Shining Mountain, like all Waldorf schools, is rooted in the methods and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, Austrian-born scientist, educator, and philosopher. Steiner’s legacy is a monumental body of timeless work that crosses many disciplines, including agriculture, medicine, education, spirituality, human development, and cultural renewal.
The Waldorf approach recognizes that capacities emerge in students at fairly predictable stages, while also allowing room for individual rates of maturation. This appreciation underlies both the organization of the curriculum and the teaching methods.
Until age six or seven children learn primarily through physical activity, imagination and imitation. A sense of goodness permeates the home-like environment of the PreK/Kindergarten. Toys of natural materials encourage creative engagement in imaginative play. Young children drink in the images of fairy tales and stories, developing their capacity for inner picturing, which becomes the basis for literacy and future critical thinking skills.
In Lower School children learn best when academics are conveyed through painting, drama, music, storytelling and other direct kinesthetic experiences that stir their emotions. A sense of beauty weaves throughout the day, engaging children in their learning.
In Middle School academics continue to be brought through the arts, but the pictorial thinking of the earlier grades now turns toward more abstract thinking. Teaching methods adapt to this change.
In High School themes and methods stimulate higher-level intellectual skills and higher order thinking. This is the time when imagination, carefully cultivated in the early years, is transformed into skills of convergent, divergent, analytic, synthetic, and evaluative thinking.
Handwork and Practical Arts
The Waldorf curriculum cultivates manual dexterity thereby furthering cognitive development. Handwork and practical arts are integrated at all grade levels – not simply to teach a skill, but to support a student’s unfolding as a well-balanced individual.
Fine and Performing Arts
The Arts permeate all aspects of the Waldorf academic curriculum. Many aesthetic details contribute to the learning environment and experience. The integration of fine and performing arts – painting, sculpting, drawing, singing, instrumental ensembles, drama, and movement, provides a unique educational method. The Arts offer a cognitive experience that stresses observation, discernment, and an education of the senses. They also impart a discipline that teaches patience, flexibility, and concentration.
The movement curriculum recognizes that healthy physical activity lays the foundation for healthy brain development and enhances physical, emotional, ethical, and spiritual capacities. The program is designed to strengthen different abilities at each stage of development. Cooperative games in the early grades yield to competitive sports in Middle and High School.
Beginning in Grade 1, students study both Spanish and German. In Grade 8 they choose one or the other. Through our International Exchange Program, students have the option to study abroad or welcome into their homes students from other countries. Our program emphasizes that we are all part of a global humanity.
All sciences begin with simple nature experiences in the PreK/Kindergarten and advance with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism and electricity in Middle School to chemistry, biology, botany, zoology and modern physics in High School. The emphasis is on a direct encounter with observable phenomena -“Describe what happened. Evaluate what you have observed. What are the conditions under which the phenomena appear? How does this relate to what you already know?” Then students are asked to think through the experiment and discover the natural law that stands behind and within the phenomena.