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.
In the lower grades, the class teacher teaches many subjects and is responsible for the social health and well-being of the class, as well as individual members of the class. In the high school, these roles are fulfilled by more than one person. Students are taught by multiple teachers who specialize in specific subjects. Each class has two faculty members acting as class sponsors who are responsible for the social well-being of the class. Each student also has their own faculty advisor who acts as an advocate and holds the bigger picture for the individual student in all aspects of school life, both in the academic and social realms.
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.
The Main Lesson
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.
Traditional Waldorf curriculum does not include Advanced Placement courses; therefore, they are not offered at EWS High School. All students take the same courses, with a few elective choices. Most courses in the high school meet or exceed the traditional “honors” level. Keen critical thinking is fostered in all courses, and the curriculum is designed to develop a specific area of intellectual capacity at each developmental or grade level.
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 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.
Fine/Practical Arts: 3D Sculpting; 2D Black & White Drawing; Coppersmithing; Woodworking & Pottery.
10th 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.
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.
Fine/Practical Arts: 3D Sculpting; 2D Color Drawing & Painting; Woodworking; Cooking/Weaving
11th 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.
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.
Fine/Practical Arts: 3D Sculpting; 2D Master Painting; Blacksmithing; Woodworking
Each student carries out a one-week internship in the fall of the 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. Recent internships have been at a veterinary clinic, goat farm, Habitat for Humanity, environmental consulting groups, hospital Labor & Delivery unit, and with political lobbyist groups.
12th Grade: Who? The 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.
Fine/Practical Arts: 2D Open Studio — Portraits; 3D Sculpting — Human Head; Blacksmithing; Woodworking
All Seniors conceive their independent Senior Projects in May of the Junior year, and then work with a community mentor throughout the senior year until their presentation to the community in April. Senior Projects are meant to challenge the student to learn new skills and perform significant research in a specific area of interest. Recent projects include architectural design, neuroscience research, contra-dance calling, 3D animation, book publishing, writing and directing a one-act play, music composition/arrangement/directing, and statistical research.
High School Trips
We begin each year with the entire high school going on a three-day retreat to build community and set the tone for the academic year. We typically go camping in a natural setting (mountains, lake, etc.) within North Carolina. Each class goes on a week-long curriculum trip towards the end of the school year. These trips are usually geared toward a specific topic that was covered during the school year. For example, the 11th graders have gone to the Natural Tunnel State Park in Virginia for their Botany trip, and 10th graders have gone on a sailing trip on the coast of North Carolina to coincide with their Odyssey block. Various day trips are organized by individual teachers on a regular basis throughout the year. These trips greatly enhance the content of what’s being studied in the classroom.
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. 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.
Recent College Acceptances
Oxford College of Emory University
Pennsylvania State University
Queens University of Charlotte*
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
Agnes Scott College*
Bryn Mawr College*
Hampshire College *
Indiana University at Bloomington*
Loyola University of Maryland*