The child enters fourth grade with new certainty, new capacities, and a willingness to test adults and peers as they investigate human dynamics. Children are interested in fairness and contrasts and want to be active. Fourth graders’ new energy and enthusiasm is met and channeled by their core curriculum: local geography and history; cartography; study of the animal kingdom; introduction to fractions and decimals; independent composition and letter writing. The curriculum meets the fourth grade child with the motif of Norse mythology, stories that offer great contrasts and clashes, telling tales of figures with colorful personalities and tremendous challenges, filled with action. These are figures whose deeds may have tragic consequences, yet offer the enduring hope of the human spirit.
Fourth graders learn past, present, and future verb tenses. Added to the study of parts of speech are prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and interjections. Students are taught the structure of paragraph development — a topic sentence, supporting examples or statements, and a concluding sentence. The students continue to retell stories in short summaries, both oral and written, building skills using descriptive language. Simple research, including book sources, is introduced in the context of animal study, with students characterizing animals first together as a class and later individually, in a report on an animal of their choice. Other opportunities for practicing descriptive writing include impressions of local landscapes in the geography block, accounts of individual historical journeys through California geography and history, and episodes from California history. The students practice personal writing in journal work and letter composition.
In math, basic arithmetic continues and expands to the study of proper and improper fractions, mixed numbers, and decimal fractions in all four operations, with an emphasis placed on multisensory, hands-on activities and manipulatives.
The science curriculum emphasizes comparative study of the human being in relation to the animal world. Animal studies include modeling, drawing, and written work. Local geography is integrated through the study of habitats and dwellings of the animal kingdom. Zoology lessons are supported by practical animal care on the farm.
Fourth grade is the year that their music curriculum expands to include strings class and the children choose their string instrument: violin, viola, or cello. Most students supplement the class with private lessons.
In addition to the curriculum carried by the class teacher, fourth graders receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.