CEDARWOOD WALDORF SCHOOL
3030 SW Second Ave
You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard 30 fourth graders strum ukuleles and sing the White Stripes’ “We’re Going to Be Friends”—all in front of a blackboard inscribed with Chinese characters and conversions of pounds to ounces. At Cedarwood, arts and music don’t just coexist with other subjects—they glue the 267-student school’s curriculum together.
“We don’t do ‘arts,’” says Cedarwood head Elizabeth Nugent. “The arts are infused into everything we do, and we see our kids become quite skilled.”
The Waldorf education system is a complex, and, in Portland, increasingly popular approach that stresses creativity and an immersive social environment. Kids start knitting and other practical handwork in first grade; all must choose a stringed instrument by third grade. By eighth grade, they’re crafting gorgeous rustic stools worthy of craft bazaars like Saturday Market. Throughout their education at the Lair Hill school, students draw and write their own “textbooks” for subjects like history, and they celebrate seasonal festivals with performing and visual arts. Perhaps we can put in an early request for another White Stripes ode for the upcoming May Day festival. —Zach Dundas
NORTHWEST ACADEMY (6–12)
1130 SW Main St; nwacademy.org
It’s fitting that Northwest Academy’s somewhat anonymous-looking downtown headquarters used to be a comedy club. Inside, free expression runs riot. Striking black-and-white photos hang outside an old-school darkroom. Jumbles of cables lie next to the recording studio’s mixing board. A high school junior helps direct an eighth-grade production of The Tempest. Daily life at this 15-year-old school, which divides 123 students between middle and high school, melts the traditional boundary between “academics” and “arts.”
“What the kids do in arts is central to everything they learn here,” says NWA admissions director Lainie Ettinger.
In practice, this means students compose songs about geometric proofs, design marketing materials for Edgar Allan Poe stories, and explore linear progression in drawing class. More than half also sign up for NWA’s Arts After Hours program, in-depth seminars in everything from advanced tap dancing to figure drawing, taught by professional artists like successful local painter Sean Cain. Plus, the downtown location lends NWA students easy access to urban annexes like the Portland Art Museum, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, and Portland State University.
But none of this is playtime. The school’s rigorous curriculum (which includes a 30-page humanities thesis for seniors) helps graduates advance to colleges as diverse (and prestigious) as Duke and the Rhode Island School of Design—not a bad encore. —ZD
AGIA SOPHIA ACADEMY (P–5)
14485 SW Walker Rd, Beaverton
Beaverton’s Orthodox Christian school tunes kids early with a three-day-a-week music curriculum based on the Kodaly Method, an approach built on singing and a carefully chosen folk and classical repertoire.
PACIFIC CREST COMMUNITY SCHOOL (7–12)
116 NE 29th Ave
This 75-student school with an alternative bent prides itself on integrating music and arts into every aspect of campus life. A typical high school student might start the day with drawing and end with dramatic writing.