and concentration. Fifth graders learn knitting in the round and create socks and mittens. Concentration and skills in math are used to shape and turn the heel of a sock or add the thumb of a mitten.
Middle school age students take on increasingly complex projects: hand-sewn stuffed animals, wet-felted wool slippers, and flannel pajamas sewn on a machine.
Fifth through eighth graders create functional and beautiful objects from wood
Students create a variety of utilitarian objects from wood: spoons, simple propellers, bowls, stools, and small boxes. Wood is a challenging medium and students learn the importance of planning and preparation. Students also learn about the usage of tools – saws, rasps, gouge and mallet, drills, and carving knives. Through practice they develop a sense of form and learn to work together in safe woodshop environment.
Studies in color and form
First and second graders explore the interaction of color while listening to a simple story. Children paint primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and delight in the variety of color combinations and the “personality” of each. Third graders create compositions that express the content of a story as well as the mood of a season. The children see forms arise from the color: a bluish tree against a moonlit winter sky or a golden pyramid amidst the dry desert sands.
What happens when the sun illuminates one side of an image? Students explore active (lighter) and passive (darker) colors in fifth grade. Sixth graders work with varied brushes and color saturation, and learn veil painting, a technique in which the artist uses gradual layers of color to create images. Seventh and eighth graders explore light and color through different times of the day, learn perspective from Renaissance artists, and work with pastels.
An integration learning, social growth, and athletic development
Children juggle, ride unicycles, throw javelins, climb walls, practice orienteering, and learn games from around the world. The activities support kinesthetic and spatial awareness, and strengthen social cooperation. Gaming strategies and movement formations also help children build logical and critical thinking skills.
First through third graders practice string and clapping games, jumping and vaulting, balance and rhythm, with a focus on cooperative games and physical awareness. Third graders have growing awareness of their individuality, and activities such as running and tagging games give them the ability to react to stimulus from all directions.
Fourth through eighth graders are challenged in cooperative and competitive play. Activities complement themes from the academic curriculum and students practice skills for regional athletic competitions with other Waldorf schools: Pentathlon in fifth, Global Games in sixth, Explorers Tournament in seventh, and Track & Field in eighth grade. Competitive Athletics teams are formed in sixth grade. All students are encouraged to participate with their class. Sports include basketball, volleyball, and soccer.
A movement art that integrates poetry, verse, and music
In the early 20th Century, artists, whose work now defines modernism, experimented with new forms of architecture, painting, sculpture, music and dance, seeking a deeper understanding of their media and a more vital connection to the human being.
Eurythmy was created during this period when Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher, intellectual, and founder of Waldorf education, was asked if new meaning could be given to the art of dance. Steiner explored the world of speech and music, seeking archetypal forms and movements within the sounds themselves. From this exploration came Eurythmy, a unique movement art that is used in education and enjoyed in performance around the world.
Through eurythmy, children learn social awareness, spatial orientation, coordination, and artistic expression. They begin in first grade exploration of straight and curved lines and elements of pitch and rhythm. Through the grades they explore spatial and geometric forms and gestures for vowels and consonants. The classes learn to move together through increasingly intricate patterns and explore movement through a variety of poetry and musical pieces.
Students sail San Francisco Bay, rock climb in the Pinnacles, and camp in Big Sur. They restore native habitats, hike rain or shine, and cultivate community gardens—experiencing first-hand the exceptional biodiversity of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Young students have extended outings that help them gain an awareness of the cycles of nature, build social skills, and develop fine and gross motor skills. Grade school students learn from experts in the field, like foresters in the Presidio and marine scientists at the Marin Headlands. From third grade on, they are challenged with exciting week-long excursions into California farming and wilderness areas, trips that complement studies of botany, geology, and astronomy, and build skills in cooperation, personal responsibility, and environmental stewardship.