Waldorf High School Education for the Next Generation: SMWS’ Four Pillars of Commitment

By Meg Gardner, Incoming High School Director

Waldorf education is meant to evolve, grow, transform, and to be relevant to the times in which we live. Since its founding in 1919, it was intended to reflect the people, community, culture, and local geography. How does Waldorf education live and breathe in Boulder, Colorado in 2023? How do we maintain our program to inspire and serve this and the next generation of students? How will we enliven our new state-of-the art campus and community spaces? These are just some of the questions explored during our community-centered high school visioning process.  

The culmination of the visioning process resulted in four pillars of commitment. These pillars are firmly rooted in the 100-year foundation of Waldorf education. They amplify the depth of our pedagogical approach, while at the same time present a clear manifestation of who we are here in Boulder, Colorado, and what it is that today’s students are seeking. We believe these commitments will move us into the future with renewed vigor, insights, and excellence.

The first of these pillars is experiential learning. We will intentionally increase hands-on learning, in and beyond the classroom, and provide life-changing experiences. We have always been a school who leads students through their own discovery, to new insights and understandings. Hands-on, group and individual discovery is our goal. Students will be asked to rigorously engage in their own learning. Field trips, expanded class trips into the world, and community volunteering and action are all part of this commitment. 

Arts Integration is the second pillar of our High School Waldorf education. Fine arts, practical arts, music, and performing arts will enrich learning in every subject. The high school faculty and staff are in the process of creating courses and schedules for the 2023-2024 school year that incorporate purposeful arts integration.  

Third, we are consciously introducing and growing our SMWS Explore Program. There is a distinct need for more choice, independent exploration, and study. The SMWS Explore Program begins with a breadth of exploratory classes in ninth grade, independent or group research projects in tenth grade, mentorship and capstone projects in eleventh grade, and an independent work program or internship in twelfth grade. This program will provide our students with the opportunity to explore independent interests and to create their individual portfolios for college and beyond. 

The last of our four pillars is community action. Our goal is to expand students’ capacities to think critically, problem solve, and create action for change. Next year we will begin offering a new course which centers learning on the United Nations Call to Action for Human Rights and Sustainability. Students will look at the greatest needs of our planet, and then bring those needs into focus, locally and personally-working on what is needed right here and right now. Our students will be empowered to choose a plan of action and a volunteer project in Boulder that reflects their personal hopes.

Shining Mountain is dedicated to teaching the next generation to care deeply, think with curiosity, explore independently and in collaboration, and create new and wise ideas to change the world and humanity. Our four pillars – experiential learning, arts integration, individual exploration, and community action – are progressive and reflect the identity of our community.  

Our foundation is strong. It is time for our exterior to match and reflect our interior. We are ready for the groundbreaking of our new high school! I look forward to being a part of the high school team next year.  

We are learning to change the world! 

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Shining Mountain Waldorf School Unveils New High School Campus in North Boulder: Grand Opening Event Friday, May 10, 2024