High School Curriculum

The HumanitiesMathematicsPhysical and Life SciencesForeign Languages and Foreign ExchangeThe ArtsPhysical Education and AthleticsCommunity ServiceWork ExperienceElectives and Senior ProjectsStudent Evaluation and ReportingStudent ActivitiesThe FacultyAdvisorsCounselingAthletic Director and CoachesOutside ExpertsWaldorf Graduates

THE HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM Click here for tabular summary High school students are searching for truth. Waldorf high school education offers adolescents the guidance and inspiration they seek in their pursuit of their emerging ideals. The faculty and staff of the high school understand that adolescence is a time when young people seek to be met by teachers who recognize that each student is crossing over one of the great thresholds of life. The journey they are embarked upon is one of life's most profound and will ultimately lead them from childhood into adulthood.

Who am I? How can I make a difference in life? These questions are central to the adolescent, and the Waldorf high school helps students find their own answers by addressing their cognitive, emotional, and social needs in a way that guides them towards responsible adulthood.

While the life of the mind is the central focus of the high school, life as a whole is never far removed. The quality of thought the teachers seek to engender in the students is imaginative in nature, warmed by enthusiasm for life - a perceptive thinking, able to see the whole in the parts and the practical in the ideal. Our aim is to graduate young adults who can view themselves and others with equal measures of compassion and objectivity.

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The Waldorf high school provides students with a comprehensive curriculum that focuses on developing the life ofcognition. During each year of the high school a different cognitive faculty is trained: in ninth grade it is the powers of observation, in tenth the powers of comparison, in eleventh those of analysis, and in twelfth synthesis. As in the grade school, the arts play a role equal with the academics.

The Humanities For adolescents, their personal struggles for freedom and individuality frequently find reflection in pivotal events of history and the spiritual struggles portrayed by the great authors of literature. Through engaging in thoughtful and deeply felt discussions with teachers and peers, high school students are able to come to an understanding of not just the events and personalities of the past but the universality of human experience. By learning to write in a variety of styles-the critical essay and research paper, the short story, and the poem-high school students are able to hone their critical thinking skills. 

Mathematics  Mathematics demonstrates the mind's ability to discern truth in the intangible. The challenge of a truly creative mathematical education is to make the conceptual world concrete, practical, and artistic. In addition to the traditional computational aspect of mathematical studies, the students learn how to construct artistically beautiful representations (models) of complex concepts.

Physical and Life Sciences The study of the sciences trains students to observe carefully and think clearly about the world before them. By starting with the physical or chemical phenomenon itself, and the questions raised through that experience, students work and think towards theoretical explanations, instead of from them. In the life sciences the cultivation of an appreciation of the human being's need to work in partnership with nature is as important as the acquisition of knowledge.

Laboratory work is an intrinsic part of the science curriculum.

Students are required to take three years of computer science classes.  During this time, they are taught both the practical skills of using a computer and the fundamental theory of logic and design.  Practical skills include word processing, spreadsheets, file management, and graphic arts.  Fundamental theory of computers include binary logic, Boolean algebra, computer architecture, HTML, programming (Scratch, an educational programming environment developed at MIT,) introduction to the Internet, and the client server model.  Most of these topics are brought to the students through hands-on learning experiences and projects.

In twelfth grade, students choose between the fourth year of a foreign language or a computer programming language class.  In this programming class, students are introduced data types and structures, procedural and object-oriented programming, compilers and interpreters, operating systems, top-down design principles, and GUIs.  Programming languages explored include Ruby, Python, HTML5, and Objective-C.

Foreign Languages and Foreign Exchange Students are required to take four years of either Spanish or German unless special educational circumstances dictate otherwise. The goal of our language program is to develop a living connection to another language, one that goes beyond basic reading and conversational skills and fosters an appreciation for the literature of a foreign culture. For selected tenth graders, whose mastery of a language is sufficiently advanced, a foreign exchange program with other German or Spanish language Waldorf high schools is available. For more information about the International Studies Program email Enrollment at:  

The Arts  In conjunction with the aesthetic sensibility that guides the study of all subjects, courses in the performing, fine, and practical arts are integral to a student's course of study. Classes in painting, drawing, and sculpting; choral and instrumental music, including improvisation; theater and eurythmy (an art of movement); woodworking and furniture making; blacksmithing and casting; ceramics and basketry; and papermaking and bookbinding are offered on a block basis. Over the course of their high school education, students produce many beautiful and functional works of art. It is also expected that each student be privately studying either voice or an acoustic instrument.

Physical Education and Athletics All students are required to participate in the physical education program. A variety of gymnastic, team sports, and movement arts are offered on a rotating block basis. The school provides opportunities for extra-curricular, interscholastic, competitive team sports. Cooperation, fair play and the pure joy of playing are fundamental values of our athletic program.

click here for larger imageCommunity Service Our Community Service Program provides both the individual and the group an opportunity to connect with and contribute to the wider community in a personally and socially meaningful way. Ninth and tenth graders spend one afternoon a week for approximately half a year working in a volunteer capacity either on campus or at service-oriented programs around town. Eleventh and twelfth graders fulfill their required 20 hours of community service per year on their own time.

Work Experience Each year, every student in the high school spends two weeks working in a variety of off-campus settings. The purpose of this program is two-fold: firstly, we want every individual to experience a type of work they may never choose in life so as to learn to appreciate the contributions of the many people who perform the various types of work necessary to our society. Secondly, we want them to have the opportunity to explore possible career choices. In ninth grade, each student works on an organic farm, experiencing the hard physical labor that is needed to supply a community with food. Tenth graders work with craftspeople or trades people in the setting of small factories, bakeries, or similar businesses. The eleventh grader's experience is in human services: old age homes, children's shelters, schools, or hospitals. Seniors create their own work experience.

Electives and Senior Projects  Starting in ninth grade, students may elect either choir or orchestra, and Spanish or German. Subject to interest and in consultation with the faculty, twelfth graders may choose some academic electives. Seniors do projects of their own design, which they present to the school community in the spring.

Student Evaluation and Reporting The faculty encourages internal motivation and expects that students show an interest in the world, a love for learning, and respect for themselves and their classmates. Written reports and letter grades are prepared for each main lesson block, and letter grades are compiled for the continuing programs on a mid-semester basis. Extensive reports are sent home at the end of each semester. click here for larger imageStudent Activities  A wholesome feeling of comradeship is encouraged between all students in the high school. Assemblies, class and all-high school meetings offer opportunities to develop communication and listening skills. A student council, with representatives from each class, provides further opportunities to develop social, organizational, and leadership skills through the planning of dances and other cultural events, and meeting in dialogue with the faculty on issues of student concern. A variety of extra-curricular clubs and performance groups are sponsored by the school. The cultural life of the whole school community with its rich festival life also offers the high school students the opportunity to feel a part of a warm, multi-generational community.

The High School Faculty Each high school teacher is an active expert in his or her field; academic faculty hold a minimum of a master's degree. The high school faculty works together on the development and implementation of all aspects of school life. Through their mutual striving for a harmonious, collegial school environment, the faculty hopes to provide the students with a working model for their own relationships in life.

Advisors Each class has at least one class advisor, who ideally accompanies the class through the four years of its high school experience. They interview potential students, help integrate the class as a social whole, and oversee the whole class' responsibilities and tasks, from daily chores to their role in school events and festivals. Ninth and tenth graders each have an academic advisor, who meets with the student as guidance is needed. This person may be called by the student or by parents (or guardians) with questions or concerns about the student's academic progress.

Counseling Beginning in eleventh grade, the counselor helps each student formulate his or her post-secondary plans, including some preparation for the PSAT and SAT and potential career options. This counselor is also available for personal support.

Athletic Director and Coaches Through interaction with the athletic director and the volunteer coaches, the students learn good sportsmanshipand citizenship, along with athletic skills.

Outside Experts  Through community service, work experience, field trips, and visiting teachers, the students are able to establish productive relationships with a wider circle of adults than directly available in the faculty. For their senior projects, seniors are required to seek a mentor who is an expert in the selected field.

Waldorf Graduates Waldorf schools have a worldwide reputation for presenting the world with graduates who are positively oriented and morally responsible young people. Waldorf graduates are resourceful, productive, flexible and clear-thinking individuals who mature into intellectually and emotionally healthy adults, whether they choose to go on to college or pursue an alternative career path in society.

For a list of College and University Acceptances by Austin Waldorf Alumni, click here. Click here to download the Waldorf Graduate Survey

For Admissions, click here.

"The Waldorf schools I have observed celebrate the uniqueness of each child, blend a rich curriculum in creative ways, and sensitively evaluate student progress along the full range of human talent. 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

The Austin Waldorf School is a non-profit educational institution, 501(c)3, that welcomes students and families of any religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin.
The Austin Waldorf School is a full member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)
Celebrating Educational Excellence Since 1980 - Acknowledgements