In the grade school, the class teacher accompanies students through two or more years, developing a close relationship not only with each child but with the class as a social organism. The class teacher guides the class through the day, week, and years together, conducting the morning main lesson, a two-hour class period dedicated to a rotating schedule of English, math, history, and the sciences. During each main lesson block, students create a handwritten, illustrated, comprehensive study of the topic: a main lesson book. As the students grow, their education is enriched by subject teachers in Spanish, farming, vocal and instrumental music, physical education, handwork, woodwork, and eurythmy. Each grade is taught from a curriculum developed from an intimate knowledge of child development.
Scroll down for a brief summary of each grade.
In first grade, children enter the classroom eager to learn and grow. Sitting at their desks, they listen to fairy tales and nature stories, draw letters and numbers, and learn letter sounds and combinations. These activities, built upon the rich oral storytelling of the early childhood years, provide strong foundations for reading, writing, and vocabulary. First grade math is a subject on the go! Movement accompanies counting and the introduction and practice of all four arithmetic processes. The students learn songs and poems in Spanish by ear. They train their fingers to knit and play the wooden pentatonic Chori flute. Learning is a tangible activity that engages their entire being through experience and imagination.
The second grade curriculum mirrors the inner experience of the child. The highest human ideals (conveyed through stories of saints and other exemplary human beings) are contrasted with the behavior of trickster animals in fables, allowing a sense of human morality to develop. Students illustrate these stories as their reading, writing, and drawing skills strengthen. They learn cursive letters and explore symmetry in form drawing. Movement and stories lead to working with place value, times tables, and more complex arithmetic.
In Third Grade a significant change occurs in the way children experience themselves and the world. The foundations that naturally carry them fall away and the children experience their first real sense that they are an individual. Study of the Hebrew stories, from the expulsion from the garden to the trials of the Hebrew people mirror outwardly the inner experience of the third grader. Study of farming, cooking, clothing and shelter, and practical activities bring the curriculum to life. Measurements for building and cooking lend math a practical lens, and students learn to crochet a practical hat and a pouch. While daily music continues in the classroom with playing the recorder and singing of rounds, third graders are now introduced to violin, viola or cello, and join the ensemble.
Fourth Grade is a year of adventure. Students delve into the heroic tales of Norse mythology, and explore Local History and Geography from the Finger Lakes Region. Science study begins with the Human Being and Animal Kingdom, often the subject of a much-anticipated research report. Fractions are introduced in math, and studies in English explore grammar and parts of speech as other means of dividing up the metaphorical pie. Students continue and expand their music study by continued practice of violin, viola or cello. Themes of division and fractions are echoed in form drawing, where students create patterns in a four-way mirror, in the same way that they design their own unique cross stitch piece in handwork class.
Fifth Grade students are perched in an age of developmental balance between the wonder of early childhood and the internal focus of the middle school years. A change in the daily morning verse reflects a shift from an external experience (“The sun with loving light makes bright for me each day”) to an individual action (“I look into the world, in which the sun is shining”) as teachers encourage confidence and the beginning of independent academic thinking. They study history for the first time as an academic discipline rather than a collection of stories, beginning with ancient India, Persia, and Egypt, and culminating in ancient Greece, itself a culture of balance and harmony. To complement these academic classes, the students learn the skills of the ancient pentathlon and then participate in a Greek Olympiad. The study of geography expands from state to nation, and the fifth grade harmony is further reflected in artistic geometry. Subject classes in choral music teach vocal harmony, and the study of botany deepens scientific observation and inquiry skills.
In Sixth Grade, students tend to be inwardly focused, entering middle school and the self-consciousness of puberty. They are encouraged to carefully observe before jumping to conclusions, and they lend that observation to the study of physics, geology and astronomy. They move on in history to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and the Middle Ages. The growth and decline of empires introduces the beginning of a study of world geography that continues throughout middle school. Medieval Europe brings the concept of chivalry, and a conscious morality that culminates in another inter-Waldorf athletic event, the Medieval Games, an event held with a spirit of honor, sportsmanship, and ethical conduct. Further academic expansion happens in geography, mathematics, and music.
Seventh Graders experience a rapid expansion of academic capability and curiosity, reflected in the curriculum focus on the Renaissance. Social, artistic, and scientific developments of the period as well as biographies of individual explorers, inventors, and artists and thinkers fuel the students’ internal Age of Discovery. Perspective and geometric drawing feed artistic impulses, while study of mechanics, inorganic chemistry, nutrition and physiology echo the great leaps in understanding of human beings and the world during the Renaissance era. Mathematics moves into the conceptual realm of negative numbers, square roots and ratios, and creative writing paves another avenue for self-expression and discovery.
In Eighth Grade, we study Revolutions. In a culminating year before high school, students move into a study of modern history with the American, French, and Industrial Revolutions, and on into the 20th century. Review and expansion of sciences includes meteorology, physiology, physics, and organic chemistry. Students prepare for high school mathematics in algebra and geometry, while handwork and woodwork classes introduce the exciting use of sewing machines and power tools. The class continues their education in movement, music, foreign language. In addition, each individual student proposes and carries out an extensive independent research project with written, oral, and physical components. The class celebrates the end of their 8-year journey together with their teacher with an 8th Grade trip – active time spent together as they stand ready for the transition to High School.