Voice in the world

Summit + Honolulu Waldorf School

Oahu K-12 Schools
Place ʻĀina Haina
Text Meredith Enos
Art Ikaika Hussey
Thread School of the Future

At Honolulu Waldorf School, the goal in educating each child is to help them find meaning, passion and purpose in life, and to contribute to the creation of a better world for all. Through a curriculum based on the developmental stages of the human being and on the integration of art and academics, Waldorf children learn to meet the world with clear and creative thinking, compassion and moral strength, and with the courage and freedom to act.

Honolulu Waldorf School’s high school campus is a quick turn off of Kalaniana‘ole highway in ‘Aina Haina, announced only by blue banners. Beyond those banners, though, is a rich academic and artistic environment for student voices.

The 88 high school students at the school are participating in a wide selection of academic core subjects—projective geometry, atomic theory, history of architecture, mechanics, and evolutionary biology.

In the arts, they are learning blacksmithing, coppersmithing, jewelry making, woodworking, and stone carving; sculpture and ceramics; and painting and drawing.

The Waldorf property extends to the ocean and, there, students learn surfing. A 110-minute morning lesson is devoted to intensive work in academic core subjects. Other classes meet for 50 or 90 minute periods during the remainder of the day, throughout the year, and include English, math, life skills and foreign languages.

The Waldorf commitment to experiential learning runs throughout the curriculum. Remember textbooks? Instead, Waldorf students use primary documents, and then demonstrate their mastery of a subject by creating their own textbook.

Head of School Dr. Jocelyn Romero Demirbag explains that the devotion to arts is grounded in research that shows learning that involves pictures, images and "doing" helps students retain and understand what they are being taught in a deeper way than they would by simply reading about it.

“The arts also require non-linear thinking. They require students to pay attention to what their gut and intuition tell them,” says Demirbag. “So when students learn through the arts, they are becoming aware of their inner voice—the voice they have come to give to the world.”

The Waldorf tradition aims to develop the artistic, emotional and moral aspects of a child along with the academic to allow the students to holistically contribute to a society which frequently pays singular attention to intellect.

Arts, for Waldorf, become a way for students to shape their own identities. Students in Lynn Liverton’s sculpture class have literally done that, creating incredible busts which are on display throughout campus.

There are other ways, besides art, in which Honolulu Waldorf School applies this philosophy. The school also offers American Sign Language as one of its language choices. The class is taught by Sherylynn Arcelao, a deaf woman who has learned to read lips and speak as she signs.

Each high school class does a service practicum trip that lasts for a week. The freshman go to Kahumana in Wai‘anae and help to work with families in transitional housing and individuals with developmental disabilities. The sophomores and Juniors go to Kaua‘i and Moloka‘i, and the seniors incorporate service on their culminating senior trip in May. Last year they went to Japan. This year they are looking at Ireland or Iceland.

Whether it’s on these service learning expeditions, sign language class, or in the studio on campus, Waldorf students are challenged in ways that refl ect real world scenarios and which, therefore, prepare them for more than just college admittance. Throughout it all, producing well-rounded, compassionate and engaged citizens is the end goal.


Summit is Hawaii's magazine of ideas and style for the global citizen. We're named for Queen Kapiolani's motto, "kulia i ka nuu," strive for the summit. Summit is available on fine newsstands throughout North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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Ikaika Hussey
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