One of the overarching themes of the year is “Polarities,” which often reflects—and hopefully tempers—the often extreme mood swings of ninth graders. Literature teachers introduce students to comedy and tragedy; art classes focus on black and white drawings. Students study the polarities of the nerve/sense and metabolic systems in anatomy, as well as the moderating influence of the circulatory system. Organic chemistry reveals to them how the plant, rooted in the earth but flowering in the air, uses its polarities to create living substances. In math, students delve into probability and graphing to solve systems of equations. One of the highlights of the year is a "whaling" trip; they travel to Mystic Seaport, CT, to the old whalers' district in New Bedford, and to Gloucester, MA for a whale watch, all to deepen students' experience of reading Moby Dick.
Tenth graders begin to think more deeply and consequentially. In every discipline, teachers want students to exercise logical thinking to understand the underlying structure of the world. In Euclidian geometry, students puzzle out proofs for theorems.Biology introduces them to the transformation of embryological forms. Physics lessons explore mechanics in the study of vectors, velocity and acceleration. In literature, students learn the craft of poetry and short-story writing by examining each genre's structural elements and then composing their own creative pieces. In history, students turn their attention to ancient Greece, the birthplace of logical inquiry. To culminate these practical-minded studies, sophomores take a spring trip to Acadia and, using trigonometry and actual surveying equipment, learn how to survey a plot of National Park land.
Juniors often feel themselves changing inwardly, but not always intentionally. The curriculum challenges the students to consciously grapple with the nature of metamorphosis. In the humanities, literature classes offer the students 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. The final Botany block includes a week-long field trip to Acadia, where students study the diversity of coastal habitats from sea to summit.
Seniors acquire a growing sense of themselves in relation to the world. In literature, they read Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, and Whitman, who grapple with how to reconcile the twin desires for both individuality and community. Modern history challenges students to think about civic responsibility, cultural differences, women's changing roles in society, and the impact of technology on global consciousness. In math, students look for relationships between the infinitely large and infinitely small, and in optics, the relationship of the observer to the phenomena being observed. Through the study of Darwin’s evolutionary theory students explore the emergence of the individual out of the world of nature, aided by a week-long marine biology camping trip to Hermit Island, joining over a hundred Waldorf seniors from several other high schools. All seniors participate in a 3-4 week internship under the mentorship of a professional in a field that interests them to gain real-life experience in the working world.
Mentors are also required for the nearly year-long senior projects. A senior project is a long-term commitment to study/learn a subject or skill in depth. It can be a more intense study of a topic or capacity a student has been pursuing, or it can be something completely new and different that students embrace seriously. Senior projects of the past few years have included: stem cell research, tracking wildlife, writing and performing a play, teaching ballet to African orphans, building a wind turbine, belly dancing, studying the role of women in local and state government, building a canoe or guitar from scratch. Senior projects are presented to the school community at the end of the year.