Sterling College is often a good fit for students who are searching for a college experience that builds upon their Waldorf experience. There is a lot of similarity between the culture and curriculum of Sterling College and the holistic educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner as practiced in Waldorf schools today.
In recent years several graduates of Waldorf high schools have joined the Sterling College community, and the success of these individuals has inspired us to reach out to more Waldorf schools to raise awareness about Sterling.
Here are eight reasons why we think students who thrive at Waldorf schools will want to check out Sterling College.
A Balance of Theory and Practice
Sterling’s motto is “Working Hands. Working Minds.” There is a college-wide emphasis on both classroom theory and hands-on practice that will be familiar to Waldorf students who like to approach their learning in three dimensions. About half of all coursework at Sterling takes place outside the traditional classroom, and students are constantly expected to apply their learning in real-world contexts.
Focus on Environmental Stewardship
Sterling is a college of environmental stewardship, with a mission and curriculum focused on addressing the ecological crises we face as a society. Waldorf schools have long embodied a focus on environmental stewardship, and practiced an education model that emphasizes the exploration of connections between humanity and the natural world.
Waldorf schools cultivate creative learners, and Sterling is a college where creativity is highly valued. The Sterling mission statement speaks to the need for “creative problem solvers” and, although Sterling is not an arts college, students are encouraged to use the arts to interpret the human relationship with the natural world.
The sky is the limit when it comes to creative expression at Sterling, and dancers, dreamers, artists, musicians, and activists are welcome here.
Sustainable and Biodynamic Agriculture
When I’ve visited Waldorf high schools like Hawthorne Valley School, Kimberton Waldorf, Shining Mountain Waldorf, and Sacramento Waldorf, I’ve been deeply impressed by the campus vegetable gardens where students and teachers work together to grow healthful food.
The Sterling College campus includes a working farm and extensive gardens that produce twenty percent of the food served in the college dining hall, and Sterling has the highest percentage of “Real Food” of any college in the country. Sustainable Agriculture is currently the most popular academic major at Sterling, and many students elect to self-design a major that combines Sustainable Agriculture and Outdoor Education coursework.
Although many Waldorf schools are expanding, generally speaking Waldorf schools are small schools where students and faculty are able to develop authentic personal relationships. Sterling, with its total enrollment of 125 students, is a college where everyone – from the President to each incoming first-year student – is on a first-name basis.
The weekly community meeting, held once a week in the Sterling dining hall, is a tradition that feels deeply familiar to students with a background in Waldorf education.
Self-direction – and Structure
About half of all Sterling College students end up self-designing their own major in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. Students can self-design by focusing on a specific element of an established major – for example, self-designing in Wetlands Ecology rather than choosing the standard Ecology major.
Many Sterling students also self-design a major by combining elements of multiple majors, such as a self-design in Agroecology, which combines coursework in Sustainable Agriculture and Ecology.
The opportunity to design your own major is often especially appealing to students who appreciate the student-centered approach of Waldorf education, in which students are asked to explore their own creative potential instead of checking boxes on the way to a standardized degree.
A Waldorf education engages the whole student, and a holistic approach to education is also part of the DNA of Sterling College. From joining together to work outside on All College Work Day to voicing appreciations for one another during community meeting, every Sterling College student is wholeheartedly engaged in their educational experience.
Healthy Idealism…and Relentless Practicality
Sure, Sterling College is an idealistic place – we want to fundamentally change how people relate to the environment and to one another. Waldorf education is often called idealistic as well, with the implication of impracticality.
However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the outcomes of Waldorf education are excellent, and choosing a Waldorf school is a wise and practical choice for students and families who want the best chance of success in college and in life.
With a strong emphasis on career counseling and job preparation, courses in small business planning, and fundamental training in tools, writing and communications, and group dynamics, Sterling is also a relentlessly practical educational institution. The mission of environmental stewardship and the education of each and every student is too important to approach with anything less than complete seriousness of purpose.