100 Years of Waldorf Education

On September 19th, we will celebrate 100 years of Waldorf education in the world. Created by artist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the principles of Waldorf education focus on a child’s developmental stage and prioritize wonder, creativity, and imagination as essential values for childhood.  

Our approach to education interweaves music, dance, theater, writing, literature and imaginative play as the building blocks for deep thinking and character-building. We are concerned with our students’ intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities at all times, and the teacher-student relationship is a special one that grows and changes as the children do. 

A century ago, Steiner’s theories were truly revolutionary. The need for social renewal was imperative following the devastation wrought by World War I, a time when people needed to believe in possibility and hope. These principles are still relevant in today’s world. 

Steiner believed that the human being is a combination of spirit, soul, and body. As Germany picked itself up from defeat, Steiner spoke about the need for social renewal, for a new approach to society, to politics, to culture.

These ideas inspired Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, where Steiner had been speaking to the workers. Molt asked if he would direct the founding of a school for children of company employees. The first Waldorf school came to be on September 19, 1919.

Waldorf education came to North America in 1928. Today, we have more than 250 schools on this continent and approximately 1,000 in 60 countries. As we celebrate 100 years of growth, and look to the future to build another 100 years, these important values of Waldorf education are more important and true than ever (from the AWSNA website): 

  1. The image of the human being as a spiritual being informs every aspect of a Waldorf school.
  2. Waldorf schools foster social renewal by cultivating human capacities in service to the individual and society.
  3. A deep understanding of the developmental stages of childhood guides the curriculum.
  4. Waldorf schools support freedom in teaching within the context of a school’s shared agreements.
  5. The conscious development of human relationships fosters individual and community health.
  6. Spiritual development in support of professional growth is an important ongoing activity for faculty, staff, and board members.
  7. Collaboration and shared responsibility provide the foundations of school leadership and governance.

As we look to the future, we believe we can only grow and succeed if we embrace collaboration and partnership among schools and individuals within schools. Here’s to another 100 years – and beyond!