Who We Are
Woodland Star Charter School is an independent K-8 charter school in Sonoma, California, founded in 2000 by parents and teachers. Embracing the Waldorf instructional method, Woodland Star addresses the whole child, framing rigorous academics in an artistic, creative and multi-sensory curriculum. Our method follows a developmental model that respects the nature of children and how they best learn. A play-based, half-day Kindergarten resists the cultural imperative for “more-better-faster,” allowing young children to enjoy the wonder of childhood through imaginative play.
In the grades, the Woodland Star curriculum covers an exceptional range. Core subjects are taught in three- to four-week-long Main Lesson blocks, immersing the students in language arts, math, science, geography and history. Concepts are interwoven throughout the curriculum and are taught though oral presentations, writing, reading, recitation, drama, painting, drawing and movement. This multi-dimensional approach engages students in a powerful and concentrated experience and promotes active listening, memory, imagination and vocabulary. Enrichment subjects, often taught by specialty teachers, include Spanish, singing, flute, violin, painting, drawing, modeling, knitting, sewing, farming and gardening, woodworking and movement. The Woodland Star faculty members are California credentialed, with extensive training in Waldorf education. Woodland Star parents are encouraged to play an active role in the school as committed and involved partners in their children’s education.
Learning to Think
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of a Waldorf-methods education is that it teaches students how to think. Imaginative play, emphasized in the Kindergarten, develops into imaginative thinking as a child matures into the grades. The capacity for imaginative thinking enables students to perceive events with clarity, to comprehend complex situations fully, and then to envision creative solutions for life’s challenges. In Woodland Star’s capacity-building curriculum, academic mastery is achieved through immersion in experiential learning. By building a playhouse for the Kindergartners, third graders first imagine their construction, then learn measuring, reinforce math skills, and master practical building abilities in order to bring their playhouse into form. A fifth grader studying ancient Greece will compete in an Olympic pentathlon and might play the role of Pythagoras in his annual class play. Reading is taught on a foundation of rich oral literacy that begins in Kindergarten and continues to develop as children progress through the grades. In addition to academic mastery and artistic development, learning how to learn is a primary goal for Woodland Star students.
Learning to Care
The arts are integrated throughout the Woodland Star curriculum in order to access and develop the emotional intelligence of our students. Artistic activities such as painting, drawing, drama, singing and instrumental music are used in combination with core academic standards to enrich the learning experience. Through the arts, we teach to the child’s heart as well as her head, facilitating the development of compassion, responsibility and stewardship.
Overcoming challenges though common artistic effort builds individual self-esteem, builds the feeling of class community and inspires in students the confidence to meet life’s challenges with creativity and imagination. An orchestral performance or a class play requires enormous teamwork among teachers and students. By working together consciously throughout the curriculum, students develop a capacity for emotional involvement that is both sensitive and resilient. They become caring individuals committed to one another and to the greater good.
Learning to Create
Children drawing, painting, knitting, playing flutes or violin, carving wooden utensils, reciting poetry and rehearsing plays are common sights at Woodland Star. While one might think their purpose is to train students to be accomplished artists, the real intention is quite different: all these activities are exercises for the will. To express the typical movements of an animal in wood or cloth or clay, to knit a pair of socks, to master a violin piece—these activities are experienced as a challenge to both the child’s courage and his patience.
There is no better way of training the will than to practice again and again something one finds difficult. Children need tasks that give them pleasure and satisfaction in overcoming difficulty, and the arts are a central area for this opportunity. The Woodland Star curriculum nurtures students’ capacity for resolute determination so that they have the force, the ability and the confidence to turn their hopes and dreams into reality.
Waldorf Methods Education
Although Waldorf-methods education is relatively new to American public schools, the Waldorf education movement began over 80 years ago. Private and government run Waldorf schools also known as Steiner schools, after founder Rudolf Steiner, are thriving all over the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Graduates from Waldorf schools have been successful in all aspects of our society. Many Waldorf graduates find success in education, the arts as well as the sciences, and public service. Now, as Waldorf-methods schools enter the public arena, a broader population of children will benefit from and succeed with this exceptional child-centered educational experience.
Waldorf methods emerged from a pedagogical model of the child that stresses the developmental stages of childhood. At the heart of the philosophy is the conviction that education is an art. Whether the subject is arithmetic, history or physics, the presentation must live it, must speak to the child's world, through direct experience, and is often filled with art, music, movement and imagination. The goal is to teach children in a safe, protective and naturally beautiful environment using methods that fill them with delight, wonder and enthusiasm. Class teachers engage the whole child through an eight-year relationship, addressing children not solely as beings of intellect (head), but physical (hands) and emotional beings (heart) as well.
Woodland Star has developed a powerful educational vision that incorporates Waldorf education methods and embraces the developmental model of the unfolding child. This education, built on a strong academic foundation, also brings forth creative imagination, critical thinking, self-confidence, and a sense of delight, wonder and respect for nature and humanity.
Woodland Star provides an innovative public-school alternative for Kindergarten-through-Eighth-Grade children. The school opened in fall 2000. We have 200 students in the 2009-2010 school year.
Seven Reasons to Choose Woodland Star
- Our tuition-free public school offers many programs that have been dropped from mainstream schools—including Spanish, art, movement and music.
- Our Waldorf-methods, arts-integrated curriculum respects and addresses children’s natural development, multiple intelligences and various learning styles.
- Our play-based, half-day Kindergarten preserves the wonder of childhood and establishes the foundation for creative thinking.
- Our rigorous upper grades’ academic curriculum builds on students’ capabilities for imaginative thinking, deep feeling and self-confidence that have been nurtured in the early grades.
- Our on-site after school care program provides wholesome activities and recreation in a safe and nurturing environment.
- Our curriculum supports sustainable living, enabling children to gain respect, skills and knowledge appropriate for living consciously on the earth.
- We are a diverse community of families committed to all children, to child-centered education and to one another.