Running River School offers a classical education for children that is richly imbued with the arts. Inspired by Waldorf education it is a carefully structured system, nurturing creativity within the context of intellectual competence and disciplined exploration. Teachers craft their lessons to work with every learning style; kinesthetic, auditory and visual, thus enabling every student to shine. Our flexible program meets the needs of individual students as they meld into cooperative class groups, advancing together through expanding realms of information and accomplishment. An interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to learning is fundamental. The process of learning is always active and creative, where academics are consistently enhanced by art, music, craft and body movement to engage the children’s entire being.
World language is taught beginning in the first grade, giving the children insights into and facility with other cultures. Language lessons are presented orally in the first three grades using games, poems, and songs. Reading, writing, and an understanding of grammar are introduced in the upper grades, always building upon the earlier oral work. Foreign languages give the children insights into and facility with other cultures. Running River School currently offers Spanish in the classroom.
Music permeates life in a Waldorf School. From the first grade on, children sing and learn to play the pentatonic flute, C flute, and the full range of recorders. From the fourth grade on, every student takes up a stringed instrument and thus, has an orchestral experience. Music instruction is provided for its own sake and the joy it engenders, as well as the strong harmonizing and humanizing force it brings into the student’s life.
Singing in a group fosters cooperation with and interest in others. Children in first and second grades learn songs by heart from their class teacher and sing unaccompanied on a daily basis. By third and fourth grade, students are expected to "hold their own" when singing in rounds. In fifth through eighth grade, the repertoire expands to include more "part" singing. We introduce Rhythmic and notation work and concepts of major and minor modes, as well as sight-singing.
In every subject and at every grade level in the school, art is seen as an essential instructional tool. In the early years, artistic work precedes academic work. Instruction in drawing, painting, and modeling happens daily in the grades. With drawing and painting, children in the early grades begin to bring forms out of the colors: mountains, trees, horses, people. In first grade children encounter the letters of the alphabet in the form of pictures. A picture of a fish may be transformed into the letter "F." In math lessons, children sometimes learn fractions and multiplication tables through the use of form drawings that illustrate the relationships between various numbers. Students often draw or paint themes from stories they hear in Main Lesson as a way of experiencing their lessons more deeply.
Physical fitness builds self-confidence and self-esteem, laying the foundation for a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. As children progress through the grades, they grow into conscious awareness and control of their bodies. Games, movements, and other activities in the early grades make them more aware of the space around them and how their own bodies relate to that space. Games also help them develop social and recreational skills that can serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Healthy movement is also cultivated with the understanding that it is a basis for academic and social development. In first grade regular games and physical classes are specifically devoted to movement skills. The games and activities for each grade are determined by the curriculum and by the children’s physical and social development. The character of the games and activities is based in imagination and, later, the free mobility of the limbs.
In the first, second, and third grades, positive social interaction, inner and outer awareness, and an awareness of rhythms and their complexities are encouraged. In the third grade, the children experience a new self‐confidence and awareness of their individuality. Activities are introduced that stimulate balance and the body’s capabilities.
In the fourth through eighth grades, the children continue to play a wide variety of games and sports, and the goal of movement education during these years is to help the students move toward mastery over their physical body through cooperative and competitive play, and to overcome physical and social challenges in a healthy and joyful way.
The practical arts support and strengthen the artistic, academic, social, and neuro‐motor development of each child. They encourage development of will through both conscious and unconscious repetition. A healthy feeling life is cultivated by the many materials, processes, and imagination needed to complete the myriad of colorful projects each student experiences throughout the grades. Each child's unique artistic sense is activated by creating simple, useful articles throughout the years.
In first grade, boys and girls learn to knit, bringing together a long string of yarn to make a recorder case or a small animal. In third grade, the students crochet a winter hat. In the next several grades, the students learn to sew by hand and do embroidery. In sixth grade, as the students' bodies are changing, the children make a doll. Throughout the grades, projects are of a practical nature: pot holders, toys, scarves, socks, and other articles of clothing. All work is done with an appreciation for and development of aesthetic qualities.
Decades before brain research could confirm it, Rudolf Steiner recognized that brain function is founded on body function. Learning to knit and crochet in the early grades leads to motor skills which metamorphose into lively thinking and enhance intellectual development later on. Coordination, patience, perseverance, goal setting and imagination are also schooled through practical work. Activities like woodwork, housebuilding and gardening included in the elementary school curriculum, give the children an understanding of how things come into being and a respect for the creation of others.
"Children who learn while they are young to make practical things by hand in an artistic way, and for the benefit of others as well as for themselves, will not be strangers to life or to other people when they are older. They will be able to form their lives and their relationships in a social and artistic way, so that their lives are thereby enriched. Out of their ranks can come technicians and artists who will know how to solve the problems and tasks set before us." -R. Steiner