Up my neighbor, come away,
See the work for us today,
The hands to help
The mouths to feed
The sights to see
The books to read..
A Day In A Third Grade Classroom
Like the words of this song, every morning in third grade, we lay the ground for rich and productive hours of working with our hands. Of all the indications for curriculum that Rudolf Steiner gave, the third-grade ones have a potency and appropriateness that fit the growing child like a glove for the soul.
Around the age of nine, the child begins to feel itself as more of an individual, and the Waldorf curriculum brings the world to the child in a life-filled, soul-enriching way. This opens the window of a new perspective to the rapidly-changing experience of living in the “world of matter.”
The realization of having landed on the earth is hastened by the splitting of their consciousness from one-ness to two-ness. They now begin to live in both imagination and objectivity – a capacity they could not completely grasp until now.
This new capacity will grow and be nourished as they blossom into young adults who can integrate actions and feelings with greater control and reason.
Themes such as gardening, cooking, clothing and shelter immerse the child in the most fundamental aspects of being human. Feeding themselves from nature’s bounty while clothing and sheltering themselves with the materials found in nature reveal and assure that earth is the best place to live.
It also begins to unearth how our needs as humans can be different based on where and how we live. Exploring different types of housing, food and clothing widens understanding and appreciation for the human capacity to innovate.
All of these qualities of increased awareness and inquisitiveness are carried through imagination that is brought together by third-grade stories. Taken largely from the Bible, these stories follow the journey of the Israelites toward autonomy and consciousness.
This journey is akin to the one the child walks as it leaves the Elysian fields of childhood and prepares for the complex suburbs of adolescence.
A day in the third-grade classroom is filled with the joys of exploring the outside world, and the excitement of discovering the capacity to learn more complex academic concepts. We learn many new skills like writing independently, crunching bigger numbers with operations, learning to sing in rounds and crocheting. Our precious farm teaches us to reap the gifts of the earth with love and reverence.
An insatiable thirst to work and increased abilities to stay on task for long periods of time are the gifts of third grade. It is the stepping stone to a time when peak enthusiasm will meet peak strength.
The solid groundwork laid in the first two grades sits behind us, and the ambiguity of adolescence has not yet begun. It is a wonderful time to be a teacher!
Hema Srikant is a third grade teacher at Sacramento Waldorf School.