What Makes Us Unique
Our rich curriculum brings the arts, science, humanities, language arts, and practical arts to students in a way that brings to life the fact that all knowledge is interrelated. Students develop a deep sense of respect for each other, for the environment, and for the world at large as they experience a Waldorf curriculum that encourages, enables, and values the contribution of individuals, groups, and communities to the improvement of our common human culture.
Waldorf education engages the head, heart and hands in a deeply, meaningful way that allows students to develop a love of learning, an intrinsic desire for discovery, and confidence in their ability to master anything. This is Education That Matters.
KWS is located on 425 acres of beautiful Chester County farmland. Our organic and biodynamic dairy farm produces the area’s best yogurt. Our students develop an appreciation for the earth and an understanding for what it takes to grow good, healthful food in our organic school garden. The students learn every aspect of gardening from sowing to harvesting and preservation of foods. The even learn how to prune fruit trees and work with honeybees.
Teaching How to Think
Rather than filling students with pre-digested information and concepts to memorize for tests, we begin with experiences, and through discussion and other activities help students discover concepts. Our students learn to think like a scientist, a historian, a philosopher, an artist. We teach students how to think, not what to think. By allowing students to discover concepts for themselves, rather than being fed concepts (that someone else has already thought), we are engaging them in the thinking process and giving them the experiences to learn to become independent thinkers.
Joy in Learning
We believe that learning is naturally an exciting and joyful experience. We seek to cultivate that sense of joy in learning in our students by bringing the subject matter to our students in ways that speak to where they are in their stage of development, engage them in their whole being and avoids teaching to the test, and rote memorization of information geared towards testing performance. We do give quizzes and tests, when developmentally appropriate, and only in support of the integrative learning experience of the students.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to keep pace with a child’s stage of development, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We introduce new concepts or new skills when children are ready to learn them. Child development is at the center of everything we do in our program. Rather than following the latest fads in education, we base our teaching on a timeless understanding of child development.
Rather than filling each day with 40 or 50 minutes classes in Lower School and in High School, we start each day focusing on a particular academic subject that we will study in-depth for two hours every day for about a month. During that two hour class, our students aren’t just sitting listening to a lecture. They will be engaged in a variety of age-appropriate activities that allow them to learn about the subject from various points of view and will engage them intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Movement, artistic activities, group and individual projects, research, discussion, student presentations can all be a part of the Main Lesson.
Main Lesson Book
Another unique aspect of the Waldorf curriculum is that our students make their own books as a record of what they have learned in each main lesson. These books are filled with the student’s writing and illustrations. We don’t teach from textbooks. We use textbooks to reinforce skills in subjects like math, but in general, our teachers bring subject matter alive to the students through various activities that speak to the student’s stage of development.
Learning in the World
KWS provides our high school students with opportunities to learn in the world through internships and practicums. In most years of high school students participate in one-week off-campus learning experiences that we call practicums. We also have introduced an entrepreneurship program with opportunities for internships.
The Art of Education
In Waldorf Education, the creativity of the teacher is central to the pedagogy. Each teacher is tasked to bring their subject matter to the students in a way that is engaging and enlivening and appropriate for the developmental stage of the students, rather than follow a scripted lesson plan developed by someone else. Waldorf teachers approach teaching as an art, developing the inner flexibility in themselves to meet each particular group of students in a unique and fresh way.
Parents across the educational spectrum have been raising concerns about the amount of homework their children are expected to do every night. Even pre-school children are expected to do homework in some schools. Developmental psychologists and educators have sounded the alarm bell about the amount of unnecessary pressure being put on children in schools. At KWS we believe that homework should be a support and not a burden. We don’t believe that there is any value in assigning homework to young children. We introduce homework gradually in grade school in an age-appropriate manner. By middle school and high school, students learn to manage homework from a variety of subject teachers. On average, we don’t expect our high school students to do more than two hours of homework a night.
The Role of Play
Recent research by developmental and educational psychologists and neuroscientists have confirmed what Waldorf Education has known for years. Play is the most important component of early childhood education and is needed to lay the foundation for the development of thinking as students grow. The Waldorf Early Childhood curriculum is centered around creative play and socialization. The pressure that is being put on young children to perform academically in other educational systems is not a part of Waldorf Education. While children in the early childhood program are provided with experiences that provide the foundation for academics, academic instruction per se is reserved for the grades when children are developmentally ready to use their memory and other capacities in academic learning.
Nature as Teacher
A considerable amount has been written recently about the important role that nature plays in healthy human development and as an important aspect of education. The Waldorf curriculum seeks to help students develop a healthy connection to the natural world and to develop a sense of awe and wonder that later can develop into a sense of responsibility for the natural world. Kimberton Waldorf School is uniquely situated to provide a natural education because of our beautiful 425-acre campus that includes French Creek, woods, pastures, an organic school garden, and an organic dairy farm. We offer a nature-based Kindergarten class that we call the Forest, Field, and Farm Kindergarten. In Third grade, our students learn about farming, which includes taking care of animals in a small “farm” on campus. Students learn to understand what it takes to grow good, healthy food in our organic gardening program, and they will literally eat the fruits of the labor in our organic hot lunch program. In High School, we have an experiential/outdoor program that includes backpacking and canoeing trips, and study of marine biology on the coast of Maine.
Learning Through Relationships
We think that the relationship between a teacher and student is just as important as the material being learned. For that reason we provide opportunities for our students and teachers to work with each other over a series of years. Our easy childhood program is a mixed age program, so a child will typically be in our Pre-K or Kindergarten for at least two years with the same teacher. In the Lower School grades (1-8) the main teacher for a class (called the class teacher) has the opportunity to move with the class from year to year (First grade to Second grade and so on). This allows for the teacher to really get to know his or her students, their strengths and their challenges; and it allows the teacher to also get to know each student’s parents well and to work with them as a team to support the student’s healthy development. Subject teachers in music, physical education, foreign languages, and the arts also work with the same students for a period of years, establishing close learning relationships. A reflection of this relationship is that we do not give letter grades in the Lower School. Instead, the teachers write in-depth narrative evaluations of how each student is progressing. In High School, the class teacher is replaced by a team of class advisors, who shepherd a class through the high school years. We do give letter grades in high school, but continue to write narrative evaluations as needed.
Head, Heart & Hands
Waldorf Education is dedicated to educating the whole child: head, heart, and hands. We do this through a well-balanced curriculum of academics, arts, and practical experiences with the goal of engaging the students intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our students become as comfortable solving a quadratic equation or writing a research paper as they do playing a musical instrument in an orchestra, performing in a play, growing food in our organic garden, or making a beautiful and useful object in woodworking class. They develop confidence in themselves as thinkers and creative doers because they have had an education that asks them to make, to create, to design, to collaborate, and to think for themselves.
Healthy School, Healthy Children
KWS is dedicated to promoting the health of our students. Our students do not spend their day sitting in front of computers under artificial lights but have the opportunities to move and use their bodies in healthy ways, and to spend time outdoors in the natural environment. Our campus is a beautiful, natural environment where children can play and explore the outdoors and breathe fresh air. Providing children with good, healthy food is part of what we value. Our organic lunch program which we call Food for Thought provides our students with organic, locally sourced nutritional lunches and snacks. School families can even buy soups and other prepared foods from the lunch program.
“Kimberton imbued a sense of wonder in me for the world and set a strong foundation for learning, creative and critical thinking, and doing. Over the past few years, I have lived in Toulouse, Amsterdam, rural Kenya, and Rome and am now traveling regularly to Southeast Asia for work. My assignment at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is very interdisciplinary in nature, linking agriculture with nutrition. This type of work requires strong integrative thinking, feeling, and questioning that is integral to Waldorf education. While Development has often been carried out by technical experts, anyone who thoroughly looks at a community, let alone a nation, can realize that a holistic approach is imperative to instigate any change as each region is an utterly complex product of history, its environment, social ties, and individuals.
I am most grateful for the wonderful education I received at KWS.”
— Anna-Lisa Noack, KWS’07
BA International Studies and French/Francophone Studies ‘11 Dickinson College, PA
Research Masters International Development Studies ‘13 University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Since October, 2013, consultant at UN FAO working to incorporate nutrition into agricultural investments in Asia and develop nutrition curricula from an agricultural perspective.