Lower Grade School Program 1 – 5
The journey from the Early Childhood program to grade 1 is the significant first step into formal learning for the young child. In the grade years 1-3 children are still in the developmental forces of imitation and take great delight in learning the wisdom and knowledge of their teachers. The creation of a rich language environment (which started in the Early Childhood program) draws the student forward into mastering writing and reading skills. The students learn the richness of language through reciting verses and mastering poetry. Reading is a natural process that flows out of the method of learning the letters and writing. Learning is less stressful, and all levels of literacy are addressed.
Rhythm, movement and math all go hand in hand as the students will clap, stomp and step rhythmically through the times table, or skip rope while singing math facts. Students begin their journey into arithmetic first by learning the quality of the numbers, moving into concrete knowledge by counting gems, stones or such.
Two needle knitting and recorder playing develop dexterity in head and hand as well as integrates the right and left lobes of the brain. Spanish continues in a playful manner, allowing the students to delight in the many songs, games and naming words at this level. Nature is still very much apart of the students in grades 1-3 – they still find delight and wonder at the flight of the bumblebee, the flitting butterfly as she moves from blossom to blossom. The gardening class follows the natural flow and curiosity of the student in the early grade years.
The child in third grade begins the nine year change. This change is marked when the student begins to separate themselves from their environment and begin to look more critically and consciously at their environment and the adults in their world. Practical skills, such as farming, house building and measurement are studied. The students trace everyday materials to their origin. At this phase, the teacher is careful to choose stories that provide reassurance and support to the child’s inner growth development.
Fourth graders meet the world with new capacities of thinking and feeling. The students wish to have experiences of self that are wider than the family. The curriculum addresses their need to move beyond themselves while cultivating a warm, human connection with the environment. For example, early science lessons introduce them to the animal kingdom in relation to the human being.
Geography lessons begin with a map of the classroom and expand outward to encompass the local community and countryside, and later to the whole of the United States. Students learn to ask, “What is it about the natural resources of this particular place that led human beings to settle here?”
Botany follows in fifth grade as they learn to observe the characteristics of various plants and the environmental conditions in which they thrive. Students observe, draw, and paint the unfolding phases of plant growth from root to leaf to flower. Hero stories from the great mythological traditions of the world form the thematic heart of the language arts curriculum. Students learn about ancient world culture through the literature and history of the peoples of Scandinavia, India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Ancient Greece.
Ancient Greece, with its appreciation of balance and harmony, its movement toward modern thought, and its worship of fallible Gods, is a beautiful compliment for the fifth grade youth moving into adolescence. This is the year for a traditional rite of passage for the fifth grade Waldorf student – their participation in the Greek Pentathlon.
The original Greek Pentathlon, and the virtues formed by training for it, was seen by the Greeks as an oath of good development. Pentathletes were considered to be among the most skilled athletes; it was an important training for Greek boys (and some Spartan girls) to achieve.
These games are more about participating and show of grace than that of competition.
In their academic skills classes, the children are introduced to fractions and decimals in fourth and fifth grades respectively. Through their work with fractions, the students learn that what were once seemingly whole numbers can be broken apart and scattered into countless fragments. Yet the same rules underlying this breaking apart will also bring these numbers back together. The formal study of grammar also begins at this age. All parts of speech are studied. Elementary patterns of our language ore introduced, and for the first time students explore the tales that govern how we understand the transformation that words undergo as they move from place to place in the sentence.