How Our Garden Grows: Biodynamic Practices

Last September during our annual DWS Michaelmas festivities, the 3rd grade students began exploring biodynamic gardening and farming techniques under the guidance of Candyce Sweda and their beloved class teacher, Mr. Linstrom. 


After putting the garden beds to rest for the season, the children then carefully buried cow horns with fertile manure in the garden in a gentle spiral that remained untouched until today! This fundamental biodynamic practice is the basis for soil fertility, and offers renewal of degraded soils. This Steiner practice is also often the first preparation used during the change over to the fully organic biodynamic system.


With the sun above and the faint scent of our magnolia trees in the air, the students gathered and spent a beautiful morning outdoors as they knew it was time to awaken our garden beds and soil as we celebrate the spring season! 

 A future Detroit Waldorf student looks on as the 3rd grade prepares to work in the school garden. 

A future Detroit Waldorf student looks on as the 3rd grade prepares to work in the school garden. 

5 Questions with....DWS Alum & 1st Grade Teacher, Simone Shurney!

As part of our alumni outreach project, we ask Detroit Waldorf alum to answer five questions about their time at DWS, and the impact the school has made on their lives. This month, we are excited to have Simone Shurney -an alumna of Detroit Waldorf with an impressive educational background and current DWS 1st grade teacher- share her DWS journey with us: 


1.    What years did you attend (and graduate from) Detroit Waldorf, and where did you study after DWS?

I started school at Detroit Waldorf in the second grade in 1996 and graduated in 2003.  I graduated Valedictorian from Cass Technical High School in 2007.  From there, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in sociology and a minor in Spanish Literature in 2011.  I earned my Master’s Degree in Educational Policy at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and completed my Waldorf Teacher Training in the fall of 2014.

2.    Can you describe your time at DWS in 5 words or less?

Self-fortifying, grounding, uplifting, enlightening, inspirational.


3.    What is your current profession, and how did DWS help you prepare for this career?

Currently, I am the first grade teacher at the Detroit Waldorf School.  Needless to say, my Waldorf education helped me to prepare for this career choice.  When I think about the impact my experience as a student has on my work as a teacher, I am very grateful for the way our school helped me to cultivate a deep sense of interest and appreciation for a great diversity of academic and artistic subjects.  While many educational communities center their energy on guiding students to “narrow” their focus and develop very particular skills that will prepare them for one career path or another, I feel that our school strives to do just the opposite.  Our dynamic curriculum exposed me to areas of study I would not have experienced otherwise, and my wide range of interests and passions strengthens me to work creatively with my students so that they in turn feel able to purposefully integrate their many talents and skills in whatever area of work they choose.   

4.     Can you share a favorite memory of your time at DWS with us?

I used to love our family gatherings at Niki’s Pizza in Greektown after middle school basketball games.  When I reflect on these moments, I am touched by the way the school brought our particular group of families together, and I appreciate that these occasions offered me the opportunity to extend my social circle and form meaningful relationships with my classmates’ parents, siblings and extended family.

5. What advice can you share for future graduates or anyone considering attending DWS.


I think one of the most important gifts of Waldorf education is that it gives us the consciousness and strength to explore and discover our true selves.  It is my hope that fellow and future graduates everywhere will use their depth of self-understanding as a pathway for developing meaningful connections with others, so that we feel empowered to join together in our striving to lead our best lives and create our best world.

Music to Our Ears -DWS Strings Students' Blue Ribbon Performance

Remarks from our Music Teacher - (Strings) Grades 3-8, Marc Haas: 

On Saturday, January 13, students from Detroit Waldorf School participated in the Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association (MSBOA) District XV Solo & Ensemble Festival.  This is the first time that DWS has participated in MSBOA activities since the early 80's.  As a testament to the diligence and work ethic of our students, every student that signed up to participate was well prepared; every student received a First Division rating (with this rating, each student also received a medal with a blue ribbon).  In all my decades of teaching, I have NEVER before had ALL my students receive a "1" at S&E.  Truly outstanding!

The students that participated, and received a 1st Division rating were:


7th grade, solo event

Bianca, Penelope, Christian, Isabella, & Leah.

8th grade, solo event

Haleigh, Amelia, Lily-Claire & Liam. 

The following students also received a 1st Division rating for an ensemble or group event:

Amelia, Penelope, Leah & Lilly-Claire for their performance of the original version of the Pachelbel Canon.

Heleigh and Keisha for their performance of a duet by Mozart.


MSBOA is a voluntary association of schools and instrumental music teachers from the state of Michigan.  Entirely funded by membership and event entry fees, MSBOA provides or participates in a number of performance and educational opportunities for Michigan music students, including the All-State Orchestra and Bands, selected by competitive audition in the fall; Solo & Ensemble Festival; Band & Orchestra Festival; various clinics; and the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, which includes the Honors Orchestra and Bands, with members selected from the outstanding performers at the Solo & Ensemble Festivals.

Posted on February 6, 2018 .

DWS in the News: Screenagers & Screen Time

In preparation for our highly anticipated screening of the award-winning documentary Screenagers on January 25th, representatives from Detroit Waldorf School including teachers, faculty, and partnering experts were invited to appear on several news stations to discuss the importance of this film and the effects screen time has on children and how we as a community can better prepare our children to navigate the digital world. 

For more information and tips on how your family can go screen-free at home please review the Screenagers Parent Guide and the Screen-Free Week Parent Guide

Posted on February 1, 2018 .

Mr. Gumbleton's Favorite Extended Care Recipes

Detroit Waldorf School was so excited to welcome Ryan Gumbleton this fall as our new Extended Care & Break Camp Coordinator not only because of his outstanding background, but also for the his love of food and culinary skills! 


Everyday we hear from not only the students in Mr. Gumbleton's care, but also from parents just how delicious the healthful daily snacks he prepares are. In preparation for the upcoming winter holiday break we asked Mr. Gumbleton to share some of his "greatest hits" recipes, allowing students to continue enjoying their seasonal snacks all break long! 

Garlic Flatbread: 

  • 2 cups flour (GF or all purpose)
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella (Daiya dairy free or your favorite dairy cheese)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly mix in oil first and then water until a ball is formed. Sprinkle flour on a working surface and knead dough until it is a consistent texture. Roll dough on a greased pan until very thin. Lightly sauce the dough just enough to keep it moist. Cover your dough with minced garlic and shredded cheese and place in the over for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. Slice and serve!


Harvest Hash:

  • 16 oz Black beans 
  • 2 small sweet potatoes 
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Soak beans overnight. Strain and rinse beans (You can save the water from the soaked beans for a natural dye! It makes a beautiful gray/lavender color). Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, add soaked beans to water and bring to a simmer. Simmer beans for about 50 minutes or until tender (Add salt, pepper and 1 clove minced garlic to beans after about 30 minutes of simmering). Peel sweet potatoes and chop all veggies and cook in a large pan with olive oil, season with salt and pepper until the sweets are tender. In a separate pot puff quinoa in 3 cups of water by simmering for about 10 minutes until almost all the water has been absorbed. Strain beans and add to the veggies along with the quinoa. Stir all ingredients and cook for 5 more minutes then serve!


Monster Mouths:

  • Apples
  • Sun butter
  • Raisins/chocolate chips/marshmallows

Wash and slice apples into 8 equal wedges. Slice those wedges in half to make the lips of your monster mouths! Spread sun butter in between the two slices making an apple "sandwich" and place either raisins, chocolate chips or marshmallows on the exposed sun butter to make the teeth of your monster mouth! Serve and enjoy!     

Posted on December 18, 2017 .

5 Questions With...DWS Alumni!

 Megan and Kate as students at Detroit Waldorf enjoying our annual Michaelmas festival. 

Megan and Kate as students at Detroit Waldorf enjoying our annual Michaelmas festival. 


Detroit Waldorf School recently introduced a fun monthly Q&A series with our alumni as a way to reflect and reconnect over past students' fondest memories at DWS. Since launching in September as part of our monthly alum newsletter, 5 Questions With... has received an outpour of responses and wishes to participate. 

While all of the recent submissions have been as wonderful and unique as our outstanding alumni, we were especially drawn to a joint submission from long-time friends and Class of 1999 alum, Kate Gmyrek and Megan Myers, that we like to refer to ask our "Then & Now" story. Enjoy!





Kate Gmyrek

1. What years did you attend (and graduate from) Detroit Waldorf, and where did you study after DWS?

· Attended Waldorf Kinderhaus 1988-1991 and DWS 1991-1999. I graduated Berkley High in 2003, DePaul University in 2007 (BA) and USC (Master of Landscape Architecture) in 2013.

2. Can you describe your time at DWS in 5 words or less?

· Foundational, inclusive, imaginative and fun.

3. What is your current profession, and how did DWS help you prepare for this career?

· I’m a Landscape Architect, which is a design profession rooted in both the arts and natural sciences. I have no doubt the arts-based curriculum influenced my trajectory into design, as well as our annual springtime permaculture main lesson in the garden and the regional environmental history classes, much of which stick with me to this day. An eye for color and an interest in ecology have gotten me much further than I would have imagined!

4. Can you share a favorite memory of your time at DWS with us?

· My favorite memories are of the annual traditions, the St. Michaelmas festival, May Day, Santa Lucia, and Advent Garden to name a few. They are simple but beautiful events that yearly tie students to the changing of the seasons, and acknowledge each class’s changing role within the structure of the school as each year passes. They are also moments of shared community, when the whole school along with friends and family get together to do something fun.

5. What advice can you share for future graduates or anyone considering attending DWS

· Future graduates should embrace the unique perspective a Waldorf education enables to find the pleasure and diversity of experience that allow for a curious life.

Megan Myers

1. What years did you attend (and graduate from) Detroit Waldorf, and where did you study after DWS?

· Attended Waldorf Kinderhaus 1988-1991, Attended DWS 1991-1999, Graduated Mercy HS in 2003 and University of Michigan in 2007

2. Can you describe your time at DWS in 5 words or less?

· A place adventure is expected! 

3. What is your current profession, and how did DWS help you prepare for this career?

· I work in partnership marketing at The Princeton Review, and I've held similar roles at American Express and the National Basketball Association. What DWS, and Waldorf education on the whole, taught me was the importance of diversity and collaboration. The small class size facilitated a team atmosphere which fostered collaboration and an appreciation for diversity of thought and approach to challenges. There is no way you're going to get two companies to enter into a successful joint venture unless there is a team-first mindset and a genuine appreciation for different solutions based approaches.  

4. Can you share a favorite memory of your time at DWS with us?

· Oh, there are so many! Camping trips, car pool rides, Handwork with Mrs. Lalinksky, May Day festivities, the back staircase from the gym to the auditorium (that we weren't supposed to use!), Basketball tournaments, Student/Teacher softball game, Mr. Honey's Circus, playing Puck in the 8th grade play and splitting my pants on stage?! The list could go on...

5. What advice can you share for future graduates or anyone considering attending DWS

· The foundation that a Waldorf education lays within a child is unique and will serve them throughout their entire life. A thirst for knowledge and adventure, along with the values of kindness, appreciation for diversity, and it instills an independent spirit in each child.

 Megan and Kate, still friends after all these years! 

Megan and Kate, still friends after all these years! 

If you are an alumni, or parent of an alum, and would like to participate in our 5 Questions With... series, please email Katherine Feldhouse at 

Posted on October 24, 2017 .

DWS in the News: Wellness at Waldorf's Global Cooking on Fox 2 Detroit

The Detroit Waldorf School's Wellness at Waldorf program, now in our second year,  continues to grow in support of our school's community health and nutrition initiatives! In addition to last year's popular cooking and nutrition workshops, wellness talks and yoga classes, we have added an after school cooking course to compliment our current programming.

Led by local chef, James Jasionowski, this six-week course touched on global cuisine spanning the continents from East to West mirroring our students' curriculum and studies while introducing countries and cultures that are important to the fabric of our Detroit neighborhoods and residents including Syria, Korean, France, and the Middle East. 

As soon as the course was announced, the class was full within days and a waitlist quickly formed. Our families and staff were not the only ones excited by learning about cuisine from around the globe, as the media quickly took notice as well! Fox 2 Detroit recently invited chef James, Wellness at Waldorf coordinator Katherine Feldhouse and several students to discuss the program and share our favorite recipe for bibimbap on air during a Saturday morning cooking segment! 

We had such a wonderful time, and look forward to our wellness event on November 3rd with chef James as we create a space to learn about global cuisine and techniques to cook together as a family. We invite you to join us from 5-6PM on the 3rd, and encourage you to RSVP today as space is limited. 

DWSGlobalCooking112017Flyer copy.jpg
Posted on October 24, 2017 .

8th Grade Reflections on Temagami

The eighth grade class at Detroit Waldorf School started the school year with a trip to Temagami, ON, where they canoed, portaged and camped for seven days and six nights. The class of 20 students were divided into two groups and each group of students were accompanied by two guides from Northwaters outfitters and a teacher from the school. These are a few excerpts from a writing exercise that the students were asked to reflect on some of the highlights of their adventure:

● As I pushed my foot into the stiff, cold wet sock I felt a chill go up my leg and whole body. I just wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed. But I knew the only way that was going to happen was if I kept going. It wasn’t easy but in the end I was proud of myself.
● I felt the canoe hoisted on the back of my neck and shoulders. My legs trembled as I tried to keep my feet from slipping on the rocks. Once we got to the end of the portage, we put the canoe in the water and I felt a million times lighter.
● It was drizzling and we needed more fire wood. Surrounded by rocks and fallen trees we ventured up a slippery and wet moss covered hill, we finally made it up. We still need to collect the wood. On our way back our arms were heavy from carrying the wood, we threw it down the hill and I tried to carefully climb down but my foot slipped on a rock and I slid the rest of the way down. I was fine, although caked in dirt and moss.
● I missed my parents and brother.
● I never got used to carrying the canoe. Anytime I thought I was close to being done, it seemed like the trail got longer and longer.
● The thing about banak is that we had to make it ourselves everyday. I guess you could say it tasted like bread.
● I thought it would be fun sharing a tent with six friends, but it wasn’t. After a while the tent smelled horrible and sometimes you’d wake up with someone else’s hair in your mouth.
● The roll of toilet paper got wet and the thing about using wet, crumpled, and tattered toilet paper is that it is highly ineffective.
● The thing about banak is that it depends on who cooks it sometimes it was good and other times it was kind of mushy in the middle and tasted like raw dough. We put wild butter and jam on it and ate it anyway, it was lunch.
● Temagami was very hard, I’m glad I went and I think most of my friends are glad too.
● Carrying a canoe is like being Atlas, like supporting the world on your shoulders. When you first start, it seems like an impossible task. But you keep going and your spotter is encouraging you the whole time.
● Collecting firewood in the rain is hopeless!
● My favorite part of the day was setting up camp for the evening then taking off my wet shoes and wet socks then putting on dry socks and dry shoes. It was the best feeling.
● I was not very excited about the Temagami trip but I’m glad I did it. I’m so much stronger
than I thought I was.
● After getting back home the world felt different and newer.
● I guess I learned a lot about myself and got to see my friends in a different way. We accomplished things we probably didn’t think we could. We had to work together and we can do a lot more than we realize.

Posted on September 26, 2017 .

Back-to-School Campus Updates

Over the course of the last few months, Detroit Waldorf's beautiful campus has undergone several updates in support of the American Disabilities Act. We are pleased to share that our new ADA ramp is nearly complete, with just the addition of landscaping left before the first day of school. We are also in the final stages of adding a handicap-accessible restroom to the first floor.

 Early stages of our ADA ramp construction, shortly after breaking ground. 

Early stages of our ADA ramp construction, shortly after breaking ground. 

Consulting with renowned architect Robert Black, project architect Anthony Morin (Rudolf Steiner High School of Ann Arbor, Class of 2004) dedicated long hours making sure to adhere the historical nature and design of our beautiful Albert Kahn-designed home while working toward making our building accessible to all. 

 Architect Anthony Morin lays stone sourced and upcycled from one of Detroit's first paved streets, Atwater Street. 

Architect Anthony Morin lays stone sourced and upcycled from one of Detroit's first paved streets, Atwater Street. 

We are extremely thankful to everyone who made this large project possible, especially the Wilhelm family whose continued generosity funded our ADA upgrades and capital improvements. As a non-profit, we would not be able to make such important capital improvements without the support of our community, grants and donations. If you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to our fund, please visit our donation page.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing everyone on the first day of school! 

Posted on August 23, 2017 .

A Sunny Look Back at DWS Summer Arts Camp

Detroit Waldorf School hosted a community-wide Summer Arts Camp on our campus for the second year in a row, and to rave reviews. The grounds were alive with laughter, singing, drumming, bells, dancing and colorful art. Children were given free reign to tap into their creative spirit during free-maker time. The children learned new skills and techniques while working on projects with their teachers, all who are working artists in their own right. 

Inspired by the living gardens on the school's grounds, campers learned to prepare healthful dishes - cooking collaboratively with each other under the watchful eye of Wellness at Waldorf Coordinator, Katherine Feldhouse -to share at snack time. Some of the camp favorites included in-season sushi, whole grain personal pizzas, organic egg frittata, and vegan brownies sweetened with applesauce. 

With the summer session already behind us, this year's camp (and campers) have us excited and inspired to begin planning for our next break camp with the help of our new Extended Care and Break Camp Coordinator, Ryan Gumbleton. Join us as we welcome Ryan, and as we thank all of our outstanding Summer Arts Camps teachers -Ms. Dardas, Ms. Gustafson, and Ms. Gaddy- for another wonderful summer here at Detroit Waldorf School. 

How Our Garden Grows

At Detroit Waldorf we are fortunate to have two very special dedicated gardens on our four-acre campus: one for the Early Childhood Center, and one for grade school classes. Each garden has been designed specifically to flow with our historic building, organic landscape, and to compliment the nature around us.  

With a quieter campus during the summer months, we felt it was an ideal time to reflect on, adapt and rejuvenate each garden to reflect our growing school's needs. The ECC garden will host several raised bed boxes for the 2017-18 school year, highlighting seasonal and local vegetables, herbs and plants. The graders' garden will continue to grow plant life supporting our place-based and holistic education and curriculum, with the addition of a Three Sisters garden and a sunflower wall planted by Mr. Trombly's first grade class. We are please to introduce several new compost containers as well. 

All are welcome to join us as we continue to work on -and tend to- these special green spaces. If you are interested in volunteering in either garden, please email Katherine Feldhouse at 

We look forward to updating you on our progress as summer continues and throughout the school year.

-DWS Garden Committee 

 Image courtesy of DWS parent Sherry Gaines

Image courtesy of DWS parent Sherry Gaines

Posted on July 13, 2017 .

Congratulations Class of 2017

Detroit Waldorf School is proud to present our 8th grade graduating class of 2017! Our students will attend the following high schools this fall: 

The Roeper School, University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Henry Ford Academy, Cass Technical High School, Troy High School, International Academy in Bloomfield Hills and Grosse Pointe South High School.

Warm wishes to each of our graduates as they enter the next stage of their educational journey! Join us on Friday, June 9th for the graduation ceremony at 6pm in the auditorium.

Posted on May 31, 2017 .

DWS in the News: The Detroit News Covers May Day Festivities

On May 2nd, DWS held the annual May Day festivities and celebration. Despite the chilly temperatures and grey weather, our lawns were flooded with smiling faces as flower crowns were crafted, families and friends shared healthful snacks with their classes, and maypole dance performances were celebrated. Also in attendance, The Detroit News, joined in on the fun while capturing beautiful images of what is truly a school wide favorite festival! 

Staffers and parents also took many wonderful images of the event. Here is just a taste of what was shared! Enjoy!

DWS in the News: DWS Teachers Advocate for Cursive Writing

DWS grades teachers Linda Williams and Diane Reed were recently featured in two Detroit news outlets on the topic of cursive handwriting, and the important role this skill plays in our students' curriculum. View the segment and the article below: 

Dr. Linda Williams speaks about the advantages of cursive writing and how Detroit Waldorf School will continue to teach cursive in their curriculum.


Time to bring back cursive writing to schools?

Posted on March 28, 2017 by M Lapham on

Those of us who were in elementary school in the 20th century may be shocked to learn cursive writing has been disappearing from public schools … but there is a movement to bring it back.

To many, writing in cursive seems quaint, if not antiquated, in the age of technology when computers, which depend on typing skills, seem to rule.

Most Michigan schools no longer teach cursive, but some people are thinking that may be a mistake. One of the biggest pushes for cursive has been the Detroit Waldorf School (DWS), which never removed it from the curriculum, and policy makers have taken notice.

The first two grades at DWS are spent on block letters, also known as print. They start learning cursive in the third grade (sound familiar?). This grade is chosen because that is when children’s fine motor skills have developed enough to learn the flowing style of writing properly.

“Our third grade curriculum is designed to give children a broader view of the world around them. In language arts, students dissect parts of speech in grammar, as well as spelling and cursive writing to facilitate independent writing skills,” the school says.

DWS, and its continued commitment to cursive, has inspired a movement to get every school in Michigan teaching it again.

Legislators in five other states, including Tennessee and New Jersey, are trying to mandate cursive instruction in public schools. Part of the reason is to ensure when children leave school they have a proper signature and are able to read important older documents like the Declaration of Independence or their parents and grandparents letters.

There may be other advantages as well.

“A number of studies point to the importance of learning cursive writing for improving brain development and activating areas of the brain responsible for working memory, language, and thinking,” says Diane Reed, fourth grade class teacher and DWS faculty chair. “Learning cursive improves fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.”

Other studies have shown cursive writers have better reading and writing skills as a whole. This may help with certain learning disabilities.

“One could make the case that learning cursive is actually easier than learning to print, as there are no opportunities for confusing one letter for another, as some children do with printed letters like b and d,” says Reed. “This is especially important for children who are dyslexic.

“It is also quicker to write in cursive than it is to print, which is important for taking notes. Taking notes by hand has the benefit of engaging students in active thinking and discerning important points, since it is impossible to write down everything.  They are actually processing what they are hearing, and this leads to better understanding and retention,” she says.

Daniel Coupland, associate professor of education who is featured in Hillsdale College’s online course called “A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education: Theory and Practice,” agrees learning to write in cursive is a great learning tool.

“If you have to form the letters with your hands … because there’s some kind of connection with using your hands to form those letters,” he says. “It cements it in your mind a lot better. I understand that we’re moving in a particular direction in terms of technology, but I mourn the loss of those things if we move completely away from it.”

Cursive has been so engrained into us that many people didn’t even know it vanished from schools. It has been taught for as long as anyone alive can remember, and it seems many people think that the loss of it is a mistake.

The future maybe typed, but you can’t decipher the past unless you can write.

DWS in the News: Hour Detroit Magazine

HOUR Magazine covered our 50th year anniversary with a four page article featuring beautiful photos by DWS alum Cybelle Codish! Read on:  




 Published: February 28, 2017

With a rich history of milestones and challenges, the Detroit Waldorf School celebrates 50 years as a unique, community-driven institution — and with record enrollment to boot.


If you could peek into a classroom at any point in the Detroit Waldorf School’s 50-year history, things would look remarkably similar.

You’d see first-graders learning to cook, second-graders learning to knit, third-graders picking up the violin, and students throughout the school’s pre-K through eighth-grade classes practicing eurhythmy (expressive moment). And even now, when over half of DWS’ 230 students are too young to know a world without the iPhone, you still wouldn’t see a single one checking messages between classes.

But what’s most remarkable about the Detroit Waldorf School isn’t that it’s endured despite its adherence to its “developmentally appropriate” approach to education, but because of it.

Founded by German philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education strives to “bring forth the gifts that all children possess” through a curriculum that integrates the arts into the academics. Students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and teachers typically remain with a class as it progresses through the grades. In lieu of traditional textbooks, grading systems, standardized tests, or computers, the educational philosophy relies on creativity, imaginative play, and independence to help each child reach his or her full potential.

“It’s an education that really stretches the human being to connect to every part of the world,” says Simone Shurney, a current DWS teacher and ’03 graduate. “You really learn about yourself so that you can feel confident in yourself and have some sense of direction when you go out into the world and when you interact with other people.”

The unique educational approach was introduced to Detroit in the 1960s by Detroit physician Rudolf Wilhelm and his wife, Amelia. The German immigrant couple had long been interested in establishing a Waldorf school in the city, and in 1966, just a year before the ’67 riots/rebellion, DWS opened as one of the city’s first private, racially integrated schools.

Originally, the school was located in the basement of a Methodist church, but later moved into its current building in Indian Village, a former Liggett girls’ school designed in 1913 by Albert Kahn. Last September, a commemorative marker designating DWS as a Michigan Historic Site was erected on the school’s lawn. 

Today, DWS is one of over 150 Waldorf schools in the U.S., and one of two in Michigan (the other is in Ann Arbor). 

Though the school has indeed remained open for five decades, its existence hasn’t always been secure. In the ’70s, a disagreement inspired some parents to form a breakaway school. In the ’80s, DWS’ high school closed. 

And in the late ’80s and early ’90s, relocation was on the table.

“Like most other private or independent schools in Detroit, we looked at perhaps moving to the suburbs,” says Linda Williams, a third-grade teacher at DWS. “But we stayed and made a real commitment to the city that we had to have an alternative form of education here.”

In 2008, when the recession hit, the school’s enrollment dipped tremendously. Dissolution seemed imminent, but again, DWS found a way to keep its doors open.

“Teachers took pay cuts, administration took a 10 percent pay cut, we combined classes, and we had to lay off teachers,” says Charis Calender-Suemnick, enrollment and outreach director at DWS. “I remember parents attending an all community meeting when we downsized and people were crying. It was just so emotional.”

More recently, DWS has been flourishing. Within the past five years, the school has nearly doubled its enrollment from around 120 students to 230. Faculty members attribute the growth to multiple factors including a more structured marketing campaign and its ability to adapt to a changing Detroit.

“The things that survive in Detroit are the things that respond to Detroit,” Williams says. “We’ve really embraced our Detroitness and that is reflected in the community that’s come together.”

“It’s almost as if the openness to Waldorf education has grown with an openness to Detroit,” Shurney adds. “Students are able to come here and feel good about living in Detroit, going to a school in Detroit, in such a beautiful, historical place, in spite of all the difficulties that we’ve had.”

Parents in and around Detroit have been sending their children to DWS for decades, but as Detroit Public Schools continue to grapple with mismanagement, budgetary issues, and a general lack of resources, parents living in the city proper continue to seek alternatives to DPS beyond both charter and parochial schools.

“My husband and I have always worked and lived in the city and I wanted a school that was in the city,” says Sarida Scott-Montgomery, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at DWS. “I was extremely drawn to their motto, which is ‘cultivating a lifelong love of learning.’ I have older stepchildren, and particularly with my stepson, I could really tell that as he went through the [public] school process, he wasn’t enjoying learning. It wasn’t sparking any kind of passion in him for learning.”

New Center resident Sandi Heaselgrave says she and her husband were also looking for a local school with a more alternative approach to education. Heaselgrave’s son is now a first-grader at DWS.

“We were looking for a very diverse student body, and we were also looking for somewhat of a more natural learning process than the new standardized testing education systems,” Heaselgrave says.

Of course, private education comes at a cost. Annual DWS tuition ranges from just under $10,000 for five full days of pre-K to around $13,300 for third through eighth grades. There are reduced rates if a family enrolls more than one child at the school.

As students develop a network of support among each other, parents and teachers often do, too.

Myra Anderson, mother of Detroit-born rapper Big Sean (Sean Anderson), who graduated from DWS in ’02, says she remembers how supportive the parent-teacher community at DWS could be. To this day, the Andersons stay in touch with Sean’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. Beth.

“She came to his concert when he was in Seattle the year before last,” Anderson says.

But most of all, Anderson believes Sean’s experience at DWS contributed to his becoming a creative and compassionate person. 

“I see him thinking outside of the box, and I see a sense of compassion for others and wanting to give back,” Anderson says. “It just laid a great foundation for him to spring forward from.”

In the end, every school hopes to lay a great foundation for its students. And although DWS has succeeded so far in building a strong, 50-year-old foundation of its own, it continues to strive for improvement — like any good teacher does.

“Fifty is big, and it’s a wonderful thing,” Williams says. “But I hope that we see 50 more.” 

Wellness at Waldorf: Sunflower Day Workshop

On January 28th, Wellness at Waldorf hosted a Sunflower Day Workshop in partnership with Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council, Michigan State University Extension and the Child Health Incubator Research Project (CHIRP) at DWS. 

Participating families and community members spent the afternoon decorating planters that were later filled with soil and sunflower seeds, learning how to make sunflower seed butter from scratch and enjoying many healthful ways to incorporate this wonderful alternative to a nut-based butter into lunch and snack time. 

The weather outside may have been cold and grey, but Sunflower Day was certainly a sunny spot on our Wellness calendar of events! Thank you all who attended and we look forward to seeing you at our February 6th yoga event with Michele Pearson!  

Posted on February 1, 2017 .

DWS in the News: The Waldorf Warm-Up Project

Detroit Waldorf School proudly partnered with Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) for our annual MLK Day service project. Students, families, and faculty knitted cold weather accessory items to donate to the Detroit-based shelter.


Students from grades 5-8 served lunch at the shelter, in addition to passing out donations to the families in attendance. It was a wonderful opportunity to share with our community, and DWS is grateful for the coverage of the Waldorf Warm-Up Project on Channel 7 and FOX 2!

Wellness at Waldorf: Healthful Holidays Workshop

Food is a common language that brings community together, especially during the holiday season! Discover how you can make delicious meals with the entire family that are cost effective and healthy. Below are three recipes that were presented at our workshop on Monday, December 5th (click on the link following each video). Each one was featured on the news with Detroit Waldorf School's Wellness Coordinators, Jade Fearn and Katherine Feldhouse.

Posted on December 6, 2016 .

DWS In the News: Renewal Magazine Spotlight & Waldorf Alumni Forum

Detroit Waldorf School was featured in Renewal, a Waldorf Education publication, this month spotlighting our 50 year history in Detroit! A member of our esteemed faculty and a 2003 graduate of DWS, Ms. Simone Shurney MSEd, wrote a wonderful piece for this issue as well. 

We are so proud to be recognized for our 50th anniversary, and of Ms. Shurney for her outstanding contributions to our school! 

Posted on November 29, 2016 .

Purchase 50th Anniversary Commemorative Tiles Online

50th Anniversary Commemorative Tile

The unique handmade tile was lovingly designed by a current DWS parent, Rosa Castellanos. This makes a great gift for alumni, alumni parents, and/or your favorite DWS teacher!

(The tile cost is $47.17, shipping charge is $10, sales tax is $2.83)

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Posted on November 2, 2016 .