Early childhood through grade 12

Hawthorne Valley Association

Integrating Art

Like many Waldorf schools, Hawthorne Valley’s curriculum focuses on educating the head (thinking), heart (feeling), and hands (will) of each child. The arts are incorporated into Main Lessons through chalkboard drawings illustrating subject matter, and the exercise of each student creating their own Main Lesson book to demonstrate their learning. Through artistic practice, students open up their senses and are able to think more creatively.

The integration of art into lessons on the sciences, literature, and math helps deepen students’ understanding, making the subject come alive and become more than just the memorization of facts.

Performing Arts

In addition to the visual arts, performing arts play an integral role throughout Waldorf education, bridging the gap between the heart and hands. From the earliest years, young children experience storytelling through puppetry. As children progress through the grades, they become the storytellers through class plays. Many high school students attribute this dramatic work with building their self-confidence and public speaking abilities.

Students enthralled watching a performance in the school Assembly Hall; focus is on three young girls seated on the floor
Seventh grade Circus performers on stage; one male student is on stilts, and four other students are dressed in blue stretch costumes covering their whole bodies; there is a colorful blue and yellow mural in the background
A group of four seventh grade students on stage during their Circus performance juggling
Students on stage during a play rehearsal; one male student is on his knees and holding a script; there is a female student and a male student on stage standing behind him, and two teachers seated off stage
Kindergarten students dressed for a Christmas pageant; they are all seated in a semi circle and wearing various costumes including a donkey, cow, angel, shepherd, and a teacher standing behind them
Middle School strings performers gathered for a concert beneath our open air pavilion; there is a young man with a cello looking into the camera smiling
two girls playing violins sitting in a row; student in foreground wears a long braid and blue shirt
Holiday choral performance of Handel's Messiah at St. Mary's Church in Hudson


Equally important to the balance of beauty and will is the role of music. In early childhood programs, teachers sing as they guide the children through tasks, circle time, and transitions from one activity to the next. This foundation is built upon in first and second grade with recorders and flutes, leading to the start of the formal music program in third grade. The repetition of songs in the early years, coupled with fine motor skill development from finger knitting and beeswax modeling, help prepare children to begin learning stringed instruments in third grade. They continue with strings instruction through fifth grade. In middle and high school, the students form orchestras, bands and choirs. Students are encouraged to practice their instruments daily and to take private music lessons as they are able.

The Henriette Reiss Award at Hawthorne Valley was established in 1993 through the generosity of Elizabeth Hughes Papas to honor the work and spirit of artist and teacher Henriette Reiss (1889-1992).

Central to the life and work of Henriette Reiss was the abiding insight that art is crucial to individual and social development, a view also embraced and furthered in Waldorf schools around the world. The recognition of these truths moved Elizabeth Papas, who lived in Philmont, NY, to establish an award at the nearby Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, in order to help aspiring students further their educations in the arts.

chalk portrait of Henriette Reiss
A marionette gnome with a white beard and red hat on a stage covered with felt cloth; there is a tiny stump nearby with a workboot on it

The Magical Puppet Tree first took root in 1993, when founder and artistic director Janene Ping gathered artists, teachers, and parents of the Hawthorne Valley Community to celebrate world wisdom stories and fairy tales. Exploring many forms of puppetry disciplines including marionettes, hand and rod puppets, and colored light/shadow theater, the Puppet Tree has enriched the cultural life at fairs and festivals within the Hawthorne Valley community, as well as at libraries and conferences throughout the Northeast.