Pedagogical Background


In 1910 Paul Geheeb (1870-1961) and his wife Edith Geheeb-Cassirer (1885-1982) founded the Odenwaldschule. This was a progressive, international, and inter-religious institution which was conceived as a counterweight to the contemporary "Rote and Drill Schools".

When the Nazis seized power in 1933 the existence of the school became endangered. The Geheebs emigrated to Switzerland along with a number of their students and teachers. In 1934 they founded their second school, giving it the name "Ecole d'Humanité" (School of Humanity) as a reaction to the Nazi threat.

Twelve years after this emigration the Ecole moved to its current location in the mountain village of Hasliberg Goldern. In 1956 Natalie Lüthi-Peterson launched the US School Program, which today accounts for approximately half of Ecole students.

Pedagogical Influences

Next to Paul and Edith Geheeb-Cassirer, the German educational theorist Martin Wagenschein (1896-1988) was one of the defining thinkers for our school. His method of teaching through profound immersion in key subject areas is central for the way we organize our teaching.

Ruth C. Cohn (1912-2010), the developer of Theme-Centered Interaction (TCI), also played an important role in the school. Her concepts of Active Learning in Groups and Succeeding through Relationship are two of the foundational elements of our school.

Progressive Education in the 21st Century

"But the whole educational path of a person in his or her entirety is an individual matter; thus it is a grave injustice to establish the same school program even for just two different children. What is important is to let every child find and progress on his or her own individual educational path." (Paul Geheeb, 1946)

These words of the founder of our school are seventy years old, but more relevant than ever. In the context of a changing world, we have continuously reinterpreted and further developed the values and philosophy anchored in progressive education. Key elements of our practice are:

  • Mixed-age classes of four to twelve students
  • Student voice in determining subjects studied
  • Holistic engagement (head, hand, heart)
  • Learning by Doing
  • Support of students' own potential (Find your way!)
  • Personal feedback rather than grades
  • Individual supervision (both academic and in the Ecole Families)

Our school structure is participative. Our students construct their own learning, supported by their teachers and advisors. We see our students as unique individuals and show them that they are important for others—a central experience on the way to adulthood.


The Ecole d'Humanité provides a home for the archives of the physicist and educational theorist Martin Wagenschein. If you are interested in his legacies, please contact the responsible person. You may reserve time to work the archives.

Martin Wagenschein Archive

The educational theorist and math and physics teacher Martin Wagenschein worked with Paul Geheeb at the Odenwaldschule at the beginning of his career. A lifelong friendship between Wagenschein and the Geheebs developed out of this cooperation.

In all his later tenures in public schools and universities, Wagenschein referred to his experiences from his time at the Odenwaldschule. When he died he left his legacy to the Ecole d'Humanité.



To the Martin Wagenschein Archive