At Shade Canyon, the course of study is interdisciplinary: we value the arts, languages, and other subjects that are often considered “electives.” They are essential elements of a holistic education that includes the core standards of math, language art, science, history, and social studies. The curriculum is experiential and tailored to meet the child at her/his stage of development so all learners can grow into their potential. This is how students discover a love of learning to serve them a lifetime.
Our teachers aim to help students develop the following qualities:
A Sense of Wonder
a sense of worth and belonging
The Core Principles of Public Waldorf Education
Shade Canyon is inspired by the core principles of public Waldorf education, a worldwide tradition built on the educational ideas of philosopher, writer, and school director Rudolf Steiner.
As a tuition-free public charter school, we apply these principles to educate the whole child while remaining accessible, diverse, and in compliance with state standards.
Shade Canyon School is an initiative member of the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education (APWE), to whom we are grateful for guidance as we work to become a full member and be recognized as a Public Waldorf School. We use the Core Principles listed here (provided by APWE) to inform all aspects of our school.
IMAGE of the HUMAN BEING
Each human being is a unique individual who brings specific gifts, creative potential, and intentions to this life.
Public Waldorf education addresses multiple aspects of the developing child including the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, moral, and spiritual. Through this, each child is helped to integrate into a maturing whole, able to determine a unique path through life.
Human development proceeds in approximate 7-year phases. Each phase has characteristic physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions and a primary learning orientation.
The Public Waldorf educational program, including the curriculum, teaching methodologies, and assessment methods, work with this understanding of human development to address the needs of the individual and the class in order to support comprehensive learning and healthy, balanced development.
Enduring relationships — and the time needed to develop them — are central to Public Waldorf education. The teacher works with each student and class as a whole to support relationship-based learning.
Healthy working relationships with parents, colleagues, and all stakeholders are essential to the well being of the student, class, and school community. Everyone benefits from a community life that includes festivals, events, adult education, study, and volunteer activities.
Public Waldorf education seeks to offer the most supportive conditions possible for the development of each student’s unique capacities and for engendering the following qualities to work towards positive social change:
A harmonious relationship between thinking, feeling, and willing;
Self-awareness and social competence;
Developmentally appropriate, academically informed, independent thinking;
The initiative and confidence necessary to transform intentions into realities; and
An interest in the world, with active respect and a feeling of responsibility for oneself, one’s community, and the environment.
Such individuals will be able to participate meaningfully in society.
ACCESS and DIVERSITY
Public Waldorf schools respond to unique demands and cultures in a wide range of locations in order to provide maximum access to a diverse range of students. Schools work towards ensuring that students do not experience discrimination in admission, retention, or participation.
Public Waldorf schools and teachers have the responsibility to creatively address the developmental needs of the students with the most inclusive possible approaches for all learners.
The Public Waldorf program and curriculum is developed by the school to reflect its student population.
Faculty, staff, administration and boards of a Public Waldorf school collaborate to guide and lead the school with input from stakeholder groups. To the greatest extent possible, decisions related to the educational program are the responsibility of those faculty and staff with knowledge and experience of Rudolf Steiner’s educational insights.
Governance and internal administration are implemented in a manner that cultivates active collaboration, supportive relationships, effective leadership, consequential action, and accountability.
SCHOOLS as LEARNING COMMUNITIES
Public Waldorf education emphasizes continuous engagement in learning and self-reflective practices that support ongoing improvement. At the individual and classroom level, teachers reflect regularly on their observations of the students and of the educational process. Essential aspects of school-wide work and professional development include self-reflection, peer review, faculty and individual study, artistic activity, and research.
Rudolf Steiner is a primary, but not exclusive, source of guidance for developing an active inner, meditative life and an understanding of the dynamics within society.
Public Waldorf schools encourage all community members to engage in active and ongoing ways to enhance their capacities as human beings through self reflection and conscious social engagement.
HOLISTIC TEACHING METHOD
Our teaching methodology is dynamic and integrative; it moves from experience to concept, uses artistic expression and images, uses rhythm and repetition, and surpasses memorization by drawing out free thinking. In all classes and subjects, our teaching philosophy focuses on how to create health and wholeness for each individual student.
Early Childhood's Rhythm of the Day
In contrast to the pace of often-hectic days, children experience a rhythmic routine in our TK/Kindergarten class that soon becomes familiar and soothing, thus allowing the children the safe space to develop self-confidence, explore new ideas, and understand that the world is a beautiful place.
Beginning with warm greetings, the kindergarten day includes traditional circle-time games, storytelling, purposeful work, healthy food, artistic activity, ample free play, and outdoor time.
Creative Free Play
During gently-guided free play, the children create a busy, imaginative world of their own design using the many open-ended, natural materials provided. The classroom becomes a "laboratory" where new challenges in the realms of physics, design, artistry, and human relationships can be overcome. The room fills with conversation, building, and laughter as the children work side-by-side developing the qualities we value in adulthood: collaboration, clear communication, creative thinking, self-discipline, and inner conviction.
The preparation of the daily snack using healthy grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables teaches purpose with a natural reward. The children learn measuring, estimation, cleanliness, and kitchen safety while helping with this meaningful work. Warm conversation and a happy mood are encouraged while the class shares snack "family-style."
Accompanied by song, the children work together with the teacher to return all the materials to their "homes" on the shelves. The atmosphere is one of lightheartedness and cooperation as the children experience the foundation of orderly thinking. Many parents are happy to encourage this routine at home!
Throughout the ages, stories have served as effective ways to share knowledge, teach morals, and spark imagination. They do so still. especially for little humans. The teacher may add puppetry and props to further engage the children and stimulate imagination.
The teacher leads the class in song, verse, and movement during this most-beloved time of the day. The class comes together to learn and experience aspects of nature's seasons, rhythms and rhymes, and the joy of participating in a group to create something together.
We dress for the elements so that we can go out daily to observe, feel, and be a part of the changes in the nature surrounding us. Time spent in the yard is time spent in the important childhood "work" that is play: the natural materials there become dragons and unicorns; forts and kitchens are constructed and acted in.
Mornings in first through fourth grade feature the Main Lesson, a two-hour instructional period focusing on the core curriculum and integrating a variety of learning approaches to encourage student learning through multiple modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and multiple intelligences. In the Main Lesson, each core subject (mathematics, language arts, science and humanities) is taught in an immersive unit lasting several weeks.
Teachers design lessons and schedules that reflect the way children learn at different developmental stages. Core academic curricula are taught through presentations, writing, reading, recitation, drama, painting, and drawing. This multidisciplinary style, combined with the unit approach, is central to Shade Canyon's teaching strategy since it promotes and develops active listening, imagination, memory, and vocabulary.
In addition to the Main Lesson, students spend two or three additional periods each day in core academic subjects. Also, for one or two periods each day, students attend non-core subjects such as Spanish, handwork, music, games, gardening, and the arts.
Main Lesson Books
While textbooks serve as support material for students and form teachers’ basis for lessons, students spend much more time creating their own Main Lesson Books, with learning solidified as students write and illustrate each morning’s Main Lesson.
Testing and Grades
Shade Canyon teachers are dedicated to nurturing children’s inner motivation for learning, which allows for a reduced emphasis on competitive testing and grades-oriented incentives. Open parent/teacher communication allows parents to follow their children’s progress on a daily and weekly basis with individual conferences scheduled with parents in November and March. In lieu of report cards, parents receive a narrative report written by the teacher at the end of each school year. HOMEWORK: Homework is typically introduced in fourth grade when children are developmentally ready and hungry for it.
Developmentally-informed teaching means Shade Canyon has its own pacing in the application of state standards, especially in grades one and two. Some sequencing is accelerated or decelerated, with the understanding that students will meet statewide performance standards by the completion of eighth grade.
High quality materials give students the experience of success in their school activities which promotes self-esteem, establishes a sense of value for quality work, and creates intrinsic motivation to do their best. For example, using quality colored-pencils, paints, and crayons on sturdy drawing paper and specialty painting paper allows students to create rich colors, blend colors for subtle hues, and create detailed and beautiful writing, pictures, and designs.
The heart of our educational program is the loving and respectful relationship between the student and the teacher. Beginning in first grade, teachers often stay with the same group of students for multiple years giving them time to know the children and their families deeply so they can best help students unfold their gifts. After building this trusting relationship, teachers see that their students are more likely to feel confident, take educational risks, and enter into the social and intellectual life of the class.
When parents support looping, they provide an excellent message for their child — long-term relationships may take some work, but they are most rewarding in the end. The teacher, in turn, has a direct long-term investment and a sense of accountability for the educational progress of each child through the grades. At the conclusion of each academic year, teachers participate in training to orient them in the use of curriculum, instruction and assessment of the upcoming grade level’s instructional standards.