12th Grade Curriculum

In the twelfth grade there is synthesis; things come together. Seniors review their education and return to the place where they began as first graders, to the image of the whole, but now with a deeper understanding. Seniors wrestle with questions of identity and purpose as they envision their place in the world. The central question of the year is, “Who…?” (Who am I? Who do I want to become?”) The new experiences of the senior year—travels, senior projects, and  internships—encourage the students to answer that inquiry with action.


12th Grade - Core Curriculum

Humanities &
World Languages

Math & Sciences

Fine & Technical Arts

History: Architecture
The Human Being
Russian Literature
Senior Writing Block

German I-III
Advanced German IV/V
Spanish I-III
Advanced Spanish IV/V

Marine Biology/Zoology
Modern Physics
Portfolio & Technical Arts
Portrait Painting
Music &
Movement &
Interest Groups
Electives, Field Trips (FT),
& Service Learning (SL)
  African Drumming
Chamber Ensemble
Beginning Guitar
Guitar Ensemble
Improvisational Ensemble
Jazz Band
Vocal Ensemble
Drama Club
Senior Projects
Spanish Club
Student Ambassadors

Creative Writing
Current Events/World Issues
Independent Science
Senior Art Portfolio
Marine Biology (FT)
Physics and Biochemistry (FT)
International Senior Trip (SL)




The Russian land encompasses eleven time zones and climates that range from arctic to subtropical. Russian history encompasses tyrants, heroes, artists, saints and rebels. In this block, literature is a gateway to Russian history and culture as well as to archetypal human questions. We begin with fairy tales and icons. Stories of Russia's acceptance of eastern orthodox Christianity, the Mongol invasions and the biography of Peter the Great give insights into Russia’s simultaneous attraction to and rejection of the West. We read Gogol (“The Overcoat”), Dostoevsky (“The Grand Inquisitor”), Tolstoy (“What Men Live By”), Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard), Akhmatova ("Requiem") and Yevtushenko (A Precocious Autobiography), as well as many poems. The biography of each writer helps place each work in its historical context. 

Seniors work individually with faculty advisors to complete their papers for their senior projects. 

Beginning with the raising of standing stones and ending with contemporary structures, students  examine the human being’s changing experience of space, place, purpose, materials and design. In the last week of the course students give a short presentation of an architectural approach to a contemporary question. 

This block focuses on the students’ experience of their education so far and also looks at the question of the ongoing education of the adult. Based on observations in early childhood and the lower and middle grades of the school the class discusses their questions about the basis of Waldorf education. This helps the students prepare for their meeting with the faculty prior to graduation when they are asked to reflect on their experience and make suggestions for the future.

A small group of thinkers, educators, and writers, many of whom lived in and around Concord, Massachusetts in the years leading up to the American Civil War, addressed the great questions of existence in ways that still shape our thinking today. When students encounter Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman for the first time, there is often a shock of essays and poetry of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, along with their associates Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller. In keeping with transcendentalist traditions, the class converses and writes in their journals on a daily basis. 

Most of the literature studied by the twelfth-grade deals explicitly with the struggle of individual human beings to find their meaningful place in the world.  Seniors are beginning to look outward into the world well outside of the high school; they are at a threshold, exiting a comfortable world that might nevertheless appear to them as 'stale, weary, and flat,' and entering a mysterious new world that is 'infinite in variety.'  This mood is captured poignantly by the mid-twentieth century writers of the existentialist movement, Sartre and Camus.  Seniors read No Exit, The Flies, and The Stranger, all from this period. We then move backwards in time, tracing the roots of the existential perspective, reading The Metamorphosis by Kafka, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  Senior reading culminates with the first part of Goethe's Faust. Seniors relate uncannily to the character of Faust, who is at once world-weary and yet fervently hungry for a new kind of knowledge.

Students may enter German I with no prior experience or with less than basic understanding. In the first semester, the students learn basic everyday greetings, vocabulary and grammar. By the second semester, students form more complex sentences, not only answer, but ask questions and learn more advanced grammar for writing and speaking. By the end of Level I, students have mastered basic German vocabulary, grammar and communicative skills including greetings and salutations, question words and phrases, simple commands and opinions, seasons and months of the year, days of the week, parts of the day, numbers, time, colors, body parts, clothing, classroom items, family members, professions and free time activities. Grammar concepts include personal and possessive pronouns, present tense verbs (including irregular, some modal, separable and imperative verbs), future tense, singular and plural nouns, definite and indefinite articles, adjectives, conjunctions, negations, basic word order (and using weil) and the difference between the nominative (subject) and accusative cases (direct object) as well as accusative only prepositions. 

In the first semester of German II, students review regular and irregular verbs and learn the rest of present tense verbs using command forms as well as to recognize some past tense. Proper sequence and sentence structure will also be addressed with present-tense verbs. In the second semester, students will recall past events and describes them in proper sequence, and practice case prepositions and subordinate clauses. They will also learn colloquial phrases. By the end of Level II, students should have mastered regular, irregular, separable, inseparable and modal verbs in imperative form, future, simple past and present perfect tenses. Along with superlatives, comparisons and subordinate clauses and conjunctions, students should also know the difference between the accusative case (direct object) and dative case (indirect object) in reference to reflexive verbs, prepositions, noun-article and pronouns. They should be able to write and tell stories in present and past tense using proper sequence structure and sequence clauses. 

By the end of German III, students should have mastered the present/past verbs, including reflexives. They should differentiate between the three Nominative, Accusative and Dative cases in terms of prepositions, articles and pronouns, as well as know and apply with accuracy dative verbs and relative clauses. Practically speaking, students should also know ask for products in a pharmacy, describe their injuries or illnesses and tell/ recount a story in the present and past, look for a hostel while traveling and read a short novel. 

By the end of German IV, the students should master the usage of the subjunctive cases (I and II), passive voice, phrases such as um…zu, je…desto and da-wo compounds. Practically speaking, the students should know how to write a formal/informal letter and email as well as how to apply for a job and give a presentation and defend his or her own opinion about a worldwide and/or local social problem (such as Hartz VI). 

Students learn basic everyday greetings, vocabulary, and grammar. By the end of the class, students form more complex sentences, both ask and answer questions, and learn more advanced grammar for writing and speaking. Students should master basic vocabulary, grammar, and communicative skills. Grammar concepts include pronouns, present and future tense verbs, nouns, articles, adjectives, conjunctions, negations, prepositions, and the difference between the nominative and accusative cases.

The focus of this course is on the systematic review of the basic grammar such as gender and number of nouns, adjectives and the present tense of regular and irregular verbs, as well as on the instructions on the past tense. For the second semester new grammar topics include comparison of adjectives and prepositions. The students also work on more verb tenses, such as the imperfect, and are introduced to the future and conditional tenses. They read short stories from different Latin American authors, and add new vocabulary. The project for the first semester is on a renowned Latin American destination. For the second semester they present the life and work of a Latin American painter or sculptor.

The goal of this course is to provide the basic grammatical structures needed to communicate in Spanish.  The students learn vocabulary about typical activities related to traveling in a foreign country, and vocabulary pertaining to housework, shopping, weather, transportation, restaurants, and everyday life. Grammar topics include more complex verb forms, such as the imperfect, future and conditional tenses. The students read short stories from different Latin American authors, and add new vocabulary. They work on two different projects for each semester.

In Spanish IV/V students read El Esclavo by Francisco J. Angel. Students spend time in discussion about the book in order to deepen their fluency, and write assignments in order to focus on their Spanish reading and writing. Their final test is to summarize the novel in a brief Spanish language essay.


After considering the worldwide network of organizations and activities involved in producing a simple product like a bar of Swiss chocolate, students move to a study of pre-capitalist economics, then on to Adam Smith and his idea of a self-regulating free-market system guided by “the invisible hand.”  The seniors learn how supply and demand curves lead to an equilibrium point where overproduction and shortfall can be avoided, and about factors that affect supply and demand.  Mergers, oligopolies, conglomerates, and economies of scale were also considered in this context. The block includes an inquiry into how the tensions that exist between our objectives as self-seeking consumers and the ideals we carry as members of a humane democratic society can be resolved.  The block concludes with consideration of subprime mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, and other factors that contributed to the economic recession that began in 2008.

This course builds on Algebra II topics by deepening the understanding of polynomials, polynomial operations, and functions.  Students focus on practical applications of concepts such as logarithmic/exponential expressions, systems of equations, and trigonometric functions.  These topics are explored through real-world examples involving topics that vary from finance to geology to biology and others.

This year-long class picks up directly from Introduction to Calculus ended using g a college-level textbook.  Students are expected to be able to read the text, make sense of the ideas within it, and ask appropriate questions to help further their understanding.  The content begins with a quick review of how to find derivatives, their applications, and revisiting conceptual understanding of the mentioned processes.  The following new concepts are covered:  
●    indefinite integration
●    riemann sums and the definite integral
●    the fundamental theorem of calculus
●    the second fundamental theorem of calculus
●    how to integrate different types of functions
●    differential equations applications of integration

In this block, the first goal is to further understanding of atomic theory and molecular structure.  The initial experiment looks at Brownian motion, which through Einstein’s analysis contributed to the acceptance of atomic and kinetic theories in the twentieth century.  Based on the structure of the oleic acid molecule, we learn how to estimate the size of an atom and calculate Avogadro’s number. Discussions on chemical bonding and the special nature of water, including hydrogen bonds, are taken up early in the block and find important applications throughout. The class looks at specific ways of classifying structure, including a discussion of isomers. Experiments explore the effects of chirality (relating to enantiomers, or mirror image molecular structures) on physical properties, such as optical rotation, and on chemoreception.
This understanding can be aplied to the realm of biochemistry, beginning with work on the structure of amino acids. Students learn to sequence a peptide experimentally, which includes titration and thin film chromatography. A thorough description of protein structure follows; the class learns to check for the presence of proteins with the Biuret test.   Later in the block, the focus shifts to the discovery of DNA and its significance in genetics. We describe its structure and extract DNA from our own cheek cells. Students discuss the human genome project and the process of sequencing the base pairs in DNA, which includes electrophoresis. The last experiment demonstrates electrophoresis on fragments of bacterial DNA. There is a field trip to the bionanotechnology lab at Northwestern University.

This block begins with a brief overview of marine invertebrates in preparation for a week on Hermit Island in Maine, where the students meet the flora and fauna of the North Atlantic coast first-hand. They navigate seaweed covered rocks in the process of exploring life-filled tide-pools; they wade throughthick mud in search of soft-shelled clams; they paint land and seascapes; they learn about dune ecology and the genesis of beach forms; and not least , they investigate the tiny details of several ocean dwellers with the help of microscopes.  This rich exploration into marine biology is followed by classroom work on vertebrate animals after we return to Chicago. Practicing a form of comparative morphology, the class discusses and compares fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and several characteristic groups of the mammals. The block ends with a consideration of the unique nature of the human being. 

This year-long class is an independent study course offered for students interested in pursuing the sciences more vigorously. Past projects have included a survey of computer and related technology, in which a student learned the basics of binary arithmetic and Boolean logic, and the use of some electronic circuit emulations. Other projects have been focused in the life-sciences. A student wishing to take the course will write a proposal, including an outline of work to be completed with deadlines that can be met within the allotted time. Periodic written and oral reports are presented by students throughout the course.

This block challenges students to consider the importance of understanding science and technology as factors of change in the modern world. The class explores optics as a means of demonstrating the evolution of physical theories, taking up experimental work in the field of optics and physical colors, in which we compare the understanding of color phenomena in a wholistic manner with the analysis of experimental results through modern mathematical models. The class also takes up questions that relate historically to the development of physics in the 20th century and their present impact. A background text offering desscriptions and a critique of 20th century physics is Physics for the Rest of Us by Roger Jones.

To experience physics in a modern setting, the seniors take up such current issues as the energy crisis, alternative energy sources and related technology. There is a field trip to Fermilab, one of the world’s prominent particle physics labs.


Students are required to complete a series of elements combining them as they choose. The elements are: etching, enameling, stencil design and completion, a 3 D component, enameling a bowl. The design must come out of their experience with marine biology in Maine. The students design, develop, and complete their individual projects in collaboration with the teacher.

Students apply the basics of portrait painting to create a final self portrait or portrait of a classmate using oils.

The class begins with group exercises incorporating the themes of pulse and flow. As they work the students consider their selection of materials and the theme they will develop in this block. Students select from a range of materials.

The aim of the Technical Arts part of the elective is to explore digital painting and drawing media. Students begin with the basics, exploring use of software and the graphics tablet (along with the necessary laptop The goal is for students to be able to work in a convincingly representational technique with the graphics tablet, from both life and imagination, as well as they are able to do with traditional media.

The 12th graders are active participants in choosing their play – their final gift to the school community Recent choices have been Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real and a musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The seniors are all assigned speaking roles and also sign up for a production crew. The students collaborate on a design plot for the set, often including a background mural, and detailed costumes. They rehearse extensively, blocking the play, memorizing their lines, working on character development and, if applicable, music and choreography. The students have the assistance of a scene coach, set, lighting and costume designers, a musical director, a choreographer, musicians, and a hair and make-up stylist in a production that culminates in three or four public performances.


Course Description: Students develop technique, hand coordination and traditional rhythms in an ensemble. Additionally, students investigate the cultural and historical significance of the djembe drum and the oral history of each rhythm and song.  and the geography of regions specific to the tradition of the djembe, as well as Africa in general.

Course Description: Chamber Ensemble is for those students who wish to continue the study and performance of music on classical instruments. The students study and perform standard orchestral works arranged for small ensemble, and also continue playing both by rote and by improvisation.  Listening -- melody, harmony, accompaniment -- is emphasized, as is technique. 

Course Description: Students learn basic musical concepts and skills with an emphasis on how they apply to guitar as well as to singing. Students learn to play chords, scales, and full songs and attain a basic proficiency in reading music. 

Students who have a basic level of guitar skill play a range of parts (according to level of ability) that when combined create a cohesive whole, as in an orchestra. Moving beyond unison chords, students will learn to play single line melodies and two or more notes simultaneously, in addition to broken or block chords. Students also sharpen their listening and collaboration skills. The class takes up different genres – classical, folk, rock, jazz – over the course of the year. 

Based on the basic notion of improvisation that there are “no wrong notes,” this class offers an environment in which students can feel comfortable experimenting with and creating new sounds, in the moment. Students may play any instrument they feel comfortable with, including the voice, general percussion instruments provided for the class, and any instrument the student would like to bring (guitar, harmonica, woodwinds, strings, etc). Students may split into smaller groups in order to apply the core principles of improvisation and to build connections between players. Collaboration with classmates is highly encouraged and showcased in the end of the year Show of Work.  

The Jazz Ensemble plays many different styles of jazz including Dixieland, bebop, bossa nova, swing, and standards.  The students are expected to play at a high level on their instruments as well as to study music theory and to improvise as part of the ensemble.

Vocal Ensemble is both a performance-driven chamber choir focused on the rehearsal and performance of choral and vocal music and a supportive environment to try new things, experiment with improvisation and have fun creating music together. Emphasis is placed on vocal development, independence in part-singing, stylistic understanding and performance technique. Time is spent on reinforcing and developing an understanding of musical notation and conducting patterns. 


In this nine-week block, students are introduced to the basic elements and history of the Brazilian art of Capoeira. Capoeira can be danced, practiced as a martial art or played as a game. Students learn to move rhythmically alone and with partners. They learn to play the instrument called the Berimbau to accompany lessons. They also learn about the history of capoeira and its use as expression and liberation in Brazilian slave culture. A capoeira unit is offered to all four high school classes.

In this nine-week block, students engage in strength- and endurance-building activities using their own body weight. They also learn movement techniques for traversing and negotiating obstacles in their environments including (but not limited to): walls, railings, bars, stairs and ledges. Emphasis is placed on training the discipline safely and first building up "body armor" before taking the movements to the next level. Students are taught to be creative, sometimes adding their own style to the movements or selecting their own way to navigate the obstacles. Risk management and fear management are also a big part of the training as the students are often taken outside of their comfort zones, learning to know their limits and how to surpass them.  A parkour unit is offered to all four high school classes.

In the first semester of gym, students review the basic vocabulary of Volleyball and basketball. The rules and techniques are reviewed and practiced.  Students are expected to come to class every day with proper attire and are expected to participate fully in every activity. Students are expected to examine their own areas or strength, weakness and progress, and they help to organize teams and structure games. At the end of each block students participate in fast-paced games and mini-tournaments.


This writing seminar allows students the opportunity to work on their creative writing within a group discussion, critique framework, and consult with a member of the English faculty.

This class focuses on topical issues of importance. Students engage a course of study that analyzes a contemporary issue (or issues) within the a framework of its historical, social, cultural, and political context.

This elective offers students opportunties to make science-based projects in consultation with a High School Science faculty member. Often the independent science seminar offers the roots of scientific research that students hone to final form in their Senior Projects. In the past, other independent science projects have taken the form of group project-based classes like the CWS Rocket Club, 2011-14.

Students interested in the field take this class to hone their writing, reporting, editing, photography, and digital publishing skills. The journalism students create all content for, and publish, the school's monthly newspaper,The Waldorf Chronicle.

Students engage in technical workshops and complete assignments and critiques to prepare a portfolio of their creative projects. They review and update past projects and create new works to finalize their presentation portfolio.

The entire High School travels to the Indiana Dunes National Park. For five days the students and faculty camp at this beach campground while engaging in workshop activities and group discussions that both welcome the new incoming freshmen class and cement social bonds and relationships in the High School's student body.



12th graders study specialized topics including electives as they prepare research for their Senior Presentations