One of the overarching themes of the year is “Polarities,” which reflects—and hopefully tempers—the mood swings of ninth graders. Literature introduces students to comedy and tragedy; art focuses on black and white drawings. In geology, students study the polarities of glaciers and volcanoes. Organic chemistry reveals how plants, rooted in the earth but flowering in the air, use polarities to create living substances. In math, students delve into probability and graphing to solve systems of equations. One highlight of the year is a "whaling" trip through old New England ports and going on a whale watch, all to deepen the experience of reading Moby Dick.
Tenth graders begin to think more deeply and consequentially. In every subject, teachers want students to exercise logic to understand the underlying structure of the world. In Euclidean geometry, students puzzle out proofs for theorems. Physics classes explore mechanics of vectors, velocity, and acceleration. In literature, students learn the crafts of poetry and short-story writing by examining each genre's structural elements and then composing their own creative pieces. In history, students consider ancient Greece, the birthplace of logical inquiry. Environmental Studies introduce sophomores to the connected forms of a healthy environment. Using trigonometry and surveying equipment, they learn how to survey and plot a portion of the Maine Coast Waldorf School campus.
Juniors often feel themselves changing inwardly, but not always intentionally. The Waldorf curriculum challenges the students to consciously grapple with the nature of metamorphosis. In the humanities, literature classes explore the classic, “transformational” journeys —Dante’s Inferno, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The history curriculum traces this theme of metamorphosis from the fall of Rome through the rise of Islamic civilization to the development of Western Europe through the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment. Projective Geometry, Electricity and Magnetism, and Cell Biology reinforce these themes. The final Botany block includes a week-long field trip to Acadia National Park, where students study the diversity of coastal habitats from sea to summit.
Seniors acquire a growing sense of themselves in relation to the world. Through literature our students grapple with reconciling desires for both individuality and community. Through modern history they consider civic responsibility, cultural differences, and roles in society. In math, students use calculus to break down problems into infinite pieces to create a finite answer. Through evolutionary theory they explore the emergence of the individual out of nature, aided by a week-long marine biology camping trip to Hermit Island in Maine with a hundred seniors from other Waldorf high schools. Seniors gain real-life experience in the working world through a three to four week internship in a field that interests them, under the mentor-ship of a working professional.
The capstone of our high school experience is a year-long senior project - a commitment to study of interest in depth and then to offer a presentation to the school community at year's end. Recent projects have included learning to pilot an airplane, tutoring refugee students in Portland (Maine), studying nutrition and meal preparation for endurance athletes, beekeeping, and building a tiny house.