Founded in 1973 as an outpost for New York City students to connect with the land, Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School (HVS) was among the first Waldorf schools in North America, and the only one located on a 900-acre working Biodynamic® farm. Over the past 50 years, HVS has expanded to offer education to kids in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and has provided generations of students with a nourishing Waldorf educational journey that is a true alternative to public education.
Our curriculum, rooted in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, delivers inspired main lessons intentionally developed to nurture the cognitive, emotional, and physical development of children. Our low teacher-to-student ratio and our practice of having a teacher stay with the students for several years creates a supportive, trust-based culture in which children thrive. Throughout the grades, age-appropriate curriculum is highly interdisciplinary, blending academics, fine and practical arts, nature and farm-based activities, music, movement, class trips, and more. Waldorf’s preschool and kindergarten curriculum emphasizes creative free play as a method to build imagination, confidence, and sense of belonging.
Our school’s location on an organic/biodynamic farm supplements the curriculum by providing our students with the opportunity to develop connection to the natural world, and a love of outdoor adventure. Their direct experience of the rhythms of each season, such as the progression of planting and harvesting and the caretaking of animals, imbues their education with many unique opportunities for in-depth, hands-on engagement, and cultivates a sense of purpose that combats the pull of apathy so often present in today’s media-saturated world. Ours is a living, experienced-based education that meets students where they are, cultivating their intellectual, artistic and practical capacities and guiding them to hone their innate gifts so that they may become balanced and engaged citizens of the world.
The focus of Hawthorne Valley’s Early Childhood program is to honor and nurture play and wonder, and to provide ample time to have adventures in the natural world, and experience the change of seasons on our magnificent planet. Our youngest students spend more time outdoors than they do indoors, tromping through fields and forest, moving their bodies and putting down roots on our beautiful campus. Our young students are encouraged to slow down, open their senses, and really enjoy childhood. They are only children once, and we want to them to savor every minute of these magical years. Through outdoor adventures, indoor crafts, puppetry, and circle time, our Early Childhood program helps children discover the wider world and their place in it.
Early Childhood classrooms are warm and relaxing. The toys and furniture are made of wood and other natural materials. Filled with natural light, our shelves display wonders from nature, and our homey kitchens allow the children to prepare and share a daily snack. Making crafts, baking, cooking, music, poetry, and unstructured play are all essential parts of Hawthorne Valley’s Early Childhood program. In our current age, when children increasingly struggle with overstimulation and anxiety, Hawthorne Valley provides an invaluable refuge, supportive quietude, and intentional space for children to learn to love and trust themselves, their teachers, and each other.
THE GRADES & MIDDLE SCHOOL
Hawthorne Valley’s curriculum matches lesson topics with the innate questions of each developmental stage, harmonizing practical experiences in the world with a more innate sense of imagination and more guided inquiry into intellectual exploration. Our curriculum builds, year upon year, connecting children to timeless and timely lessons. For example, in third grade, at a time when a child is turning nine and waking up to their own identity, distinct from their parents and family, we temper the anxiety that this independence brings by focusing on units that teach farming, building shelters, and making clothing—these topics help the student feel more confident in their growing independence.
Students remain with one teacher for consecutive years, deepening both their ability to feel grounded, and their experience of being seen and heard. Guided by an adult who knows them well, our students are better able to relax and to find their innate talents. With a deep understanding of the personalities that comprise their class, Waldorf teachers finesse each subject to meet the needs of the children. The intimate nature of our classes creates a nurturing community where lasting friendships support intellectual growth.
Our sciences are rooted in observation and experiments. Rather than filling our students heads with abstract facts, we aim to lead them into experiential learning, and help them better express what they know from seeing, hearing and doing. This privileging of first-hand experience helps students to better immerse themselves in meaningful evaluative discussion. Academic subjects always balance the artistic with the intellectual. In the lower grades and middle school, students study at least two languages and pursue a full range of activities, including painting, movement, music, and theater.
The lower grades and middle school years aim to guide students in building the confidence, curiosity, and self-expression needed to navigate the demands of high school academic inquiry successfully. The curricula of the middle school provide a bridge to the more intensive work in high school, offering an educational cycle that mirrors children’s developmental stages and presents them with the depth of learning that they need as they enter young adulthood.
HAWTHORNE VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL
At Hawthorne Valley High School, the curriculum is on par with college-level learning. Many alumni return after graduation to remark upon how robust and challenging their high school education was – and how prepared they were for the demands of collegiate life.
Hawthorne Valley High School instills in students that the only way forward – to a more civil and just society, a more sustainable planet, and a connected community – is through deep learning, devotion to analysis and thought, and honest examination of themselves. By graduation, students feel confident and capable knowing that through education comes innovation and opportunity.
Unlike much of American education, Hawthorne Valley’s High School curriculum begins with hands-on experimentation and exploration and culminates in book learning. Students do not endure endless lectures and rote memorization as their only means of acquiring knowledge. Rather, high school faculty prize experiential opportunities as a way to teach math, science, history, literature, and language. By learning trigonometry through real-life land surveying, for example, or astronomy by camping out under the stars, students assimilate knowledge deep into their being. As with all stages of Waldorf education, faculty sees beyond personalities to the potential and passion of each student, drawing out curiosity into practical talents and pursuable interests.
A robust roster of performing, presenting, and leading high school projects empowers students with a unique opportunity to gain social agency as they move among new people and settings. When Hawthorne Valley graduates go out into the world, they are unafraid to try new things and meet new people, and they encounter new situations with inquisitiveness, grace, and ease.
Hawthorne Valley High School excites young people about the possibilities to improve the world through self-knowledge and development. Practical learning through mentorship and practicums offers hands-on understanding about how they might live on the earth in a holistic and healthy way. The goal is to do good work in whatever place they reside, cementing a deep understanding of social responsibility and living in concert with the land.
While Waldorf high school education includes deeply classical subjects, it is also cognizant of the fact that a curriculum must evolve with the times. High school students work toward yearlong senior projects, where each student pursues a personal interest through rigorous inquiry and hands-on experience as a way of inhabiting a subject. This educational framework guides students toward becoming their most authentic and dynamic selves.