Asa is a junior at The Putney School, a co-educational boarding school for grades 9-12 located in Putney, Vermont. He attended the Brooklyn Waldorf School from 1st grade to 8th grade.
I arrived at Brooklyn Waldorf in 1st grade. I remember feeling the stress and pressure of academics at a very young age in public school and I was not feeling very confident in myself. I thought school had to be this terrible thing, but when I arrived at Brooklyn Waldorf, I experienced this stark contrast. I was having so much fun, I didn’t actually think it was school.
I didn’t really experience a shift in the way things were taught until 7th grade. That was a big turning point because that was when we started receiving grades. Until then, we had not been assessed in that manner. I liked it. I think it made me into a better student. I was at an age where I felt confident in my abilities to apply myself academically. And now that I’m in high school, I’m happier with where I am.
In regards to my academics, I think Brooklyn Waldorf has allowed me to be flexible. My Brooklyn Waldorf education was all about getting me excited about different things. Through the Main Lessons, I experienced different facets of knowledge. The experience facilitated an openness in the student and an appreciation for knowledge in general. Now that I’m in high school – and as I look ahead towards college – that makes me excited to try new and different classes.
Recently, in my pre-calculus class at Putney, we were asked to measure the different elevations of a cart traveling around a ferris wheel. In addition to figuring out the mathematical solution to the problem, we were asked to put together a visual representation of the problem. While my classmates went to Google to find pictures of ferris wheels, I decided to create a 3D model of a ferris wheel, modeling it to the height and dimensions of George Washington Gale Ferris’s original ferris wheel at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It’s this artistic approach and confidence to make my work into art that I think is unique to Waldorf education. It’s about inserting an artistic approach into something that doesn’t necessarily take art into it. The experience reminded me of the Main Lesson books I did while I was at Brooklyn Waldorf.
I remember Ms. Gimenez working with us on our many drawings and art projects. I used to get very frustrated with my work. I would get mad at the work I did and would destroy my work and start over. But Ms. Gimenez made me stick with the process from start to finish and it has made me into a better artist.
I remember our 8th grade project presentations. We were asked to independently study an important topic, put together a presentation and convince the audience why this topic deserves our attention. I chose to research and present on the food industry in United States. I looked into industrial farming and the way animals were being treated in industrial farms. The experience helped me become a better public speaker. I talked about the ways cows are treated on industrial farms. The presentation was an opportunity to come out of my shell and it came at a key moment in my life as an academic. It’s a time that I remember feeling really confident in myself.
I loved the history main lesson blocks. In 8th grade, we studied the industrial revolution which was very fascinating to me. From the history of this period, we also studied people like Nicola Tesla. Learning about him really struck a chord in me. His life and his achievements have inspired me. I think Waldorf really exposes you to many different facets of history. If some stick, you make a mental note and research these things on your own. I think it’s this general exposure to a topic that you wouldn’t necessarily get in a standardized school environment.
I’m taking computer science, pre-calculus, Spanish and American Studies. The American Studies class is an integrated course between the History and English departments. We study American literature and connect that literature for a richer exploration of American society, culture and history. For example, in this class we are studying the history of slavery in the United States through an assortment of authors. As we’re reading these books, we discuss racial oppression and violence and make connections to modern US history and the places we still need to go in order to achieve racial equality. It’s one of the key issues of our time.
I love playing music. I play a lot of piano – specifically jazz piano. I’m also really interested in architecture and sketching buildings on SketchUp – a 3D computer modeling tool. I try to insert it into every class I can (like the pre-calculus class I talked about earlier). In my English class, we had an open-ended project after reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” We were asked to define ourselves and make your own version of that. I decided to design a tiny house and make an animation of that house.
I’m keeping my options open. I’m interested in studying design. I have no idea what college I want to attend. Maybe I’ll defer acceptance and take a gap year for travel, do odd jobs and have some life experiences so I can see what kind of role I can have in the world. I want to keep everything open.
I would definitely encourage them to attend Brooklyn Waldorf! I think it’s a good place to be. As a student, you are endowed with an appreciation for academics in general and a desire to know a lot about everything because you are exposed to so many facets of knowledge. I think that’s really important for people. At Brooklyn Waldorf, there no “one plan”. You aren’t expected to do “one thing”. I think Waldorf is good for exposing students to lots of areas in the academic world and for allowing students to figure out what speaks to them.