High School


Emerson Waldorf High School provides a balanced, challenging curriculum grounded in the classics and engaged in the modern world.

Our students become active learners and creative, flexible thinkers with the confidence to face the complex challenges of our interconnected world. 


Prepared for Anything

Emerson Waldorf School provides a rigorous academic high school curriculum, integrated with artistic exploration and practical skills. We teach our students how to learn, not what to think, and we encourage them to be active participants in their own education by developing their skills of observation, questioning, analysis, and synthesis. They graduate with the confidence to step boldly into our world with intention, enthusiasm, and a sense of personal, social, and global responsibility.

Learning to Learn

Each school day begins with the Main Lesson, a ninety-minute period devoted to intensive work in a single academic subject over a three- to four-week Main Lesson block. These morning lessons allow students to experience a subject's breadth and depth through immersive discussion, careful observation, and hands-on investigation. The small, seminar-style classes foster dialogue, debate, and oratory, while supporting multiple modes of active learning. Students are encouraged to find strength in independence and also empathy and social awareness in group learning. Each student creates a Main Lesson Book - including essays, drawings, maps, poetry, and lab reports - as a unique interpretation of the academic material and a beautiful record of their individual academic journey. 

Rounding out the curriculum are additional year-long track courses that build and reinforce skills in English, History, Mathematics, and Foreign Language. Students also participate in advanced-level chorus, instrumental music, theater arts, visual arts, practical arts, laboratory science, social learning, and movement classes.

High School Hours: 8:10am-3:15pm Monday-Friday


Educating the Developing Adolescent

Ninth Grade: What? The Power of Observation

As Ninth Grade Students begin their High School journey, our curriculum challenges them to observe, question, and imagine alternatives. They are poised for analytical thought and academic rigor, yet often see the world in black-and-white. Their coursework explores these polarities and contrasts, mirroring the physical and emotional changes that occur at this stage of adolescence and laying the foundation for nuanced and abstract thinking. Main lessons explore the interplay of heat and cold in Thermodynamics, the struggle between personal ideals and reality in Revolutionary History, and the fine arts of Comedy & Tragedy.

MAIN LESSON BLOCKS: Comedy & Tragedy, American History Origins pre-Columbian, Modern American History, History through Art I and II, Probability, Anatomy and Physiology, Geology, Thermodynamics, Organic Chemistry, Sustainability.
TRACK COURSES: English 1, Advanced Algebra 1 & 2, Spanish 1 & 2, Revolutionary America, 19th Century America.
CURRICULUM TRIP: Working with developmentally disabled adults on a farm and in a community at Innisfree Village, VA.

Tenth Grade: How? The Power of Comparison

Tenth grade students begin to look more deeply at the world around them and how it continues to evolve. They seek to understand processes, growth, and transformation, as they experience it within themselves. In studying ancient cultures, students think comparatively about religion, social organization, and geography. In Euclidean geometry and inorganic chemistry, students recognize patterns and relationships after careful observation of phenomena. In Embryology, they explore the development of human life.

MAIN LESSON BLOCKS: Odyssey, History Through Poetry, Sophomore Class Play, Civics, Ancient World, Ancient Greeks, Trigonometry and Surveying, Embryology, Climatology, Mechanics, Inorganic Chemistry, Sustainability.
TRACK COURSES: English 2, Current Events, Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Spanish 2 & 3, Civics & Government.
CURRICULUM TRIP:  Camp and sail at Don Lee Sailing Camp, NC.

Eleventh Grade: Why? The Power of Analysis

Eleventh Grade Students have a growing capacity for self-reflection and begin to examine questions of identity as they consider their own paths. Literature and humanities courses delve into the expression of great artists, convictions of great leaders, and pursuit of one's destiny in classics like Parsival. Students nurture new powers of abstract thinking as they explore the invisible worlds of electricity, magnetism, atomic theory, and cell biology. They encounter new concepts of space, time, and infinity in Projective Geometry.

MAIN LESSON BLOCKS: Parzival, Renaissance, Ecology, History through Music, Projective Geometry, Botany, Dante, Cell Biology, Electricity & Magnetism, Modern Atomic Chemistry, Sustainability.
TRACK COURSES: English 3, US History, Analytic Geometry, Advanced Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Precalculus, Spanish 3 & 4. Elective offerings in the Humanities and the Sciences.
CURRICULUM TRIP: Botany trip to Natural Tunnel State Park, VA.

Twelfth Grade: Who? Power of Synthesis

Twelfth Grade Students reach new heights of analytical and imaginative thinking. They seek to synthesize knowledge and experience, as they begin to see their emerging place in the world. The curriculum encourages their emerging abilities to assess multiple viewpoints, find common elements, and identify creative solutions. They develop a global consciousness by examining the critical questions: What guides peoples’ action? How can I make a difference in the world? Why might I choose this path? They are challenged with questions of morality in Goethe’s Faust, and they explore the interrelationship between the living and non-living worlds in Biochemistry.  

MAIN LESSON BLOCKS: Transcendentalist Authors, Faust, Statistics, Senior Class Play, Calculus, Statistics, Ecology, Modern History & Evolution, History through Architecture, Zoology, Optics, Biochemistry, Evolution,  Sustainability.
TRACK COURSES:  English 4, Precalculus, Calculus, Elective offerings in the Humanities and the Sciences.
CURRICULUM TRIP: Zoology trip to Outer Banks, NC & Cultural tour outside of USA.

Subjects & Counseling

The English and Humanities program prepares students to be engaged citizens of the world, while also nurturing the soul development of the adolescent. The curriculum stresses reading comprehension, creative and informative writing, argument, and literary structure, as students awaken to a sense of language and its relationship to what it means to be a human being. By studying World Literature, students examine the depth and diversity of human experience and human capacities, which in turn strengthens their own sense of self and their ability to become compassionate and responsible communicators.

9TH GRADE: Comedy & Tragedy, English

10TH GRADE: Odyssey and History Through Poetry, Grade 10 Play, English

11TH GRADE: Dante & Parzival, English, Academic Electives including Philosophy, Russian Literature, Public Speaking, Essay Writing, Shakespeare

12TH GRADE: Transcendentalism & Classic Philosophy, English, Academic Electives including Philosophy, Russian Literature, Public Speaking, Essay Writing

The High School Science curriculum grows and transforms as much as the students’ capacity for thoughtful engagement. It is at first explicit and concrete in the freshman year, dealing with easily observed and recognized structures and functions and then gradually grows in complexity, finally culminating in the senior year with multifaceted interrelationships and shifts toward the implicit and more hidden aspects of the human being and the world. It is an age-appropriate curriculum that instills in students the ability to observe astutely, think rigorously, and actively interpret scientific phenomena.

9TH GRADE: Organic Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Earth & LIfe Science

10TH GRADE: Inorganic Chemistry, Mechanics

11TH GRADE: Modern Atomic Chemistry & the Periodic Table, Electricity & Magnetism

12TH GRADE: Biochemistry, Optics

All EWS High School students participate in music, and we provide a rich palette of opportunities for them. Some students participate in just one ensemble, while others are involved in several different music groups, both during school and after. EWS provides opportunities for serious or casual singers, string orchestra or band instrumentalists, jazz players, and beginning and advanced guitarists. Beyond the school-sponsored groups, there are often one or two student-run bands that form each year – if you visit our campus, you will no doubt enjoy impromptu jam sessions indoors and out, during breaks between classes and at lunch time.

9TH – 12TH GRADE: Instrumental Music, Upper School Band, Upper School String Orchestra, High School Chorus, Beginning & Advanced Guitar

Artistic work in the EWS High School is a cornerstone of the education. The Fine Arts curriculum provides every student with pedagogically appropriate experiences in two-and three-dimensional arts throughout the year. Through attentive guidance, every student becomes proficient in fine art media, such as clay sculpture, wood and stone carving, drawing, and painting. The program is designed to build upon the skills and sensibilities developed in the Waldorf Lower and Middle grades by meeting students with will-strengthening artistic exercises, in which they experience freedom in their feelings and develop sound judgment in their intellect. The students’ practice with traditional art materials is complemented by studies in art history and regular visits to local museums, galleries, and cultural venues.

9TH GRADE: Black & White Drawing, Sculptural Form

10TH GRADE: Color Theory, Sculptural Form II

11TH GRADE: Drawing and Painting From the Masters, Sculptural Form: The Human Figure

12TH GRADE: Portraiture, Sculptural Form: The Human Head

The High School Spanish classes use song, poetry, literature, geography, and history as launching points for learning the beauty of this language. We incorporate a review of grammar concepts learned in Middle School and introduce new and more complex grammar through the use of our “Dime” textbooks and consistent oral review. Guest speakers and field trips also enhance the curriculum.

SPANISH 2 BLOCK, GRADE 9: In Spanish 2, High School students will strengthen their grammar, conversational, reading, and writing skills. The grammar skills will include an analysis of sentence structure, review of past, present, and future tenses in the indicative mode, the present perfect and past participles, and an introduction to the subjunctive mode. However, in learning foreign languages, it is important for students to develop empathy and a feeling for the speakers of a language, so the lessons will delve into the richness and depth of the Spanish language and culture, which will be explored through authentic conversations, guest speakers, traditional and modern songs, prose, and stories.

SPANISH 3 BLOCK, GRADES 10-11: Grammar skills studied this year will include the passive voice, comparison of indicative and subjunctive modes, and the verb "Haber" used with participles and the perfect tenses. Again, because it is important for students to gain empathy and a feeling for the speakers of a language, the lessons will explore the richness and depth of the Spanish language and culture through authentic conversation, prose, guest speakers, traditions, music, food, and art. The main focus of practice and study in speech will be: Grammatical (Correct speech), Rhetoric (Beautiful speech), and Dialectic (Persuasive and powerful speech). Examples of activities that will support this study include writing poetry, reading and reciting poetry from various periods, and analysis of classic and modern literary texts from various countries.

The wood shop is never dull – always a hive of activity – a place where common sense and practical problem solving reign supreme. In this day when contact with the physical world is diminishing in favor of the virtual world, the shop is a haven of reality. Students are humbled by their struggle to get the medium to bend to their will or to manifest their ideal, and yet through perseverance, they grow to experience the tremendous satisfaction of having made something both practical and beautiful.

9TH GRADE: Stool Construction, Set Construction, Coppersmithing

10TH GRADE: Set Construction, Weaving

11TH GRADE: Furniture Construction, Bookbinding

12TH GRADE: Freestyle Construction, Blacksmithing

Mathematics has been described as the way Nature reveals itself. It can also be described as a powerful tool for scientific discovery. More importantly for adolescents, it is a portal to complex analytical thinking. Mathematics from Algebra through Calculus, using highly regarded texts, is presented in yearlong courses. Special examinations of Probability, Trigonometry with Land Surveying, Projective Geometry, and Calculus are presented in three- to four-week Main Lessons.

9TH GRADE: Probability, Descriptive Geometry

10TH GRADE: Trigonometry & Surveying, Conics

11TH GRADE: Projective Geometry

12TH GRADE: Calculus or Statistics

Students explore themes of complexity, interconnectedness, uncertainty, and metamorphosis as they progress through the Earth & Life Sciences curriculum. They experience science as scientists, not as students in a lecture. They begin by observing phenomena and, with guidance from the teacher, derive concepts, formulas, and scientific laws from their first-hand explorations. This scientific methodology encourages students to observe carefully and question critically. As they develop these capacities for careful observation, exploration, and understanding, they begin to see science as a conversation with nature. They understand the relationship of science to human activity. They become keen observers of complex events, with ample capacity for creative and flexible thinking as they make sense of new phenomenological encounters. They learn to ask, and answer, the profound questions: "How do we know what we know?" and "What is the foundation for knowing?"

9TH GRADE: Dynamic Earth, Anatomy & Physiology, Sustainability

10TH GRADE: Climatology, Embryology, Sustainability

11TH GRADE: Cell Biology, Botany, Ecology, Sustainability

12TH GRADE: Zoology, Sustainability

In our History classes, each grade will focus on similar periods of North American History, spanning more than 600 years, but at different depths and from different perspectives.

GRADE 9 HISTORY: The 9th grade History class will identify the faces, cultures, institutions, and movements that comprise the early tapestry of U.S. History. We will explore the characteristics of native societies that lived in North America just before the Europeans settled there. Then, we will focus on the first European settlers, their institutions of law, slavery, and private property, their establishment of government independent of Great Britain, westward expansion, and their civil war.

GRADE 10 HISTORY: The 10th grade will focus on the causes and on-the-ground experiences of European settlement in North America, the American Revolution, Indian “Removal” and westward expansion, slavery and abolition, the Civil War and reconstruction, the industrial revolution and the labor movement, the early feminist and civil rights movements, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II.

GRADE 11 HISTORY: The 11th grade will ponder the “what ifs” of U.S. History, moving from the European conquest of North America through present time. What if, for example, the Wampanoag tribes in the Massachusetts territory had not been so devastatingly susceptible to European-borne plagues, such as Hepatitis A? Would Europeans have been able to settle the shores of what was to become the Plymouth Colony?

GRADE 12 HISTORY: The 12th grade will take a more in-depth look at the personalities who helped transform life in North America throughout U.S. History. Characters and collectives such as Helen Keller, the American Anti-Slavery Society, Eisenhower, and Malcolm X will illuminate the complexity and non-linearity of life dedicated to active participation in U.S. Society. The 12th grade will also go behind the scenes to examine how historians, authors, and political commentators have interpreted history. We will critique history textbooks and common mythology, and sharpen our research, argument, and writing skills.

Eurythmy is an expressive art movement originated by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education, especially in Waldorf schools. Through Eurythmy, the creative forces active in music and speech can be experienced and made visible. These forces belong to us, and they can help us therapeutically. Doing and seeing Eurythmy strengthen one’s sense of well-being, as well as one’s sense of self and free independence. It can be approached in many ways: hygienically, socially, and through performance – all are artistic and are drawn out of the human being. Eurythmy is taught to Grades 9-12 in blocks by two visiting Eurythmy teachers.

We seek to facilitate self-awareness in our students and to facilitate a research process of options available to them after High School graduation. Our goal is to support each student in identifying and being accepted into the choice that is his or her best fit. Options include colleges, universities, conservatories, art institutes, vocational programs, and apprenticeships. Also considered are planned gap years of work, travel, service, and experiential learning.

Emerson Waldorf School honors the individual student by providing personalized college and career counseling. Each of our students is destined for a different path; through our curriculum and through the guidance program, we strive to assist them in discovering and venturing out onto their paths. Students are guided in self-reflection and in identification of interests and priorities for post-graduation choices. As College Counselor, I present informative programs and seminars for students and parents, provide personalized counseling sessions, and bring representatives to visit EWS from colleges, universities, service, and travel programs. Individual guidance is provided for all students through the entire process of seeking and obtaining acceptance to a post-graduation path. The higher education admission process has become an intricate one, and I am committed to guiding both students and parents through it, from developing a college list to crafting the application to seeking financial resources and making the final choice.

In the fall I write an in-depth letter of recommendation for each senior, addressing academic, extracurricular and personal strengths and areas for growth. I also ensure that all necessary documentation is provided in support of applications. This includes transcripts, a detailed profile of EWS High School, and letters of recommendation from EWS teachers and coaches.

Ninety percent of EWS graduates do attend a four-year college, university, conservatory, or art institute immediately after high school graduation. The other ten percent will attend two-year institutions, work, travel, engage in service, or take a “gap year” before matriculating at a four-year college.

Please click on the links below for more detailed information about our counseling program.

Junior Internships:

Each student carries out a one-week internship in the fall of their Junior year. This is a meaningful work experience that lasts at least five full working days. On-site supervisors complete an evaluation at the end of the week, and the juniors present their experiences to the school community in a public forum.

Check out our most recent Junior Internships:

All EWS seniors conceive their independent Senior Projects in May of their Junior year, and work with a community mentor throughout their senior year until their presentation to the community. Senior Projects challenge the student to learn new skills & perform significant research in a specific area of interest.

Check out our most recent Senior Projects:


College Acceptances for the Class of 2017

  • Agnes Scott College*
  • Bryn Mawr College*
  • Clark University*
  • Davidson College
  • Denison University*
  • Eckerd College*
  • Elon University
  • Goucher College*
  • Guilford College*
  • Hampshire College *
  • Haverford College*
  • Hollins University*
  • Indiana University at Bloomington*
  • Ithaca College*
  • Juniata College*
  • Loyola University of Maryland*
  • Muhlenburg College
  • North Carolina State
  • Oberlin College*
  • Oxford College of Emory University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Queens University of Charlotte*
  • Skidmore College*
  • University of Kentucky*
  • University of Mary Washington*
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte*
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro*
  • University of Vermont*
  • Ursinus College *
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Virginia Tech*

* Student received scholarship
Every student in Class of 2017 was offered merit scholarships!