RITE OF PASSAGE
Waldorf seniors welcome first graders during the annual Rose Ceremony. Photo by Simplicio Paragas
Students embrace Waldorf pedagogy
By Simplicio Paragas
The excitement was palpable: Students hugging teachers; teachers embracing parents. And then there was the pomp and circumstance of the annual Rose Ceremony. Every year, Honolulu Waldorf seniors begin the school semester by presenting a single red rose to shy — and some not so timid — first graders. The symbolic gesture is the passing of the torch, of sorts, from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2024.
In her opening address, fourth-grade teacher, Lynn Aaberg, spoke of two different types of birds she recently saw, comparing them to the school’s two different campuses. Both, she said, were contrasting yet complementary.
While Hawaii schools are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 — a federal law enacted by the Bush administration that requires schools to demonstrate proficiency and progress according to accountability standards set by the state and approved by the U.S. Department of Education — the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America set their own national standards and undergo their own accreditation process every seven years.
Graceful acrobats perform during Waldorfaire.
Having celebrated its golden anniversary last year, Honolulu Waldorf offers a curriculum that embraces an education concerned more with experience than grades. Developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf philosophy is based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child.
“How do we cultivate planting seeds in such a way that when it comes time, it will bear fruit,” asks teacher Frances Altwies. “That’s the thought behind what we do here: We strive to sow the seeds of knowledge so a child will develop a connection to humanity and to become a citizen of the world.”
Some critics, though, might consider not having textbooks or limited access to computers (only available at the high school level) a step backwards. However, for Waldorf students — and their parents — learning physics, music, math, literature and arts are not simply subjects to be read about, ingested and tested; they’re to be experienced.
“In ninth grade, students learn about computers by taking them apart and rebuilding them,” says director of admission Arleen Kohnke, who leads monthly orientations around the campus. “They create their own books and learn about atomic theory, hydraulics and everything else through their own personal experiences.”
Because of her interest in an art-based curriculum, Pearl Corry chose Waldorf over other high schools. “You really take charge of your own education here,” says Corry, now in her senior year “You gain a real world perspective and form a close relationship with the teachers.”
The Waldorf pedagogy is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 years or 7 years, from 7 years to 14 years, and from 14 years to 18 years. Tuition ranges from $7,990 for a half-day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, early childhood program to $14,750 for high school, not including class trip or afterschool care fees.
“How does a child learn to speak, write and experience the world through (his/her) senses,” Altwies says. “It’s touching, smelling and seeing; it’s not sitting in front of a screen.”
What: A Renaissance-themed fair, featuring food, entertainment, games and activities for all ages, archery and jousting, a puppet show, handmade items, treasure room, pony rides, horse and carriage rides, rock-climbing wall, zip-line, dunking booth, magic shows and hand-baked goods. Free admission; scrip and cash for activities.
When: Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: 350 Ulua in Niu Valley