The First Waldorf School
In April of 1919, noted philosopher, scientist, and educator Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave a talk at the Waldorf Astoria factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The German nation, defeated in war, was teetering on the brink of economic, cultural, and political turmoil. Applying his deep study and insights into the nature of the human being, Dr. Steiner spoke to the factory workers about social renewal and about a new way of organizing society, both at large and at an individual level. Inspired, Emil Molt, the factory’s director, asked Dr. Steiner if he would establish and lead a school for the employees’ children. Dr. Steiner agreed, but insisted that the complete, basic curriculum be made available to all and be independent of political or economic motives to the extent that the law allowed. The teachers were to be free to teach according to their best insight into the needs of children and to guide the school in support of its educational goals. Dr. Steiner’s conditions were radical for that time, but Molt gladly agreed to them. On September 7, 1919, when the “Independent Waldorf School” opened its doors, Dr. Rudolf Steiner stated, “It is not our intention to teach growing human beings our ideas or the contents of ourworld-view” Today, Waldorf schools continue to seek to develop the perceptions and capacities for creative thinking in young adults so that they can shape society for the advancement of humankind out of their own insights and experiences.
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.”
—Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
The Waldorf School of Princeton began as a playgroup that met in the home of Caroline Phinney and Princeton University professor Bob Phinney in January 1983.
By the 1984 school year, a full 18-member nursery-kindergarten was established. In 1986, the grade school was inaugurated with a first grade taught by Ekkehard Heyder. The value of Waldorf education quickly became known and a new grade one was added each year after that for seven years.
Since its founding, an energetic and resourceful community has continued to be enthusiastic about Waldorf education. This enabled the school to acquire the current farmhouse in 1987. Located on over 20 acres of meadows, woods, and a stream, this “Golden House” held the grade school students while kindergarten programs thrived in satellite locations in Hopewell, Princeton, and Princeton Junction.
Campus expansion continued with an eye toward retaining the original farmhouse charm and keeping environmental impact low. In 1998, a new grade school building opened and the school’s programs continued to flourish.
Enhancements and renovations were not limited to the classroom buildings. Tennis courts and sports fields were created in 2005, adding to the outdoor “gymnasium” that students enjoy. A solar greenhouse in the form of a geodesic dome was completed with community efforts in 2007. By 2008, the school reached its goal of complete campus consolidation. Today, all of the early childhood and grade school programs are housed on the main campus.
Mrs. Phinney and students making snack in 1983.
The History of the Figure in Our Logo
Waldorf School of Princeton’s logo was created by Martha Rowse, with help from her colleagues in the early years of the school. It is inspired by the anthroposophic image of the human being as a divine spirit interweaving between heaven and earth. The living relationship and dynamic interplay between these two worlds is reflected in the form of the figure eight, the meeting point being the human heart.
The human being is represented in his three and fourfold nature by the individual shapes and distinct signature of the design. The unfolding development of the school, as well as the human being, is suggested by the organic, nurturing forms out of which the figure emerges into light. Illumined by an inner flame and with a joyful heart, this being offers itself up as a chalice to the spiritual world.
Waldorf Education, now approaching its 100th anniversary, has emerged as the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world. With an emphasis on child development and a curriculum that incorporates practical, intellectual, and artistic elements, Waldorf education has grown to over 1,000 schools worldwide. In North America alone, over 250 schools are affiliated with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America and several public charter schools use Waldorf methods to enrich their teaching. There are also many Waldorf teacher-training institutes in North America.