About Berkshire Waldorf School
Berkshire Waldorf School, like Waldorf schools all over the world, was founded as a kindergarten, and grew with the children. In 2021, BWS will celebrate 50 years of Waldorf education in the Berkshires, serving students from toddlers through 8th grade. Our 32-acre natural campus of “outdoor classrooms” features forests, meadows, playing fields and gardens, bounded by the Green River. The Betty Szold Krainis building provides indoor classrooms for Early Childhood classes. And the primary building, built around a classic Berkshires timber frame barn, welcomes elementary and middle school grades. This antique barn is the heart of our school, now a library, and a cozy place to visit in all four seasons! Learning spaces also include art studios, an auditorium which is both theater and community gathering space, a science lab, playing fields and biodynamic gardens.
At a Glance
- Independent Coeducational Day School
- Toddlers through Grade 8
- Founded in 1971
- Governed by College of Teachers, Faculty Council, Board of Trustees
- Accredited by Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE)
- Full Member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) and Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN)
- Additional Programs: Parent-Child, After School Music, Before & After Care, Summer Program
- Two Buildings on 32 acres
- Current enrollment: 170
Berkshire Waldorf School cultivates students’ academic, emotional and spiritual development through our unique curriculum. We provide students with the foundation to live up to their full human potential, creating lives of meaning and purpose that positively contribute to our world.
We accomplish our mission by:
- Instilling in students a love of learning, a sense of wonder, an appreciation of beauty, and a connection to the natural world.
- Following a curriculum based on the developmental stages of human beings as described by Rudolf Steiner.
- Attracting excellent teachers who are committed to their own professional and personal development, and giving each teacher the freedom to work creatively within the Waldorf curriculum.
- Working cooperatively with parents to facilitate continuity between school and home.
- Actively participating in the time-tested, world-wide tradition of Waldorf Education that integrates the humanities, sciences, and practical and fine arts.
On January 13, 1971, our school, originally called Pumpkin Hollow School, opened its doors to twelve kindergarten children. We now enroll about 200 students from Berkshire County, Massachusetts; Columbia County, New York, and northwestern Connecticut.
Our school’s founder and first teacher, Betty Szold Krainis, grew up in New York, the third of four daughters. Her father, Robert Szold, was a lawyer who was deeply concerned with social issues. He worked to establish child labor laws, and helped to start Co-op City (co-op housing) in New York. In addition, he was the president of the World Zion Foundation and Palestine Economic Corporation, which channeled money into Israel for practical applications such as agriculture and factories. He helped to found the state of Israel, and created the Robert Szold Center for Applied Technology there. All the talk at the dinner table as Betty was growing up related to Zionist issues; Betty’s mom was involved in Hadassah, the women’s Zionist movement. Betty grew up surrounded by “Working for the Good of the World,” with a keen understanding of these and many world issues.
Betty attended Bryn Mawr College. Once she married and had three children, they attended the Waldorf School of Garden City (NY) and then the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. Betty was a very involved parent, as part of the PTA and groups that studied the work of Rudolf Steiner. Patti Livingston (who was also a parent at the Steiner School/NYC) and Betty worked together on committees. Patti had a house in Great Barrington, and Betty and her family found a nearby place on Pumpkin Hollow, with 47 acres and three houses: the main house, the white cottage, and the barn. After they moved to the Berkshires full time, an idea developed about the importance of healthy food, and the barn became the Good Food Coop. Families wanting good food began to want a good education for their children, too, and the barn became a school.
The school started with a kindergarten teacher, who came for a short period and then had to leave. At this point, Mrs. Krainis stepped in and became the kindergarten teacher for 14 years. Betty did her teacher training at Columbia Teachers’ College, and on the job training at the Steiner School in the City. Betty’s warmth, love, energy and openness were apparent from the beginning. She was a very passionate and engaging person.
A nucleus of teachers came up to Great Barrington from the NY school. Delores and Tilo Kaufman came to Stockbridge. Werner Glas was an adviser. Thorn and Jean Zay built a house nearby, and they had two boys. Pumpkin Hollow School, which began as a kindergarten in 1971, grew into the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School. Betty spent nearly 20 years at the school, and retired in 1988, but still served as an advisor. The Betty Szold Krainis Early Childhood building was dedicated in 1992, and Mrs. Krainis’s dynamic photograph hangs in the front hall today.
In 2019, the 100th anniversary year of Waldorf education, our school became Berkshire Waldorf School, “sister” school to the Berkshire Waldorf High School in Stockbridge, MA, together providing a full twelve year Waldorf education to families. BWS is one of over 1,000 international Waldorf schools, the fastest growing independent school movement in the world.
Rudolf Steiner founded Waldorf education in 1919, built on his insights into child development. His perception of education as an art means that our teachers fit the curriculum to meet the children. Whether the subject is arithmetic, history, or physics, our teachers create lessons that resonate with their students’ imagination and experience. The goal? To educate the whole child by appealing to mind, body and spirit. BWS class and subject teachers work together to engage, integrate and balance their students’ thinking, feeling and doing. For example, students learn math at Berkshire Waldorf School through academic skills and practice, movement, choral singing, playing an instrument, house building and knitting, among many other dynamic and practical applications. Waldorf education is a proven means of lighting a fire for learning that lasts a lifetime.
Diversity & Inclusion
Berkshire Waldorf School welcomes and celebrates diversity. We believe cultural, economic, religious, racial, learning style, gender identification and expression, sexual orientation, national and ethnic diversity make us stronger. We prize empathy and collaboration as means to change the world for the better. Our students, teachers, administrators, trustees and parents join in the active practice of inclusion, starting at the focal point of our unique Star Code. Berkshire Waldorf School intentionally works to build a diverse community where all children and families are cherished for their intrinsic value and potential.