Lower School Curriculum
The pedagogical methods used in grades one through eight vary from those used in the kindergarten as well as the high school. Each subject, including math and science, is introduced in an artistic manner through poetry, drama, story, drawing and music. An artistic portal is created in which students of many learning styles and abilities can enter into and engage themselves actively in a subject area. The Class Teacher usually teaches a class of students from first through eighth grade and grows with the students as an atmosphere of familiarity and trust is built. The Class Teacher is responsible for teaching the Main Lesson Curriculum. The Main Lesson is taught from 8:30 to 10:30 each day. It is a block lasting 3-4 weeks and includes the core academic subjects in the curriculum. Subject Teachers teach the curriculum taught after Main Lesson including Foreign Language, Games ad P.E., Handwork, Eurythmy, and Instrumental and Choral Music.
There is a marked difference between the Kindergarten and the Grades School. The children leave behind a day dominated by free play, story, and circle games to a day that introduces a structured academic curriculum.
First Graders spend a lot of time developing social skills, whether in the circle activities of Main Lesson, or the circle games of the Games class. The Class Teacher works with body orientation (right/left, up/down, forward/backwards, and diagonals), developing spatial coordination and fine-motor skills. The teacher does this through knitting, string games, flute playing, form drawing, and writing. Through playful exercises (bean bag games, zoo exercises, and knitting), the students overcome midline boundaries. Rhythm imbues all activities. The students are told stories that present archetypes found in fairy tales, creating a sense that although there are dangers and challenges, the world is a safe and good place to be. The teacher fosters a sense of wonder and devotion for the natural world by the stories that are told, by using natural materials in the classroom, and leading nature walks.
The teacher works to cultivate a pictorial consciousness in the children through oral lessons that establish the foundations for literacy. The teacher introduces phonics, for example, by telling a story about a snake, infusing the story with the “s” sound and drawing the snake on the board. The students copy the snake in their lesson books and it is transformed into the abstract symbol “s”. The lessons are intended to help the children to form strong inner pictures, eye-hand coordination, and to lead children from experience (story and picture) to concept (a letter). This multi-sensory approach addresses students who have varying learning capacities and styles.
The Language Arts lessons teach writing before reading. Students develop writing skills, and reading comprehension follows with continued practice and exposure. The Language Arts Curriculum exposes student to classic children’s literature, with particular emphasis on fairy tales and folk tales. Methods include memorization and recitation of poetry, phonics, and simple story composition presented by the teacher.
The experience of painting, singing, drawing, knitting, flute playing, and beeswax modeling awakens an aesthetic sensitivity to color form and musical tone. The teacher wants the students to experience and feel that life is beautiful.
Lessons are connected to practical life and the human being. Numbers, for instance, can be taught through the example of the human body. We have one body. We have two hands, two feet, two legs, etc. Mother, father, and child makethree. All four operations are introduced in mathematics, and the students count rhythmically by twos, threes, fives, etc. in preparation for learning multiplication tables. Students practice division by sorting groups of gems and natural objects on their desktops.
Students also learn German, Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Games and Eurythmy. In the Foreign Language lessons, they gain an appreciation for another culture. Handwork develops hand-eye coordination and breaks down gender bias surrounding knitting and sewing. Games classes reinforce harmonious, non-competitive interaction. Eurythmy fosters spatial orientation, rhythm, and coordination.
The Second Grader begins to experience the polarities in life, and the story curriculum addresses this inner experience through presenting these polarities as characterized in fables and saints. Second Graders can be extremely noble, altruistic and honest, as well as callous and hurtful toward each other. Through these stories, the students are taught to strive for balance. Similar to first grade, a basic lesson includes a review of the previous day’s academic lesson, the presentation of new material, an artistic rendering of the material through drawing, beeswax or acting, and then creating a written composition and an artistic drawing in their Main Lesson Books.
In Math, the students gain greater familiarity with the rhythmical order of the times tables, one through twelve, and the students continue to work with each of the four mathematical processes. In addition to math blocks and frequent work sheets, the students perform oral math problems in order to keep the numbers mentally alive and fluid. Place value is introduced which creates the foundation for carrying and borrowing numbers
In Language Arts, the year begins with the introduction of lower case letters in preparation for reading printed texts. Phonics instruction is intensified, and the students continue writing short compositions modeled by the teacher. Their capacity for reading grows through writing and reading what they have written. Students progress from the reading of their own handwriting to the reading of “real books” in small reading groups.
The Science Curriculum strives to develop a reverence for the natural world. The students are encouraged to sharpen their observational skills as they learn the habits of the animals and the nature of the plants where they live. They also become more familiar with the seasons and how the seasons impact the animal and plant world.
The students continue to learn German, Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Games, and Eurythmy.
The Third Grade Curriculum awakens the students to their surroundings and environment by presenting them with a rich array of farm activities and practical arts. The children sow, harvest, can, cook, bake and dry the bounty of garden and field. The Third Graders keep chickens on campus and make trips to farms that keep animals. The students learn many of the basic skills of farming, working with textiles, cooking, basketry and house-building through story, writing, drawing and a wide range of activities which include tending the school garden and carrying out an age-appropriate building project.
The Third Graders study the development of the Hebrew culture as reflected in the Old Testament, which outlines many of the challenges and dilemmas one faces in developing healthy relationships toward the world and humanity. Through learning of the practical earthly experiences and divine lessons found in holy texts, students become citizens of the earth. Old Testament stories introduce students to skills that are the foundations of any civilization. (i.e., farming, animal husbandry, food preparation and preservation) They also introduce students to challenges that earthly life presents, raising questions that are fundamental to understanding the interdependence of individual freedom and social responsibility in a healthy society.
Third grade students experience what Waldorf educators refer to as the “nine-year-old change.” Many experience for the first time that they belong to something greater than their birth family. The story curriculum introduces student, at this time, to the family of human civilization. They often experience alienation, loss, and a sense of being cast adrift. This significant transition in their consciousness is supported through hearing stories of the expulsion from Paradise as well as the wanderings of the Hebrew people after their flight from slavery in Egypt. It is important to conclude the school year with the people of Israel finding a new homeland, establishing farms and an independent cultural life. These stories can be very healing for the troubling and sometimes turbulent feelings many children go through.
In Language Arts, literacy is supported through bi-weekly reading groups and continued lessons on phonics. The students are introduced to cursive writing as an extension of their form drawing lessons and there is an increase the amount of writing. Most of the writing is guided, following the formed sentences of the teacher. Independent writing is introduced as the children begin learning the rules of grammar.
The Science Curriculum introduces students to the life cycles of the farm, which revolve around the cycle of the seasons and the rhythms of nature. At this age, they leave behind the timelessness of childhood and are schooled in the world of time and measurement.
Math instruction strengthens the rhythmical memory of the times tables. In addition, the students are introduced to borrowing in subtraction, double-digit multiplication, and long division.
In the Music Curriculum, new skills for the year include introduction of the C-recorder and introduction to a string instrument. These new instruments require daily practice. Towards the middle of the year, note reading is introduced. The singing of rounds is brought as a means of supporting social harmony and developing an ear for listening to others.
The students continue to learn German, Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Games, Pentatonic Flute, and Eurythmy.
The theme of rebirth out of disintegration and destruction, characterized in Norse Mythology, is emphasized in the Language Arts Curriculum. The students hear of the destruction of nearly the entire pantheon of Norse gods and their parallel worlds. This destruction, however, leads to a new order in the divine worlds. In the aftermath of the nine-year change, the children begin to experience new capacities both inwardly in their thinking, and in their academic work.
Students are introduced to local Colorado History. They learn about the early Native American dwellers, as well as the white settlers, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys that followed – and also disappeared in the course of time – to give way to a new society and culture that is our modern society. These stories help the students appreciate that something dear to us can be lost, but we can also recover and create something new. The students begin to locate themselves in the world and learn about geography and map-making, along with local and state history.
In Language Arts, most students have moved on to reading chapter books and writing simple compositions. All students learn library skills in conjunction with their first research paper, assigned on an animal of the student’s choice. This first report is presented in oral, written, and pictorial form. They begin to learn how to outline story material and further develop their writing skills. Grammar lessons continue to solidify knowledge of the parts of speech and verb tenses.
In the Science Curriculum, the study of the senses and the three-fold human body (head, trunk and limbs) are taught, next to a general introduction to Zoology. The teacher helps the students address the question: What makes us, as human beings, unique? What is our place in the greater scheme of creation? The students begin to answer these questions through a comparison between the human being and the animal kingdom.
In addition to reviewing previous math concepts, fractions are introduced in the fourth grade Math curriculum. The students learn how to work with fractions using all four mathematical processes. Continuing work with times tables, out of order, 1-12, is stressed.
The Music curriculum continues with students playing instrumental, string, and recorder music, and adds choral music.
The students continue to learn German, Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Games, and Eurythmy.
The Fifth Grader enters into the “golden age of childhood” characterized by a balanced physical body, prior to the pre-adolescent changes to come. The Language Arts and History curriculum introduce students to the course of western civilization. They study ancient religions as a foundation stone for understanding the world’s present religious cultures. They hear stories from ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Through the teaching of Greek culture and ideas, the students are trained to plan their work out spatially (map-making, geometric drawing) as well as intellectually (essay writing). Not only do students hear excerpts from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but they also participate in a daylong recreation of the ancient Greek Pentathlon. Students from regional Waldorf 5th grades are brought together to compete in javelin, discus, wrestling, long jump, and foot races. Students also learn a little of the ancient Greek language in a weekly lesson.
The Science curriculum expands to include Botany. Studies include different types of plants and their vegetation regions.
In Math, the teacher expects the students to master the use of times tables out of order and places emphasis upon the conscious use of these intellectual capacities. The students’ thinking capacities are becoming ever more analytical in nature with stronger memory capacity. Fraction concepts are reinforced and decimals are introduced. The teacher continues to develop the students’ eye-hand coordination skills through lessons in geometric figures, drawing, and map making.
In the Music Curriculum, this is the year students begin to play their instrument with other grades. They learn how to become part of a larger instrumental group and work together. Some students choose to switch at this time to a wind instrument.
Woodworking is introduced and the students continue to learn German, Spanish, Handwork, Form Drawing, Games, Choral & Instrumental Music, and Eurythmy.