The Acorn School of Charleston is a unique school, the only one of its kind in the state. The Waldorf school opened in the Lowcountry last year. We’re in West Ashley for our Cool School of the week..
The Acorn School is part of the international Waldorf school movement. There are more than one-thousand Waldorf schools in 83 countries. The school’s director and co-founder Dr. Lee Stevens worked for twenty years as a Waldorf teacher in major cities. “It’s a new form of education for Charleston, but it’s 100 years old in its tradition,” says Stevens.
Waldorf education is based on the educational philosophy of artist and scientist Rudolf Steiner, and emphasizes the role of imagination in learning. Play based experiential learning is emphasized. Dr. Stevens says, “Everyday they show up, they get engaged in practical activities. They set the table. They serve the food. They eat and clean up after themselves, so practical activities, but also experiential learning through play. They have a free play time in the morning. They have outdoor play time later in the day, and we always cap it all with an imaginative story usually told through a puppet show.”
The arts are integrated into all academics. There is a lot of painting, free play, singing, and story telling. There are no grades or standardized testing in the early grades. “There’s painting every week. There’s hand work every week. There’s woodwork in the later grades,” Dr. Stevens says.
You won’t find IPads or computers in the early grades. They want children to learn to form their own inner image. You will see handmade wooden toys, musical instruments, and arts and craft. Dr. Stevens says, “The big difference is the environment. The classroom environment in a Waldorf grade school, the children make their own books. In first grade, they will be given paper and they will create their own letters. They will do their own pictures. By the time they get to the upper grades, it’s extraordinary to see what they can do.”
Acorn opened with a kindergarten class with children age 3 to 6. The school plans to add a first grade next year, and eventually grow to eighth grade. Classroom teachers follow students through each grade. The upper grades are more structured. Parent Kristen Bratten attended a Waldorf school in Maryland and wants her son to have the same experience. “They’re not just having fun, they’re actually thriving here,” says Bratten.”The early years, the nursery school years through kindergarten, the same stage where my son is now, were absolutely magical. Everything was warm, caring, exciting, imaginative. A lot of the learning was through play or through fairytales, and you’re kind of wrapped in this world of imagination that prepared you to think outside the box, to form really solid relationships with your classmates and to have a different perspective of the world I think.”
Dr. Stevens says, “It’s a Cool School because we respect childhood. We let children be children. We let them make them through practical activities. They become very self reliant. It’s a place for children to explore, learn, and grow up and in an environment that’s a home way from home.”
The private school is housed in the educational building at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, but is not affiliated with the church. The Acorn School is nondenominational, spiritual rather than religious.
There are more than one-thousand Waldorf schools in 83 countries.
Coming up Friday, we’ll present The Acorn School of Charleston with our Cool School award.
We want to hear about the good things that are going on at your school. Just send an email to Octavia at omitchell@ wcbd.com.