Waldorf School of Princeton uses a holistic approach to education

The Waldorf School of Princeton is celebrating 100 years of specialized education with thousands of Waldorf schools across the world.

The school follows the “Waldorf Education Model,” which was created in Europe by Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner in 1919. The model provides a comprehensive academic education that involves hands-on learning with the arts, movement, music and foreign language.

The Waldorf School of Princeton has been changing the way families approach education for more than 35 years.

“We try to teach the whole human being,” said the Chair of the College of Teachers at the Waldorf School of Princeton, Elan Leibner. “The holistic nature of it and the well roundedness of the education would be the most obvious difference from other schools. We place a real premium on relationships for instance between teachers and students. From the Waldorf perspective, education happens in the space between the teacher and the student.”

Leibner explained that the Princeton-based Waldorf location barely uses technology when teaching students.

“The students get a little technology in the middle school years, but we try to inspire students to have a fascination with education through these relationships,” Leibner said. “The hallmark of this education is the hands-on learning that is done with the students. The progressive education movement is moving away from examinations as the focus of education.”

The school teaches mainstream subjects in the Waldorf-style for children in nursery and pre-school through eighth grade. According to Leibner, the school does not start giving grades in any subject until seventh grade.

The administrative structure of the school is also one of the many things that differentiates the Waldorf School of Princeton from mainstream schools throughout the state.

There is no centralized structure to the administration. The school is led by a collaboration of the Board of Trustees, the College of Teachers, the Parent Council and administration.

According to school officials, the College of Teachers is responsible for developing, implementing, reviewing and refreshing the school’s Waldorf curriculum, educational policies and teaching approach.

“Today our school has a very diverse community from when the school first began in 1983. The school has grown and adapted itself to the changing population of the area,” Leibner said.

The school sits on a 20-acre campus in Montgomery Township and has more than 110 students currently enrolled.

“I think this education movement will continue to spread. I also think it faces a real challenge at 100 years old with keeping itself fresh,” Leibner said. “There is always a danger in something that has been tried and found to work in a particular way; you get kind of fixed by the way you go about doing things. We do not want to remain stuck. We want to continue to grow and thrive.”