What if there was a school without standardized testing that strives to produce creative, intellectual, and caring individuals? What if there was a school where the faculty were the primary stakeholders in the school (not the administrators)? What if there was a school where the classrooms were colorful, imaginative, and truly designed with children in mind?
Enter - the Tucson Waldorf School.
In 1993, a group of educators, artists, and professionals gathered to create just such a school. Back then it was called the Enchanted Desert Playgarden and was only a Kindergarten.
Now, twenty years later, Tucson Waldorf School offers a complete curriculum from Pre-K through Grade 8. It is the only independent Waldorf school in Arizona, a developing member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) and is fully accredited by Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).
If you aren't familiar with Waldorf education, this is it in a nutshell: "a developmentally-appropriate and experiential approach to education." That's experiential, NOT experimental. Founded in the early 20th century, Waldorf education is based on the insights and principles of education outlined by scientist, anthroposophist, and artist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Waldorf education evolved from Steiner’s understanding of human development to address the needs of the growing child.
When you step on-campus, you can expect to see children outside. Every single grade (even middle school) has two substantial recesses. Little ones are outdoors even more frequently. You'll find them swinging on swings and sliding on slides...but you'll also see kids using gardening tools and shovels, sweeping, carving, painting, and singing.
Enter the classroom doors and your senses will immediately sigh. Nursery (ages 2.5-4), Kindergarten (ages 4-6), and younger elementary classrooms have pastel silks hung from the ceiling, quiet reading nooks with bountiful pillows, presumably handmade wooden kitchens, child-sized wooden furniture, baskets with knitting work, and ample amounts of artwork (both student and teacher-created). Even the older grade level classrooms are quite unlike standard classrooms - with musical instruments, chalkboards displaying colorful and fanciful handwriting, and - again - plenty of art. Notably absent are traditional classroom "decor" items - ABC charts, primary colors, motivational posters, whiteboards, and computers of all kinds.
All students take two foreign languages beginning in first grade - Spanish and German. Music, art, and practical crafts (cooking, gardening, woodworking, etc) are also integrated into the curriculum. All boys and girls learn to knit in first grade and to crochet in second grade. First graders learn to play a pentatonic flute and switch to a c-scale recorder in later grades. Fourth-sixth graders participate in individual and group strings class with a choice of cello, viola, or violin.
Homework is not given at all until 3rd or 4th grade.
Although the students at Waldorf schools tend to read later (around age 6 or 7) because the emphasis in the early years is on play, storytelling, and self-discovery, the school reports that they are at or above grade level by 4th grade. Standardized testing isn't part of the curriculum. One strong indicator, however, would be that a large number of the 8th grade graduates go on to attend University High School and Salpointe Catholic High School - two of the most academic and reputable secondary schools in Tucson.
In the end, the Tucson Waldorf School hopes to "cultivate clarity of thought, sensitivity of feeling, and strength of will, enabling its students to become balanced, creative human beings capable of independent human judgment."
Interested in enrolling your child(ren) for the 2014-15 school year? Take a tour of the campus to see it for yourself. Applications for the upcoming academic year are accepted beginning in late January.
Type of School: private
Location: Two campuses - Presidio Campus at 3349 E. Presidio Road and River Bend Campus at 3605 E. River Road
Number of students: 95 at the Presidio Campus and 80 at the River Bend Campus (plus an additional 35 who attend Parent-Child Classes at Presidio)
Student/Teacher ratio: 12:1 in Nursery. 16:1 in Kindergarten. Average of 11-15 students in each grade level class (grades 1-8).
Tuition: Annual tuition rates are as follows -
Tuition assistance, scholarships, and tax credits are available to help with funding.
Bus service: No
Cafeteria: No – students bring their lunch. A healthful and organic snack is provided for Nursery and Kindergarten children (oats, millet, sweet potatoes, gluten-free cake with berries, vegetable soup, etc).
Full Day or 1/2 Day Kindergarten: Half day
Foreign language: 1st-8th grade students take German and Spanish.
Sports: No formal sports teams.