Giving the Elevator Speech: What is the essence of Waldorf Education?

Here’s the scenario:  You have 11 seconds to tell someone about the Waldorf school.  Quick!  What do you say?

Back a few years ago when Great Oak School was just beginning and we had to put together a website I did a little research project on Waldorf school websites to see what other schools were putting out on the web. I was looking for what words Waldorf Schools were using on their home pages to describe their programs. I was hoping to see some commonality in the descriptors and base some of our own descriptors off of what I found.  The practical question related to websites but the underlying question for me was, “What is the essence of Waldorf education?”  The question is still a valid one today.  How do we communicate to new people what our school program is about with as much clarity as possible?

From 25 English speaking websites of Waldorf schools taken from a broad selection of geographical locations, including England and Australia, the top 7 words used on these 25 sites that I sampled from Waldorf School main home pages in 2009 were:

  1. art/artistic
  2. curriculum
  3. academic
  4. developmental
  5. responsibility
  6. creative/creativity
  7. think/thinking

So then based on that, the ever elusive elevator speech might go something like:

Waldorf Schools offer an academic and artistic curriculum that matches a child’s development, and promote responsibility, creativity and thinking.

by Laura Gabelsberg

Read a CNN Article about the rise of Waldorf schools in China
The Rise of Waldorf Schools in China


3 thoughts on “Giving the Elevator Speech: What is the essence of Waldorf Education?

  1. Emily

    I’m always so impressed by the richness and depth of the curriculum. I also would add something about maintaining a living connection with nature, with seasons and cycles. Perhaps that is included in “matching a child’s development?” It is hard to know how to describe it! Thank you for this!


  2. Jeremy Smith

    Hello Laura,
    As someone who once tried to work out an elevator conversation for biodynamic farming, I know how very difficult it is to encapsulate the essence of a complex subject in just a few words – so well done for your example above!

    If the elevator were going up another couple of floors, I might add something about allowing the children to have a proper childhood, “age appropriate” education and the way in which every subject is taught artistically – but maybe this would be more of a water cooler conversation!

    Greetings from the UK,



    1. Laura Gabelsberg Post author


      Greetings from hot and humid Houston, Texas! Thanks for your comment. It is so difficult to explain Waldorf Education to someone who genuinely asks for a simple explanation. Perhaps the trick is to focus on one element and try to explain what’s most important about that one thing. This topic of how to encapsulate it is important to me as someone who is working to promote a young school in an uncharted geographical area. Houston is a very politically conservative region and yet we find many families who come to our school that love it but didn’t know they wanted Waldorf until they came to us.



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