Academic Approach

Academic Engagement and Adolescent Development

San Francisco Waldorf High School challenges students’ intellectual capacities and piques their natural curiosity as they develop through unique stages of adolescence. It is an engaging course of study taught by exceptional faculty who help students discover themselves and their place in the world.

Ninth grade students are ready for abstract analytical thinking and academic rigor, yet sometimes see the world in only black-and-white. As they navigate a new high school experience, the curriculum challenges freshmen to observe, question, and imagine alternatives. Courses reflect the polarity and contrasts of this stage in adolescence: students explore Thermodynamics (the properties of heat and cold); they read classics of Comedy and Tragedy; and they examine mathematical probability in Permutation and Combinations.

Tenth grade students are able to look more deeply at the world around them and how it continues to evolve. They seek to understand process, growth, and transformation, as they experience it in themselves. The curriculum includes a study of the development of Ancient Civilizations. The dynamic operation of law in society is the subject of Government. Through weaving, students transform thread into cloth; in Embryology, they explore the development of human life.

Eleventh grade students have a growing capacity for self-reflection and begin to examine questions of identity: How am I shaped by my experiences and my learning? What is uniquely my own? While reading Hamlet and Parzival, two classics about finding one’s destiny, students have the opportunity to consider their own paths. A Physics block of Astronomy turns students’ introspective focus to the world of the stars. Projective Geometry presents students with new concepts of space, time, and infinity. The individual expression of great artists and convictions of great leaders are explored in Music History and U.S. History.

Twelfth grade students are able to think more analytically and imaginatively. They synthesize knowledge and experience and begin to see their emerging place in the world. The curriculum supports the development of a global consciousness by helping seniors explore critical questions: What guides peoples’ action? How can I make a difference in the world? Why might I choose this path? In class, students are challenged with questions of morality through Goethe’s Faust. They read Thoreau in America Transcendentalists class and explore the interrelationship of ecosystems in Environmental Studies. They study Economics, Calculus and Chaos Theory as well as create a capstone senior project. The course of study supports students' emerging abilities to assess multiple viewpoints and find common elements, central themes, and imaginative solutions.