Through the Grades
Starting in first grade, Waldorf students have a “class teacher” who will stay with them through fifth, and frequently even eighth, grade. The core curriculum taught by the class teacher is supported by subject teachers. The core curriculum and the subject classes are aligned with the students’ development as they grow. In grades one through three, Waldorf education allows the innate human capacities of each child to develop through a holistic approach to learning. These innate capacities – wonder, reverence, attention, curiosity, confidence – form the solid foundation on which the child builds their academic future. In grades four and five children become increasingly conscious of themselves as members of a community; they have a growing curiosity about the world and their place in it.
Students make “main lesson books” for their core curriculum subjects. Under the teacher’s guidance, they create their own beautiful and unique textbooks to reflect their learning. This begins quite simply in grade one and by grade eight their books form detailed and valuable references to the subjects they have studied. Also in every grade the students perform a class play. The teacher selects a play that suits the theme of that grade’s studies as well as the students’ interests and temperament. The play’s performance is a special night for each class.
Core curriculum in first grade is pictorial and phonetic introduction to letters; reading approached through writing; letter blends and word families; qualities of numbers; introduction of the four processes in arithmetic; multiplication tables; and form drawing. Beyond the core curriculum carried by the class teacher, first graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, and music.
The motif of the first grade is fairytales and nature stories. We begin the first grade by bringing the form of the individual letters to the children through imaginative storytelling. Traditional tales are chosen from a variety of multicultural sources. The teacher tells stories to foster the children’s auditory memory, their capacity to create mental images, the development of a rich vocabulary, and a love of spoken and written language.
The students retell the stories through speech, drama, art, and as the year progresses, writing. Stories are the vehicle for the teaching of language arts.
When they are well-acquainted with the letters and their sounds, the children begin to write words, sentences, and verses in their main lesson books. The content comes from the stories they have heard, or from experiences they have shared, such as walks in nature. Students read aloud what they have written, together at first and later individually.
Our campus offers ample opportunities for nature study at every age. Students take walks regularly and observe the change of seasons. We acknowledge these changes by celebrating seasonal festivals and collecting nature objects for their nature table and crafts. In this way the children experience the rhythm of earth, stars, and planets as an integral part of life. This wealth of sensory experiences develops capacities for scientific observation and theories. When the teacher tells first graders simple stories that convey the world of nature, the physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences that will be taught in the upper grades are introduced through imaginative images. The students’ exposure to the use and conservation of our natural resources lays a foundation for later environmental and ecological study.
In math, images and stories encourage a love of numbers, enhanced by rhythmic and counting activities. Multiplication is learned in rhythmic sequence, based on song and movement activities. The children learn all four operational processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with emphasis on the relationship between the processes, presented in a story form that includes problem solving. The approach is multi-sensory, and the children are led through imaginative pictures and practical applications, including manipulatives, in the exploration of mathematics.
In second grade the child seeks new challenges and the tone of the classroom changes to meet their new capacities. Work expands from the base that has been established in first grade, the pace quickens, and the school day becomes longer. Core curriculum in second grade is reading; writing (introduction of independent composition); arithmetic; multiplication tables. The motif of the second grade is fables from around the world, and legends including stories of saints and heroes. The fixed, predictable qualities of people portrayed in fables contrast with the high level of selflessness and courage revealed in the legends of saints and other important historical figures. Beyond the curriculum carried by the class teacher, second graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, gardening, and music.
Writing continues in main lesson studies, with content from the legends and fables as well as from nature studies. By second grade, the students read printed material together as a class and in reading groups. Children copy the teacher’s writing as a model and also construct sentences in group work as a class. They also begin to compose sentences individually. A strong emphasis is placed on letter formation and handwriting practice.
In math, the students continue to work on their times tables, alternating factor multiplication and division sequences. Arithmetic lessons include regrouping multi-digit numbers for borrowing, and carrying and division with remainders. The children work with the four operational processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), exploring the relationships between the processes. The approach continues to be multi-sensory and based on solving problems introduced through stories and practical applications, including manipulatives.
Detailed nature stories reflect the child’s growing awareness of the world. Children begin to participate in the gardening program, and the seasons and the calendar are introduced.
The third grader transitions from the imaginative early childhood years into the concrete experiences of childhood. At this time the child’s confidence might decrease and fears about the world increase, just as the child is beginning to question the authority and competence of adults. The children are leaving the dreamy, imaginary world of early childhood and becoming more aware of the real world.
The third grade core curriculum includes reading, spelling, writing, original compositions, grammar, punctuation and parts of speech, cursive writing, multiplication tables and long division, measures, weights, and money. Old Testament stories address the children’s experience as they leave the protected world of early childhood. The stories provide context for a wealth of practical activities including cooking, farming, clothing, and study of shelters (houses of the world).
By the end of third grade, the students are familiar with lower case and cursive writing. Most of the students read independently at or above grade level. They are able to retell stories in complete sentences and compose simple summaries of main lesson material. They exhibit an understanding of the use of the capital letter to begin sentences and proper punctuation to end a sentence. Games are played in which the children act out the different parts of speech and functions of the period, the comma, the question mark, and the exclamation point. Grammar is further introduced as the students learn to identify naming words (nouns), doing words (verbs), and describing words (adjectives).
In mathematics, children study measurement beginning with body-based measurement and proceeding to modern, standardized measure. The third graders work on all times tables in random order and proceed to long division. Their arithmetic begins with concrete, practical activities and then progresses to problem solving on paper.
In nature study, work processes related to gardening and the processing of fruits and vegetables are consciously observed and described. The students study life science through hands-on work. Third graders also listen to creation stories from cultures around the world for a holistic image of the origins of the earth, plants, animals, and human beings.
In the farming main lesson, the children learn how the farmer works with the elements of nature. In addition to using the plow, sowing, and harvesting, the children fix fences, prepare garden beds, and weed crops. These activities build a feeling of competence and expose the children to materials, conditions, and processes that provide a basis for future formal science study.
Third graders also receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
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.
Fifth grade is sometimes referred to as the “heart of childhood.” During this year children tend to be balanced in expressing their feeling life, harmonious in their movement, and eager and enthusiastic in their learning. They feel comfortable and competent with their skills and are eager to expand their knowledge. They can move tirelessly and with grace.
Fifth graders study ancient civilizations including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece; Greek myths and Greek history; geography of North America; cartography; botany; fractions and decimals; free-hand geometric drawing; composition, spelling, reading, arithmetic.
Fifth graders write two- and three-paragraph essays. They become increasingly proficient in using punctuation, which expands to the use of the colon and semi-colon as well as quotation marks. Fifth graders continue practicing identification of all parts of speech, and verb tense study now includes all perfect tenses. The fifth graders continue to apply their research skills to state reports and other reports related to geography.
In math the students begin work involving ratio and proportion, decimal and proper fractions, mixed numbers, and the conversion of values from one system to the other. The students continue to build basic skills and study ancient number systems in the context of their historical studies.
Fifth grade studies the earth as an organism with the plant world expressing the life of each region. The child’s expanding view of the world is supported by the study of North American geography and the making of maps in two and three dimensions with a variety of materials.
Our students gather with fifth graders from other Waldorf schools for a one-day pentathlon where they participate in Greek games. In music, children choose either to continue to study their stringed instrument, or take up the study of a wind or brass instrument.
And, fifth graders receive instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
In grades six through eight we introduce a team sports program, join with area Waldorf schools for track meets, encourage social interaction through middle school dances, offer electives in our music and language programs, and encourage more autonomy for such activities as fundraisers and class meetings. The class teacher continues to present the core curriculum and to offer guidance to the class. Science and math main lesson blocks are generally taught by the middle school math and science specialist.
Sixth graders tend to be very practical, employing cause and effect thinking, and are keenly interested in facts and conditions. Their core curriculum supports this with Roman and Medieval history; world geography and cartography; mineralogy; astronomy; physics (acoustics, optics, electricity, magnetism, heat); geometric drawing with instruments; business math and arithmetic; biographies; composition, spelling, grammar, and reading. The Romans were conquerors and masters of the practical world and appeal deeply to the sixth grader. The students also study the European Middle Ages, including the feudal system and particularly the Knight’s Code of Honor. This study of the Middle Ages is capped by a Knighting Ceremony.
Sixth graders study the syntax of simple and complex sentences. Research skill-building continues, as students are required to complete short biographical reports and topical research. Individual writing continues in journaling and letter composition, and is expanded through records of observation in science classes. Sixth graders develop their awakening powers of thinking as they learn to compare and contrast various subjects in their writing.
In math, the sixth grade curriculum, taught by the middle school math specialist, reflects the practical interests of the student. The application of percentages is practiced in business mathematics and extends to the formula of interest. Business math is applied to real life through work with the school farm stand. Students learn to work with formulas and their conversions, which leads to work with algebraic concepts. Their studies include geometric drawings and proofs, as well as skill work with compass and straight edge.
In science, the children gain a comprehensive picture of the earth’s plant and animal life through their study of world geography, climates, and astronomy. The students study astronomy and geology. The children scientifically study the minerals and crystals they viewed as magical objects in Kindergarten and learn the differences between igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. The students’ faculties of observation are further developed through experimentation in physics. Acoustics, optics, thermal dynamics, static electricity and magnetism are introduced through phenomena demonstration and hands-on experimentation and observation.
The study of their chosen musical instrument continues. In spring, students meet with other Waldorf sixth graders for the Medieval Games. Sixth graders receive additional instruction in Spanish, German, handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
The seventh grade student shows an increasing interest in the wider world. Their capacity for critical thinking continues to develop and yet, their emotional life is often tumultuous during this period of intense growth. They feel enthusiasm for learning and their newly developing capacities for causal thinking. The seventh grade curriculum meets the students where they are with the Age of Exploration; the Renaissance; Reformation; cultural geography; physics (mechanics); inorganic chemistry; physiology; health and nutrition; creative writing; pre-algebra and arithmetic; composition, grammar, spelling, and literature.
Students study the flowering of thinking and art that accompanied this unique period of human history. They do exercises in perspective drawing and geometry and learn about the Protestant Reformation and the settlement of colonies in the Americas and Africa.
In seventh grade, a formal creative writing block introduces the students to poetry and other forms of expressive writing. Students are encouraged to channel their adolescent feelings through language that expresses mood, tone, and the author’s point of view. Seventh grade students are introduced to the concept of a thesis statement and the structure of an essay. Writing becomes almost completely independent with the students writing drafts, taking responsibility for editing and revising their own work, incorporating teacher corrections, and rendering final versions of their compositions. Seventh graders continue to develop research skills, presenting reports and biographies in class that complement main lesson content. Reading skills are developed through comprehension and vocabulary work on class readers, individually assigned literature, or discussion material.
In math, the arithmetic work continues with percentages and business math, ratios, irrational numbers, the use of statistics, and word problems involving a variety of concepts, such as metric measurement and rate. Seventh grade geometry focuses on Euclidean constructions, the golden ratio, angle theorems and proofs, as well as perspective drawing and other geometric constructions requiring measurements. The students calculate area and perimeter of circle and polygons. Math is taught by the middle school math specialist.
Science studies expand to include inorganic chemistry, physiology, and physics. The study in these fields is continued with the addition of mechanics and the exploration of simple machines. Students now specialize in one foreign language (German or Spanish), studied three times a week to reach a greater level of proficiency. In music they sing as a class choir. Students either participate in a strings ensemble or a woodwinds group. There are several field trips throughout the year to support both academic and social development. Students actively participate in fundraising as a class to offset costs of future trips.
Outside of the curriculum carried by the class teacher, seventh graders receive instruction in handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
Eighth grade is a year of culmination and completion. As students approach the end of their journey through the grades, they have opportunities to reflect upon their experience, to celebrate their achievements, and to look ahead toward high school. The eighth grade student enjoys debate and questions ideas, yet continues to be preoccupied by personal changes of early adolescence. The students demonstrate considerable mobility of thought, passion in feeling, and a desire to feel engaged in the world. The eighth grade student has strong, critical faculties of judgment and relishes the subjects of revolution and human rights. We study the roots of the American Revolution and examine the differences between the American and French Revolutions. The study of World Wars, Civil Rights, and highlights of modern politics allow the eighth grader to stand in the world as a knowledgeable, grounded young person.
In eighth grade, the elements of fiction are introduced in a short story main lesson block. By the end of the year, each student will have completed their “eighth grade project:” an individual research project in an area of individual interest and presented this as both written and oral report to the community. Language Arts practice periods are generally taught by a middle school Language Arts specialist or high school humanities teacher. Main lesson book work includes discussions of science experiments, summaries of historic accounts, descriptive writing, essays, and other compositions.
In math, the class is divided into two ability groups in math track classes. The advanced group pursues a formal high school course of Algebra 1 with the help of a textbook. These students are likely to continue with geometry when entering high school. The intermediate group continues with seventh grade pre-algebra work, deepening their seventh grade work to build readiness skills for Algebra 1 in ninth grade. Math specialists teach both courses. They calculate surface areas and volumes of solids such as prisms, cylinders, pyramids, and cones. In physics students review and deepen the study of the fields of physics that were introduced in sixth and seventh grades. New in eighth grade is the focus on electromagnetism, aerodynamics, and hydraulics. Organic chemistry highlights chemical processes within the body systems.
The study of world geography includes trade and economics, aspects of geology (plate tectonics and the internal structure of the earth), and meteorology and the water cycle. Students continue to specialize in one foreign language (German or Spanish), studied three times a week. In music they continue to sing as a class choir. Students either participate in a strings ensemble or a woodwinds group.
Outside of the curriculum carried by the class teacher, eighth graders receive instruction in handwork, eurythmy, games and movement, farming and gardening, and music.
Eighth grade students also complete community service work, either independently or through class projects. They are very active in fundraising, preparing for their eighth grade trip. The eighth grade class prepares and completes a full-length play or musical, usually directed by a guest drama teacher. The end of eighth grade is commemorated by the May Day ceremony, when eighth graders wearing white perform Maypole dances for the community. Graduation is the last class function, a moving ceremony wherein students have an opportunity to express gratitude and celebrate their accomplishments.
In grades one and two, German is taught orally through immersion, songs, verses, and stories, supported by rhythmical activities such as counting and clapping, and a variety of age appropriate language acquisition games. Students are mainly evaluated as a group but also individually when they answer questions and participate in games and simple plays. In third grade, students expand their skills through more challenging songs, verses, games, and stories. Students speak and sing as a group but are also asked to speak individually, recite, answer questions, and participate in guessing games. In fourth grade, we focus on reading and writing and grammar concepts are formally introduced. In winter we work on a long German advent poem which the students write into their own books along with matching pictures. They learn to recite the poem and sometimes perform it during the winter assembly. Also in fourth grade students receive their first German reader, “Vom Igel, der nicht schlafen wollte,” an animal story. Students formally study vocabulary and do crossword puzzles and reading and writing exercises. In fifth and sixth grades, students work on deepening their communication skills, reading, writing, and studying grammar. They work with several different books and stories, i.e. “Besuch fuer Tom und Mia,” by Margaret Rettich, and cultural German short stories from a Beginners German Reader. They also study German proverbs, poems and German geography. Student progress is evaluated through class participation, writing assignments, special projects, and tests.
In seventh and eighth grade, students choose one foreign language and have class three times a week. In German, we work with intermediate readers, poetry, songs, and stories. They study German and European geography and some history and biographies. The students begin a pen-pal letter exchange with students from Waldorf schools in Germany. Student progress is evaluated through class participation, writing assignments and tests.
In the first three grades, the students learn basic vocabulary, word structure, and expressions essential for everyday communication. In speaking, the children will be able to respond to simple questions, make statements, and understand commands using words, phrases and short sentences. Children are encouraged to use the language as much as possible. The language classes are presented with games, rhythmical activities, songs, and poetry. They learn vocabulary for the numbers up to 30, classroom equipment, colors, parts of the body, family members, weather, animals and animal sounds, and “to have” expressions. The students also learn about the Day of Dead, holidays in Mexico, expressions of emotion, telephone conversations, and traffic safety. Students are evaluated as a group and not tested individually.
During fourth and fifth grades the students further develop their earlier studies as well as reinforcing and improving their reading skills and developing their writing skills. They study grammar in more depth. Students’ progress is monitored through quizzes, writing assignments, and classroom participation. The sixth grade class uses a textbook and a workbook. We enhance the book curriculum with cultural activities such as visits to multicultural performances and monthly reports of different Spanish-speaking countries. The students further their understanding of Spanish grammar. Student progress is checked through written tests weekly for vocabulary and end of chapter tests.
Seventh and eighth grade Spanish classes meet three times per week. The students use a book and a workbook and continue to develop their reading, writing, and speaking in Spanish. More complex grammar and syntax concepts are introduced. Seventh and eighth grade classes also participate in several field trips to multicultural performances and restaurants. Student progress is checked through weekly writing tests for vocabulary and chapter tests.
Art is part of the learning process in every subject. Additionally, in grades one through three, children paint once a week. Painting in the lower grades is first and foremost to be a color experience. The emphasis is not on creating a recognizable picture but upon experiencing the interaction of the colors. Stories from their main lessons provide inspiration for the color stories in addition to those the teacher creates out of his or her imagination and knowledge of the colors. The students continue to have painting once a week in grades four and five. In painting, just as in drawing, the children’s technical skills need to meet their awakening observations of the outer world. The teacher demonstrates for the children simple ways to attain forms that arise out of the color. It is during these years that the children learn to see how form arises out of the play of light and shadow. Content from the main lesson continues to serve as inspiration for the painting lessons. In grades six, seven and eight, the students continue to have a weekly art lesson, but the teacher may change the focus of the lesson from painting to black-and-white drawing, pastel drawing, clay work, acrylic paint work, metal etching, and other techniques. The approach to painting becomes increasingly objective as the laws of composition, perspective, and light and shadow are made more conscious. Students are encouraged to work on a single painting over the course of a series of lessons. They learn proper work skills that include organized set-up, handling of supplies, clean-up, and collaborative process during the painting experience.
The music curriculum is based on Rudolf Steiner’s view that children need “active immersion in musical substance, experience through practice of its nature, progressive step-by-step awakening to musical principles, and finally proceeding to a basic knowledge based on direct experience.” Our children’s musical growth comes from listening, singing, playing, moving, creating, reading and performing. We develop our students’ musical talents, which helps to develop their character and confidence.
In the first grade, the pentatonic flute is introduced, as are seasonal, festival and curricular songs. In grade two, stories create the mood for singing and movement working in tandem. Students continue playing the pentatonic flute. The pattern of bringing music that supports the curriculum, festivals, and seasons is set for all subsequent grades. The third grader works through a series of steps to achieve the confidence needed for round singing. Tonal conversations, echo, and alternating songs, ostinatos, and quodlibets (partner songs) culminate in the round. A lively way of matching song’s words and vocal mnemonics begins to build rhythmic acuity. The diatonic flute is introduced. String instruments are introduced in fourth grade. Focus on natural playing and guided listening is emphasized. The children are led to singing material of greater melodic and rhythmic challenge. The art of two-part singing is introduced. Listening for intervals, awakening to minor mode and conducting are given attention. The development of skills in reading musical notation in conjunction with the flute and singing is woven throughout the year’s curriculum. In the fifth grade, the children have a new need for harmony, enabling them to experience the beauty and challenge of part singing and flute playing. The curriculum gives formal focus to the theory study of pitch, key signatures, form, texture, expression, style, and dynamics. Students are given the opportunity to take up the study of a wind instrument or continue their strings work.
The choir identity is broadening as sixth grade students work in three parts, and male/female parts are delineated. Theory work continues to include the Circle of Fifths and transposition. The children are exposed to medieval music and begin to look at evolving musical styles spanning history. Study of the recorder enriches the ensemble experience and prepares them for seventh grade Renaissance study and performance.
As the children through the grades take on the breadth of the musical elements, many children become inclined to work with each other and their own creative initiative to include composing. The children have opportunities to work in class and outside to form and polish their collaborations. In seventh and eighth grade strings and wind ensembles punctuate their musical life and they continue to work with choral literature that draws on their building skills.
The Handwork program helps the students develop basic skills for manipulating natural materials in many ways. Most students can finger-knit, thread a large needle, and form a simple knot when they come to school. These skills, plus ball-winding, braiding, knitting, crochet and others are part of the curriculum of the early grades. Handwork offers something new to learn on a regular rhythm fitting each student. Handwork activities develop fine motor skills and integrate body, feelings, and mind, forming part of the foundation necessary for successful academic work. The first three grades focus on knitting and crochet skills that become increasingly more difficult. Each student learns the basic skills; those who work quickly can take on advanced projects. Students are encouraged to help each other when they are ready. At the end of third grade, the students shear a sheep and learn to transform the wool to yarn by carding and spinning.
Fourth grade students explore very fine needlework, braiding, embroidery, and cross stitch. These skills emphasize precision and harmonious patterns and color. It helps the students’ thinking become more flexible as they use different ways to create patterns and organize supplies. In fifth grade, knitting is revisited with a more complicated technique of four needle work in the round. They each make a small bird nest and a hat, socks or fingerless gloves and learn to read a knitting pattern. They are helpers in the first grade knitting classes. The exploration of pattern making continues in the sixth grade as they create their own patterns to make a stuffed animal of their choice. Using fine hand stitches, they transform the flat fabric to the three-dimensional form. The seventh grade explores the human form, patterns, and pattern-making. Creating marionettes and producing a play for the younger children adds several new challenges for each student. Pattern-making for clothes to fit their puppet creations prepare them for making their own clothes in eighth grade. Eighth grade students use sewing machines and gain understanding of the mechanical principles and practical applications. After practicing control and accuracy, they create a pattern and sew a basic garment.
Throughout the grades, in addition to the joy the students take in their completed creations, they also relish the transition from experiencing great difficulty to nearly unconscious mastery. as they learn each skill,
Woodwork, Grades 5 – 8
Fifth grade is the starting point of the woodwork class. The students learn to care for the woodshop and how to use the tools and equipment properly. Safety for all students is a large focus and ongoing theme in the class. The first project, working with convex shape, is making an egg or a candle holder. We add concave shape to our skills in the making of spoons and forks. Now the students can make things that are both beautiful and useful from a piece of wood.
In sixth grade, students explore in depth the skills of carving wood with gouge and chisel. The emphasis is on the metamorphosis of turning a plain board into a functional platter or bowl. In seventh grade and eighth grade, students take the skills of the past years to a more refined level. Working with draw shaves, planers, saws, and hand drills, they work with harder woods. This helps them use their practical thinking skills and develops their will. A typical project seventh grade project is a three-legged stool. In eighth grade, they sculpt wood with deep relief technique into masks or figures of their own composition.
In the first grade, eurythymy emphasizes the image of wholeness represented by the circle. It becomes the “castle wall,” and a number of stories happening inside and outside the circle are enacted, supported by music and poetry. The sounds of language become archetypal gestures. Rhythm in music and texts and musical melody play a big role. In second grade, division of one into two entities becomes the focus. Ones and twos in circle weave together. Two separate circles can develop into a spatial figure eight. The language gestures of stories about animals and blessings of saints engages the children. The ability to recognize and move in rhythm and melody in small pieces of music is fostered in the young child.
During third grade the mood of major and minor in music is presented and translated into movement. The C-major scale is introduced. Texts from the Old Testament such as the Psalms are used in eurythmy, and we move the geometric form of the triangle, for example in the Star of David. A simple beginning with copper rods is made and helps to define fine motor movements. In fourth grade, the strength of the stories of Norse Mythology invites vigorous stomping, stepping, and strong, bold arm movements. We start tone gestures in small pieces of music. The shape of the square, among others, can be used for group choreography. From fifth grade on, the children slowly become able to create their own simple eurythmy choreographies to music, such as a Schubert Impromptu, or share their ideas about a new way of doing an exercise in class. The studies in main lesson of ancient cultures offer a wide scope of texts that can become group choreographies in eurythmy class, especially from the ancient Greek and Egyptian worlds. Rod exercises are introduced in playful ways. The geometric shape of the five-pointed star becomes basic group choreography in fifth grade. New scales are introduced. Sixth grade with its immersion into ancient Roman culture offers the possibility of doing eurythmy in Latin. The children have the experience that sounding language has a universal human quality, closely connected to our range of movement. Large choreographies are based on logical rules. Now the relationship between geometric shapes used in choreography becomes of interest. It takes clear thinking to figure out the paths each participant has to take to complete this kind of intricate choreography. Musical skills in movement become more refined, including a range of scales and more intricate footwork. Seventh grade calls for a greater variety and precision of musical and language skills in eurythymy. Complex rod exercises help build concentration. Gestures such as sorrow, laughter and knowledge, are added introducing the use of drama in movement. The gestures and spatial movements for majors and minors, chords, and intervals become important; footwork may express yes and no and qualities such as suspense and gracefulness.
Games and Movement, Grades 2 – 8
Students play games to stories that are spoken or sung; they practice string hand games and basic hand-clapping games. Students learn to throw and catch and to imitate rhythmic movements. Many versions of tag are played. Body geography, basic skills like running, skipping, jumping, swinging, galloping, and skipping rope are practiced through play. Students may learn to walk on a balance beam and stilts.
Nature games are very important, as well as freeplay in natural areas. Second graders develop basic movement skills while enjoying a variety of imaginative games. We start each class with opening exercises followed by a game or activity focusing on particular skills such as: listening, watching and reacting quickly, or balance and agility, or throwing and catching. We play games requiring large motor development: running, jumping, climbing, tagging, starting and stopping, all the while following rules and staying within boundaries. Children are introduced to gymnastics apparatus and basic skills via obstacle courses and using apparatus as “bases” for tag games. We end each class by gathering together quietly before returning to the classroom.
It benefits young children to learn to play together within specific boundaries and rules so they can be successful, as the physical activities, rules, and challenges increase in subsequent years. In third grade, the games and activities reflect the child’s growing sense of individuality, relationship with others and the surrounding environment. We begin each class with opening exercises, emphasizing spatial awareness and proprioception. The games we play require listening, quick decisions, vigorous energetic movement, agility, and skills such as running, catching,throwing, cooperation, and teamwork. Many of the games reflect and support the child’s experience of separateness and emerging individuality: games of courage, inner and outer groups, awareness of front and back, right and left. Tag games continue and the level of difficulty increases. Gymnastics and apparatus work and boss reader courses are continued as part of games activities. Fourth grade activities build upon earlier practices. Ball handling skills are enhanced through games. Students practice to develop movement memory, being able to imitate a sequence of movements in rhythm. Circus Arts are introduced. Gymnastics work is continued and challenges are increased. We focus on cooperative play and teamwork in order to move successfully into the next year’s curriculum, which focuses on individual challenge and introduction to sports.
Fifth grade is the first time sports are introduced through the javelin, discus, long jump, running short and long distances, and wrestling. Emphasis is on beauty, grace, style, and form. Time and distance are acknowledged but not measured at this level. All other movement activities continue to become more complex. Relays, tag, and running games continue. The children’s ability to appreciate and experience the beauty and grace in movement can help establish a strong base on which to build future sports activities. Sixth grade students experience their muscles in a new way and crave exertion. For the first time, stretching and physical strengthening exercises are practiced consciously. The children are at a turning point between childhood and adolescence. They require more challenges, more rules, and more form in their games. Archery and continued work with the javelin are practiced in preparation for the Medieval Games, which also include elements of a low ropes course; focusing on chivalry and encouraging teamwork, sportsmanship, and cooperation. Seventh grade movement reflects the autonomous spirit of the Renaissance. We work to improve skills, increase strength, flexibility, agility, and teamwork. More focus is placed on individual strength and ability and students increase their awareness of their own fitness and skills. Seventh graders are invited to participate in the Explorer’s tournament. Orienteering, archery, and teamwork are practiced. Particular attention is placed on developing will and work ethic. To this end, the Seventh grade trains for and completes a 5k run. Eighth grade is the summation of the lower school experience. The students take part in exercises that engage them in experiences of gravity and levity. Emphasis on fitness is continued, especially as they prepare for the eighth grade track meet in the spring, when our students are joined by eighth graders from surrounding Waldorf schools. Students train for long distance running and sprints, long jump, javelin, discus and shot-put.
Gardening, Grades 2 – 8
Sacramento Waldorf School has a full working farm, complete with farm animals. Gardening class provides experiential learning, with students able to connect main lesson subjects with real hands-on processes. The second grade curriculum focuses on nature crafts and activities. Students have opportunities in the garden to plant and harvest crops. The most important crop they plant is the wheat they will harvest and process in third grade. The third grade curriculum includes a main lesson block on farming during which students care for the farm’s soil with cover crops and compost. They also process the wheat they planted in second grade, threshing, winnowing and grinding it into flour, and then baking it into bread or tortillas. The rest of the year, the third grade plants and harvests other seasonal produce, constructs small building projects, shears the sheep, and keeps a gardening journal in the context of main lesson. The fourth grade gardening curriculum focuses on caring for animals in keeping with the main lesson emphasis on studying animals. Animal husbandry is practiced weekly when the students clean the chicken coops and animals’ stalls, brush the cow, collect eggs, and perform other farm chores. We also follow the main lesson thread of California history and explore the ethno-botany of this area with activities such as collecting and grinding acorns for California’s traditional staple—acorn mush. With the introduction of botany in the fifth grade, students are able to look at plants in greater detail. The fifth graders perform most of the duties for our greenhouse work. Another area of study for this year is herbs. The emphasis of sixth grade is producing vegetables. Sixth grade geology and earth studies are enriched as the students dig, weed, and prepare the beds they then plant with crops. The class also builds compost piles and brings the finished compost to the beds they have prepared for planting. The sixth grade studies economics and, therefore participates in the economics of the weekly farm stand. In the seventh grade students continue the work of producing vegetables, which they began the previous year. They also study nutrition this year; preparing and eating our farm’s bounty is a natural extension of their main lesson work. In the eighth grade, students are exposed to a broader definition of gardening. Activities vary from year to year but may include pruning, work with annual flowers, native plants, drip irrigation, light construction, tool repair, and farm maintenance.
Social Emotional Learning and Health, Grades 6 – 8
Social Emotional Learning and Health (SEL) is offered starting in sixth grade and continues through twelfth grade. SEL refers to both a set of core competencies and a process of learning. Competencies being developed in our curriculum are: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making skills. Themes over sixth, seventh, and eighth grade include character education, human reproduction, socially healthy relationships, including technology, and transition to high school. Each class focuses on the creation of a safe, caring, and highly participatory learning environment where SEL competencies are modeled, taught, and reinforced. Learning opportunities are provided through mindfulness activities, games, presentations and lectures, small group work, sharing circles, Council, and solo time.