The first Steiner school was founded in Germany in 1919 to teach the children of workers at the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company. Steiner schools are also commonly referred to as Waldorf schools because of this. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of these schools, believed that a person is made up of three parts – spirit, soul and body. Rudolf Steiner is quoted as having said: “The soul needs nourishment as well as the body.”
There are currently 52 Steiner schools in Australia. There are more than 750 Steiner education centres in 60 countries across the world. Steiner schools form the largest group of non-religious independent schools in the world.
Steiner School – The Three Stages Of Development
Steiner believed that there were three main stages in child development, each lasting around seven years. Each stage focuses heavily on imagination, creativity and artistic expression, as well as teaching academia and practical skills. Steiner schools focus on the developmental needs of the child at each stage. Pupils at Steiner schools are encouraged to feel connected with nature, and may spend a great deal of time outdoors. Bush walks are a common feature in Australian Steiner schools, and a respectful relationship with nature is encouraged.
Steiner School – Kindergarten
The kindergartens, for pupils aged 0-7, are a home-like environment where children focus on creative play and hands-on activities. Popular activities for this stage include baking, drawing, story telling, craft, music and gardening. Imagination is seen as a key tool in developing intellect.
Steiner School – Elementary
The next stage, the elementary school, the philosophy embraces artistic expression and social understanding. The elementary stage allows the child to learn creative and analytical understanding. It is common for the kindergarten teacher to to teach the same class at elementary level too. This allows them to build a strong relationship with both the students and their parents.
Steiner School – Secondary School
The final stage, the secondary school, fosters idealism and embraces critical thinking. Subjects are taught in month blocks by specialist teachers. These teachers use their extensive knowledge, rather than textbooks, to inspire and engage with the students. Empathy, compassion and collaboration are seen as important social skills.
Find Out More About Steiner Schools
Each school is different, some may have better facilities than others, and others may be better established. Contact your local Steiner school to find out more. Ask if you can visit the school to see lessons in action, and find out more about the Steiner philosophy.