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Mālamalama Waldorf School History

Donna Newberg and David Gradwohl founded the school in 1978 as an answer to the growing need for a school that would provide a more personal atmosphere centering on the development of the whole child.  The small school grew until 1980 when the founders gained the support of David Watumull and secured a 99-year lease on a 20-acre parcel of land in Hawaiian Paradise Park.  Mr. Watumull raised the original funds that developed the land and the first building was erected (using the architectural plans of Hanahauoli). 

The Second Increment of our building plan was completed in August of 1987 with a building that included 2 classrooms, 2 tutoring rooms, and 2 bathrooms.  This project was funded by Milton Cades, Attorney at Law, Honolulu, and Robert and Adriana Duerr, who were members of our Board.  The project cost $67,000 and many in-kind donations from community contractors helped keep costs down.

The Third Increment added another set of classrooms identical to the second increment plus an Executive building with offices and a Board Room.  Newly covered walkways connect all four buildings.  The approximate costs of the third increment were $180,000 – financed solely by donations from Milton Cades.


“Man feels through knowledge the privilege to be.” - Emerson

School Goals and Objectives

“Mālamalama” means “The Light of Knowledge”. We are committed to educating the thinking, feeling, and will of the child. Methods and all related activities are taken from a new psychology of childhood oriented toward a real knowledge of the developing human being – educating the healthy growth of body, mind, and spirit:

In the first seven years, the emphasis is on the physical growth of the child.  Hence, learning is done along with physical activity and the provision of good habits for imitation and a healthy environment.

After the age of seven, the emphasis changes toward the inner life of the child.  A good “feeling” for the subject he/she will later thirst for in an intellectual way is developed, and a love of learning is nurtured.  At this time, the child wants to be himself; the child’s desire for knowledge comes out of a strong sense of belonging to a class and respect for the teachers.

Having concentrated on the healthy growth of the body and the “feeling” life, the thinking mind can fully begin its task.  

"Our highest endeavor must be to develop

Free human beings who are able of

 Themselves to impart purpose and direction

To their lives."

- Rudolf Steiner

Curriculum and Philosophy

As a Waldorf school, our primary guides for directing the programs we offer are the educational philosophies and curriculum designs established by Rudolf Steiner and adopted by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).  With these as our guide, the faculty has developed curriculum standards for Grades 1-8 as well as the preschool and kindergarten at Mālamalama Waldorf School.  Our curriculum standards embrace and embody Waldorf educational philosophies, yet speak to our unique educational community.  Currently, our grades 1-8 classes consist of combined grades, creating a unique educational environment for our students.  To create a cohesive and seamless curriculum, which can be used with combined classes and with single-grade classes, the faculty has developed a guide within our curriculum standards detailing adjustments made to the curriculum when teaching a combined grade class.

Perhaps the best expression of the Waldorf School philosophy is simply stated in the words of Rudolf Steiner himself:

To wonder at the beauty, stand guard over truth, Look up to the noble, and Resolve on the good: This leads us truly to purpose in living, to right in doing, to peace in feeling, to light in thinking; And teaches us to trust in the working of God – In all that there is, In the width of the world, In the depth of the soul.

The curriculum developed for Waldorf schools is unique and comprehensive and designed to meet the specific developmental milestones of children at each age and grade.  Mālamalama Waldorf School is dedicated to creating an inner enthusiasm for learning within each child, which will help lead the student to find his or her own capacities for lifelong learning.  We work with the needs of each stage of childhood. 

Waldorf education balances artistic, academic, and practical work educating the whole child, hand and heart as well as the mind. Its innovative methodology and developmentally-oriented curriculum, permeated with the arts, address the child's changing consciousness as it unfolds, stage by stage. Imagination and creativity are cultivated as well as cognitive growth and a sense of responsibility for the earth and its inhabitants. Under the warm and active instruction of their teachers, children are provided with a creative and nurturing environment in which to develop, grow and learn.

Since its founding by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf school movement has grown to over 1,000 schools and has become the fastest-growing throughout the world. Steiner's detailed psychology of child development, described early in the 20th century, has been supported by modern research in education and neuropsychology. Through Waldorf education, Steiner hoped that young people would develop the capacities of soul and intellect and the strength of will that would prepare them to meet the challenges of their own time and the future.

“Participating in work enables the children to learn important lessons early on, lessons that are necessary for life. They learn to do their fair share and to help others.”

― Jack Petrash

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