At Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor (RSSAA), an early childhood through grade 12 independent school in Ann Arbor, all students study all subjects, not just those they know they can master. From physics to art to calculus to language, middle school and high school students at RSSAA discover talents and interests by learning subjects they may not naturally embrace.
Through an education full of color, movement, thought, and leading towards freedom, the RSSAA educational philosophy works to bring forth each child’s unique potential in a way that benefits the wider world.
“Every student takes every single art class, every music class, all of the physics, all of the chemistry, etc. In middle and high school, science classes are seminars with plenty of hands-on lab work,” says Margot Amrine, RSSAA high school humanities and history teacher. “All the while, students continue to study languages and English literature, social studies and humanities.”
This approach can be particularly valuable in today’s fast-changing environment where a broad skill set can allow one the freedom to flow with trends and innovations and to feel more secure in a hyper-competitive, global economy.
Connecting concepts across disciplines
At RSSAA, students learn through experiences over several years with one core teacher who grows with them, guiding their mastery of concepts and helping them understand relationships between subjects.
“Through seeds we plant in earlier years, we can reflect and connect to the topics we study later on,” says Maria del Mar Mack, a middle school teacher at RSSAA. During an eighth-grade study of meteorology, for example, students recall previous discussions about the origin of the Latin names of cloud formations, connecting language to science.
Whether they are studying history, chemistry or art, students learn not just from textbooks, but from literature, critical works and hands-on experiences that engage them in concepts important to the discipline.
As in life, concepts intersect, says Yoni Paz, RSSAA high school humanities teacher. His holistic approach to literature has students moving their bodies to correlate with thematic elements of the book. By mirroring jousting or even deeply picturing the physical movements of crossing a river on horseback, students build connections between the text and the physics of the real world.
“Through movement and deep contemplation, students are able to penetrate the text at a deeper level,” Paz says. “That’s what (our) education is all about, creating relationships between ourselves and the world.”
Breadth of experiences
Because all students study studio art and music, they build observation skills for higher academics and future careers. “In a class that studies music from Beethoven to Jimi Hendrix, students learn how to listen carefully and pick up cultural clues from music,” Amrine says.
Studio art isn’t just for artists. “Very few of our students go on to art school, but they all take powerful observation skills and a deep understanding of how to listen to different perspectives to their majors of pre-med or law or psychology,” Amrine explains.
By studying all subjects, RSSAA students can discover their true potential and recognize the beauty that runs through all disciplines.
“This education is founded on the idea that beauty is something we do. We learn from it and go forth in life to create something new, whether that’s art or a computer program or a new way to do surgery or to run a restaurant,” Amrine says.
Learn more about Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor at steinerschool.org.