Sacramento Waldorf School

Curriculum

 

Sacramento Waldorf High School has been preparing young people to live fulfilling lives for more than 30 years. We provide a comprehensive education that offers rigorous experiences in the sciences, humanities, arts, and mathematics within a community of passionate students, dedicated teachers, and involved parents. The arts permeate our intellectually challenging curriculum.

At Sacramento Waldorf High School, education always takes place within the context of relationship, whether it is in the classroom, in the lab, on the playing field, on the working farm, in the studio, on stage, or in any of our many campus venues. The smaller size of our school allows students to develop meaningful relationships with both peers and teachers.  Young people are challenged to consider the ethical components of their studies in life and in our school community.

The Waldorf approach is experiential and interdisciplinary. Students spend considerable time on real world application of concepts presented in the classroom. In trigonometry, our students survey the campus; in biology, they evaluate the ecosystem of our streams; in architecture, they visit local neighborhoods to develop and plan redevelopment and build scale models of their proposals. In this experiential approach, students deepen their learning and fully engage with their studies.

Subjects are studied in concert rather than isolation. Teachers demonstrate the interconnectedness of the disciplines–how, for example, history and civics have had profound influences on the development of the arts and sciences. Approaching a subject from a variety of perspectives provides our students with a multi-faceted understanding of complex issues and a more global approach to learning and thinking. This comprehensive educational experience prepares SWS graduates to step into the world as confident, compassionate, resilient, and well-rounded individuals with deep capacities for creative, flexible, and independent thought.

Our students are prepared for a wide variety of paths after high school. Most students graduate with credits that exceed the requirements for university entrance. Sacramento Waldorf High School graduates have gone on to excel at colleges and universities such as Stanford, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown, UC Berkeley, Grinnell College, Warren Wilson College, Berklee College of Music, Columbia, Kenyon College, University of Southern California, NYU, and many more, and have become physicians, documentary filmmakers, psychologists, educators, attorneys, entrepreneurs, outdoor adventure guides, computer animators, designers, scholars, to name just a few of our students’  diverse career paths.

“Waldorf students are encouraged to live with self-assurance, a reverence for life, and a sense of service.”  – Ernest Boyer, President, Carnegie Institute for the Advancement of Teaching, Former US Commissioner of Education

The curriculum, based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, is designed and delivered to address the stages in the development of the adolescent. Some of the high school curriculum has students re-examine subjects which were introduced in the lower school, as high school students are able to work with these subjects at a higher intellectual level. The work in the high school is designed to increase student abilities to think critically, to organize, to develop and present ideas clearly, and to meet and participate in the adult world. In this process they begin to recognize, appreciate, and harmonize the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of their lives.

The high school day is from 8:30am to 3:20 pm. For all grades, each “main lesson” instructional block — an in-depth study of a particular subject — is four weeks long, five days per week, ninety minutes per day. For each main lesson block, students create and turn in a book detailing in text and illustration all that they have learned. Track classes, such as World Language, English, US History, or PE, last a quarter, semester, or all year, and meet four days per week, fifty minutes per day.

Sciences
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Biology (Lab) Anatomy & Physiology Cellular Biology Genetics, Botany & Ecology Zoology & Evolution
Chemistry (Lab) Organic Chemistry Salts, Acids & Bases Periodic Table & Atomic Theory Biochemistry
Physics (Lab) Thermodynamics Mechanics & Motion Electricity
& Magnetism
Light, Color
& Optics
Humanities
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
English Writing Skills
Mythology
Comedy & Tragedy
American Literature
Historical Fiction
The Novel/Memoir
American Literature
Evolution of English
Bible as Literature
Renaissance Literature
Parzival
Romantics
Literature of “The Double”
Contemporary Literature
Personal Essay
World Literature
Transcendentalist Writers
Aesthetics History through Art Poetics History through Music History through Architecture
History Revolutions
Asian History
US History
Ancient Civilizations
Roman & Medieval History
US History
Civics
Government
Economics
History of Consciousness
Social Studies Geography
Math & Technology
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Algebra 1
Geometry
Geometry
Algebra 2
Surveying/Trigonometry
Computer Science
Algebra 2
Pre-Calculus
Projective Geometry
Pre-Calculus
Calculus
World Languages
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Spanish 1
German 1
Spanish 2
German 2
Spanish 3
German 3
German Exchange Program
Honors Spanish
Spanish 4
Honors German
German 4
Music
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Concert Choir
Jazz Ensemble
Orchestra
Percussion
Concert Choir; Chamber Choir; Jazz Ensemble;
Orchestra; Percussion
Practical, Fine, & Performing Arts
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Basketry
Calligraphy
Light/Dark Drawing
Block Printing
Drama
Weaving
Clay
Pastel Drawing
Greek Drama
Bookbinding
Life Drawing
Veil Painting
Shakespearean Drama
Woodworking
Blacksmithing
Acrylics
Clay Sculpture
Mixed Media
Advanced Drawing
Stained Glass
Yearbook
Senior Play
Electives & Seminars
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Freshman Seminar
Study Skills
Health & First Aid
Sophomore Seminar
Junior Seminar
Various Electives
Senior Seminar
Current Events
College Planning
Various Electives
Physical Education & Movement
Ninth Grade Tenth Grade Eleventh Grade Twelfth Grade
Physical Education; Sports & Fitness; Dance; Yoga; Self-Defense; Organic Farming & Gardening; Eurythmy

Sciences

The approach to the sciences in the high school is deeply and enthusiastically brought to the students through phenomena-based teaching. Faculty introduce students to experiences that allow them to develop their understanding, and afterward attach concepts, practical applications, and vocabulary. Every year, each student takes one four-week main lesson block in each of the disciplines of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, so that by twelfth grade, our students have completed three full years of laboratory science.

As a student goes from ninth to twelfth grade, the science curriculum moves from concrete ideas into the world of abstract thought. Ninth grade main lessons examine the chemistry of life and hydrocarbons, the physics of heat, and the anatomy and physiology of the human body. The tenth grade student works with the qualities of mechanics, observes life at the level of the cell, and begins to look closely at chemical reactions through the interactions of acids and bases. Modern ideas of genetics and embryology are wrestled with in grade eleven, along with a study of the development of the periodic table and, in physics, electromagnetic phenomena. By twelfth grade, students engage in learning about optics, evolution, and radioactivity — topics that require more flexible thinking and comfort with abstract connections.

Humanities

The humanities curriculum incorporates deep and thorough study of literature, writing, history, aesthetics, and social studies. The history curriculum explores United States and world history through a global lens. Students examine a variety of media including primary documents, in-depth narratives, monographs, newspapers and periodicals, textbooks and other reference texts, and documentary film to build multiple perspectives on historical events. History main lessons offer in­-depth study of a range of topics from ancient times to the present. This sequence helps students recognize the patterns and turning points in the development of civilization. In addition to main lessons, students receive instruction in history though quarter and semester-long track classes. The aesthetics courses further sharpen the students’ view of world events through the study of art, music, architecture as each has evolved though history. Senior students take a broad view in a course entitled History of Consciousness, in which they study the evolution of thought and philosophy. Masterworks of prose and poetry are studied in literature main lessons and track classes each year. Through literature, students examine the questions and themes of human experience. This develops critical thinking and cultivates a flexible point of view. Students in every grade also receive English instruction in quarter-length track classes throughout the year, building skills in grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, critical analysis, and research. Upon graduation, students have forged a solid and broad foundation in literature, having read and experienced all of the following works:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens Oedipus The King, by Sophocles
Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke Beowulf, Unknown Author
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by The Pearl Poet The Bible as Literature
The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri Hamlet, by William Shakespeare Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach
The Romantic Poets, ed. W.H. Auden Demian, by Hermann Hesse The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley Nature, by Ralph Waldo Emerson Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
Krik, Krak, by Edwidge Danticat A variety of award-winning plays and short stories

Mathematics and Technology

The mathematics program at Sacramento Waldorf High School awakens an awareness of and appreciation for the predictable patterns and structures present in the universe. Through the mathematical topics presented, the students develop healthy, orderly thinking. The math department strives to maintain wholeness in the approach to the teaching of mathematics, and to integrate mathematical concepts into other areas of study. In the tenth grade, students survey the school campus and create maps in their study of trigonometry, and they work with numerical relationships in their study of basic programming in computer science. Homework is assigned regularly to promote will and independence. Students complete four years of math while in high school; classes are fifty minutes long and are taught four times per week.

Math classes offered are Algebra 1 (for Grade 9), Geometry (Grades 9 and 10), Algebra 2 (Grades 10 and 11), Pre-Calculus with Trigonometry (Grades 11 and 12) and Calculus (for Grade 12 students who began Geometry in Grade 9). Other math levels are offered as the need arises.

World Languages

SWS high school students choose Spanish or German and study their chosen language through Levels 1 to 4, with an Honors option in the fourth year. Four years of language are required for graduation. In ninth grade, all students enter a beginning level course, regardless of previous language study. In eleventh grade, we offer a German Student Exchange Program exclusive to the Ravensburg Waldorf School in Germany. Our German language students live and study with an exchange partner for a period of three months and reciprocate by hosting German students here. By graduation, students are fluent enough in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in order to effectively communicate in countries where German and Spanish are spoken.

Music

Music is a vital part of a Waldorf education, and every high school student participates in either an instrumental or vocal ensemble, determined by their interest and their prior experience. Concert Choir requires no prior experience but a desire to sing. The Chamber Choir is an advanced, auditioned group with a prerequisite of one year in the Concert Choir or similar. Both the String Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble require previous experience with an instrument, and continuing private instruction is recommended. In exceptional cases, a student with no prior experience but a strong commitment to an instrument will be admitted to these instrumental ensembles. Such a student would need to be taking private lessons. Additionally, we have a lively Percussion Ensemble that welcomes beginners interested in advancing their music skills, as well as with seasoned percussionists. All classes meet three times a week and perform in three or four concerts each year. The Chamber Choir and String Orchestra perform in school and community events and at competitions in addition to the regular concerts.

Practical, Fine, & Performing Arts

The arts are a key element in any Waldorf curriculum. The experience of creating art, through painting, sculpture, acting, weaving, and other media, forges a deeper impression and appreciation of art than does simply knowing about art. Over four years of high school, our students experience traditional fine arts, practical craft work, and performing arts. Ninth grade fine and practical arts courses include light and dark drawing, block printing, calligraphy, and basketry. Tenth graders continue with a color pastel course, three dimensional sculpture in clay, and throwing pottery on the wheel. Practical arts continue in the tenth grade with weaving on looms. Eleventh grade visual arts include life drawing, veil painting, and bookbinding. Seniors are offered three electives each quarter from which to choose. Typical offerings include blacksmithing, metalwork, leatherwork, woodwork, advanced drawing, advanced pottery, sculpture, and yearbook. Other arts electives, including photography, are offered to juniors and seniors.

In our high school drama program, every student studies drama for one quarter each year. The ninth grade studies basic acting by working on scenes taken from contemporary and modern plays written by a wide variety of playwrights. The sophomore student focuses on Greek theatre, ending the quarter with a full performance of one of the plays by the great classical playwrights. The junior class experiences Shakespeare, including the Elizabethan culture in which he lived. One of his comedies and one tragedy are studied intensely. The senior class produces a play before graduation, and students are responsible for all aspects of the production, from selecting the play, to building the set, to running the sound and lights, and making the costumes. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in two fully mounted extra-curricular theatrical productions each year, one of which is a musical.

Electives & Seminars

Seminar is a Social Emotional Learning and Health (SEL) class. Currently, students participate in a trimester of seminar during each year of high school. Core competencies developed in this program include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making skills. Themes over the four years include healthy relationships, comprehensive sex education, drug and alcohol education, stress and stress management, conscious technology use, nutrition, and transition out of high school. Each class focuses on the creation of a safe, caring, and highly participatory learning environment where SEL competencies are modeled, taught, and reinforced. Learning opportunities are provided through mindfulness activities, games, presentations and lectures, small group work, sharing circles, council, and solo time. Additionally, ninth graders transition into high school with a study skills course designed to support their development as students and improve organization and executive function. Seniors participate in courses on current events and college planning as they prepare to enter into the wider world. Electives are offered to juniors and seniors twice each week on a quarterly or semesterly basis, and are intended to deepen student skills and interests or offer exposure to new topics. Elective offerings vary, but have included topics such as photography, science problem-solving, cooking, storytelling, handcrafts, creative writing, psychology, and more.

Physical Education & Movement

Students participate in co-ed physical education and farming/gardening classes several times every week, from ninth through twelfth grades. Students are exposed to a wide variety of activities including gymnastics, volleyball, rock-climbing, softball, ultimate Frisbee, fencing, soccer, football, fitness, yoga, dance, indoor and outdoor games, and eurythmy. Eurythmy is a series of expressive movement exercises unique to Waldorf education. In eurythmy classes, students learn how to bring music and poetry into physical expression, thereby gaining a better understanding of these arts. Eurythmy also teaches dexterity, grace, poise, balance, and concentration. On the farm, high school students learn about and take responsibility for tasks such as pruning and orchard management, care of seedlings, and planting and harvesting. These three areas of our movement curriculum work in concert to give our students both indoor and outdoor experiences of skill-building, teamwork, and physical activity.