Myth: "Science teaching in Waldorf education is not scientific"
One of the myths cultivated by some secular humanist critics about Waldorf education is that science teaching in Waldorf schools not is scientific nor in consonance with current scientific knowledge or theories.

Much of the mythology in question comes from the different way science is introduced and developed in Waldorf education compared to how it is done for the most part in public education.

In public education, science subjects normally are introduced and developed by first presenting the theory and formulas, then performing an experiment which demonstrates the theory, and then having the students work out the results using the formulas.

In Waldorf education, the science subjects do not start with nor are built from theories and formulas. Rather they start with the phenomena and develop in an experiential way, by first presenting the phenomenon, having the students make detailed observations, then guiding the students to derive the concepts that arise from the phenomena, and finally deriving the scientific formulas and laws behind the phenomena.

This methodology reflects the way basic science actually has been developed by scientists and trains the pupils stepwise in basic scientific thinking and reflection on the basis of personal experience and observation of the phenomena of nature and the history of science.

In kindergarten and the lower grades, the experience of nature through the seasons is brought to the children through nature walks, nature tables and observation of nature around. In later grades, there are specific main lesson blocks dealing with Man and Animal, and other themes.

In grade 5, scientific ideas may be taught historically through the study of the Greeks, for example, Aristotle, Archimedes and Pythagoras. In grades 6-8 the science curriculum becomes more focused with blocks on physics (optics, acoustics, mechanics, magnetism and electricity), botany, chemistry (inorganic and organic), and anatomy.

In high school, science is taught by specialists who have received college level training in biology, chemistry and physics and these three subjects are taught in each of the 4 years of high school.

Discoveries in the 90s of deficiencies in present public education in the U.S., related to the scope, sequence, and coordination of the science programs has led to suggestions in "Science Curriculum Reform in the United States," to replace current science teaching methodology in public education with the basic science teaching methodology used in Waldorf education.

This report points to the fact that the path chosen for science teaching in Waldorf education preceded its development in U.S. public education by 80 years.

For some comments on some issues that have been discussed in the cultivation of anti-Waldorf mythologies in the U.S., see

As in any school, however, the quality of science teaching in a Waldorf school depends on the skill and knowledge of the teacher.

In Waldorf education, the main lesson is taught mainly by the class teacher, who follows the pupils from grade 1 through grade 8. This puts a high demand on the versatility of Waldorf class teachers. Particularly in the middle school, there is a possibility that the science teaching will not be adequate. Inexperienced and not fully trained teachers may draw on materials that are not adequate or appropriate as part of the science curriculum. While this deficiency is being addressed, it is a problem still at times not handled fully by individual Waldorf schools and the teacher training centers of the growing Waldorf movement.

return to top

Copyright 2004: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall