When Avery Buglione first started her academic journey at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, she was only a 6th grader, eager to learn and make friends. At the time, she couldn’t fathom that the next few years would dramatically shape her into a well-rounded person and student.
Now a 15-year-old sophomore at the Science Leadership Academy, Buglione credits her current success in high school to the curriculum and teachers at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, which long prepared her for the transition.
“I loved the learning style; It is so unique and advanced and never felt impossible,” Buglione recalled. “While the work was hard, it ended up helping me so much in high school.”
Located in Germantown, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia offers a developmentally appropriate curriculum that fosters critical thinking and social-emotional development for students in grades 1 through 8. Small classroom sizes, teacher looping, and diverse teaching styles, such as multi-sensory and interdisciplinary, also lend a platform that meets each child’s individual learning strengths.
“We believe the best way to address and honor the differences in children is to approach learning in a variety of ways,” said Alexandra Borders, Director of Enrollment. “Each child can find a relevant, experiential way to effectively learn and retain material.”
In the school’s early childhood classrooms, the focus surrounds creating a warm, safe, nurturing environment that serves the child’s developmental needs. Students’ daily participation in music, art, games, movement, and outdoor play help build a firm foundation in the senses and the self. As a result, children experience an increase in their language development, math skills, storytelling, and creativity.
As for students in lower and middle school, the teaching style is designed with a multi-sensory approach in mind, allowing students to explore a theme or topic through all of their senses. Teachers can create lessons that then intertwine academics with art, practical skills, and character education.
The school, which offers a solution to the shortcomings of the fact-memorization system, further incorporates an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. This means that students are required to thoroughly examine a subject or discussion versus memorizing a lesson. They can then apply critical analysis and problem-solving skills to what they learn.
“Waldorf education uses interdisciplinary teaching methods to emphasize connections between the student and the world, between arts and academics, between physical and cognitive,” said Borders. “It offers a truly well-rounded education that engages students’ minds, hearts, and imaginations.”
The majority of graduates from The Waldorf School of Philadelphia perform with test scores that make them more than qualified to apply to elite prep and public magnet schools in the area. Borders believes the school’s unique education styles and emphasis on teaching looping–the practice of the same group of students staying with a teacher for more than one school year–plays a significant role in the success and well-being of their students.
Buglione also agrees: “You have the same teachers for eight years, so over the course of that time, you tend to have a special bond […]. You can tell that they really care about your academics and about you in general, and if there was something wrong, they would always be there to help.”
In addition to a strong support system, Waldorf’s robust curriculum also stands out. Students take courses in science, Spanish, arithmetic, writing, reading, history, social studies, gardening, physical education, handwork, woodwork, drawing, painting, and music.
“I felt very prepared for high school; In my math class freshman year, everything we were learning, I had already learned [at Waldorf] in sixth or seventh grade,” Buglione said. “It felt like a review, which was very helpful.”
With a well-rounded education that engages every aspect of their students, Borders hopes that they will take each lesson with them years from now as they’re out in the world, just as Buglione has.
“Waldorf made me into the person I am today, and I miss every moment of it. [In the future], I would [send my children there],” Buglione said.
For more information on The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, please visit phillywaldorf.com.
This article was first published in The Inquirer, September 2019