Mission & History
Who We Are
We are a vibrant community of educators and families passionate about Waldorf education, the environment, and responsible global citizenship. Founded in 2009, Urban Prairie Waldorf School is a not-for-profit, independent pre-k through eighth-grade school located just west of downtown on the near west side of Chicago, situated between the Illinois Medical District, Little Italy, and Pilsen neighborhoods.
Urban Prairie Waldorf School educates children by awakening a love of learning, encouraging reverence and wonder in the world, and nurturing the capacity to impart purpose and direction to their lives.
We envision Urban Prairie Waldorf School at the leading edge of Waldorf education in America. We innovate on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and contemporary pedagogical philosophy to build an educational program that is developmentally engaging, meets the here and now, and prepares our students for an ever-changing future. Our school is a magnet for seekers and doers, who build a close-knit community that is diverse yet connected by shared ideals. We are intentional, accessible, and collaborative. Our relationships are deep and meaningful. Our campus is in harmony with our surroundings and emphasizes ecological and societal awareness. Our education contains the seeds for social transformation.
- Vigorous and inspired academics infused with meaning, art, and beauty
- Social connectedness and self-confidence
- Free thinking informed by a strong moral compass
- Delight in and respect for nature in our urban environment
Who is urban prairie waldorf school?
Urban Prairie Waldorf School was born out of the dreams and hard work of many people. In 2006 a small group of preschool parents decided to start a new school. Their 3 and 4 year-olds were enrolled in local Waldorf-inspired Early Childhood programs, including the Sunflower Children’s Garden in Hyde Park. They saw how healthy Waldorf education was for their children, with its emphasis on outdoor free play during all seasons, daily and seasonal rhythm that their children brought home, rich storytelling, preparation of whole foods for shared mealtime, and a homelike atmosphere, complete with chores. The founders were joined by parents and faculty members from Chicago Waldorf School who wanted to help this new initiative thrive. Together they formed a Board of Directors, created a budget, hired a founding faculty, and set a start date.
Urban Prairie opened its doors to a 1st grade class of 12 students on September 9th, 2009, ninety years after the opening of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany. Angela Kiefer was our founding teacher. We have grown significantly since opening our doors in a small storefront at 16th and South Halsted Street, increasing from 12 families to over 100 families. In 2013-14, Urban Prairie signed a five-year lease for the former school building at Our Lady of Pompei Shrine at Lexington and Racine. We spent five years in that space, undertaking a middle school strategic plan focused on high school and life readiness, building blacksmithing forges and beehives, and filling Arrigo Park across the street with the joyful play of our children at recess and the myriad games of our movement classes. There, we graduated our first class of 7 children, including 3 of the original students.
In 2017, with the strong support of our community, we purchased the 1310 S. Ashland building. We began the 2018-19 school year in our new facility, having grown in ten short years from a one-room school to a large building with a gym, woodworking facility, beautiful Early Childhood space, and classrooms to meet all of our programming plans and dreams. This thriving school now offers parent education, workshops in special interests, as well as social events and festivals for our community to gather together and celebrate.
Through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, we have been mentored by the Chicago Waldorf School (10 years) and the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor (current).
Overview of Waldorf Education
Rudolf Steiner (1864–1924), an Austrian-born philosopher and scientist, founded the first Waldorf school in Germany in 1919 with Emil Molt, the director of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. The intent behind the founding of this school was to bring hope to the next generation of Europeans. World War I had ended and people were devastated physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Molt and Steiner wanted a school that could develop the full range of students’ capacities and allow them to become free, self-reliant individuals capable of contributing fresh insights and initiatives to the world.
Today over 3,000 Waldorf schools in 60 countries form one of the largest independent educational movements in the world today. There are now over 175 Waldorf schools in the United States and Canada.