Truckee’s Golden Valley Tahoe Waldorf school is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Waldorf education alongside over 1,100 Waldorf schools and 1,700 Waldorf kindergartens spanning roughly 80 countries. The transitional kindergarten (TK) through 4th grade school, which announced that they will add one grade each year until the school teaches through 8th grade, is participating in the global celebration by exchanging pen pal postcards with Waldorf students all over the world.

On Sept. 19, 1919, Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner opened the first ever Waldorf school based on his principals of education, originally founded to address what he saw as the three aspects of human development — spirit, soul, and body — through stages of education for early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescent childhood.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Waldorf system has evolved to fit different education styles and philosophies through a hands-on approach based in art. Tahoe’s Waldorf school, part of the Golden Valley Charter (GVC) system, has encouraged its students over the last two years to exchange ideas and share similar curriculum through the Waldorf-wide postcard exchange with students from many countries; “a sweet little project they came up with,” said Marlene Laughter, Tahoe GVC enrollment and marketing coordinator. The students write messages, ask questions, and share art and ideas.

“We’ve gotten some from Brazil and all sorts of places,” she continued, relaying a humorous story of one Brazilian student whose burning requests for his California pen pals included “please send me lego.”

Today, Waldorf education means a lot of different hands-on approaches to funding and implementing education. Tahoe’s GVC is tuition-free and public, although Waldorf schools can be private. It’s focus is on artistic learning, and the postcard exchange is an example of the art-based cultural exchange that the school focuses on, according to Principal Bonnie River.

The 100-year-old Waldorf curriculum “is all over the world, so it’s centered in all cultures,” River told Moonshine Ink last spring for a special early education video event. “What ties it together when you go into a Waldorf classroom is you notice art. I would call [art] the underlying theme of everything,” she continued. Watch our full video on our local GVC’s educational approach, by Sage Sauerbrey, below.

ART AS EDU: Hear from GVC educators about the philosophy and future of our local Waldorf school in this video by Sage Sauerbrey for Moonshine Ink.

Aside from their new 4th grade class and their cultural and artistic exchange to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Waldorf system, Tahoe GVC’s executive director Caleb Buckley told Moonshine Ink that they are instituting a weekly “eco-learning” program incorporating outdoor education every Friday. The school is also in the process of purchasing a more permanent location, and plans to move all educational facilities to the new school once that deal is closed.

Main Image Caption: ANNIVERSARY PEN PALS: Students at Waldorf schools the world over participated in a postcard exchange over the last two years to lead up to this year’s Sept. 19 “birthday” of the entire Waldorf school system, which began in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. These are postcards that the new, local Waldorf school (currently teaching grades TK-4) has received from other Waldorf students across the globe. Courtesy photo