First Grade! Parents and children both experience crossing an important threshold when a child makes the giant step from the kindergarten into "the grades."
The year begins with a "Rose Ceremony," in which each new first grader receives a welcoming rose from an eighth grade “buddy,” who will join him or her in special activities during the year. The first graders will return the rose in kind during the eighth grade graduation ceremony in the spring.
The Rose Ceremony marks the importance and immensity of the transition to the first grade. The child is leaving the cradle of the home and the kindergarten to explore the inner worlds of memory and imagination and the outer worlds of new friendships and relationships with class and subject teachers. The child also experiences the teachers’ work of creating a class culture of working together.
The first grade child has powerful new capacities of intellect available as a result of successfully growing into his or her physical body and senses during the first seven years of life. To begin with, the child's memory is no longer dependent upon sight or a sound for recall. As a result, it now becomes free to serve the learning process.
The entire first grade curriculum is presented in a way that appeals to the child's sense of wonder and developing capacity of inner imagination. Academic subjects with the class teacher emphasize language arts, arithmetic, and form drawing and are enlivened for the students through their imaginations, speech recitation, music, movement and the arts. Movement through rhythmic circle work and games helps to bring warmth, order and sequence to the limbs and allows students to work together to learn important concepts through their whole bodies—a foundation for academic concepts for years to come.
The child is cultivating a special inner vision that allows him to reach beyond the given and create something uniquely his or her own. For example, in language arts, first graders are introduced to each letter of the alphabet through the rich language of fairy tales and stories in a concrete yet creative way. Letters become more than abstract symbols; they embody rich sounds and vivid pictures. Words and word families are then built from the letters so that soon the children are writing, and then reading, vocabulary far beyond what is printed in the usual children's readers.
Similarly, the first grader explores the qualities of numbers in mathematics, as well as all four processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. What does "one-ness" feel like and where is "one-ness" in the world? How is "two-ness" different? Through these explorations, the children develop a mathematical sense that lives and matures throughout elementary school and beyond.
In a similar fashion, we approach science in first grade through nature stories and observations. Children are natural scientists; throughout the grades the curriculum aims to cultivate the sense of wonder, awe, and curiosity that is a foundation for true scientific inquiry.
Foreign language is taught through complete immersion in the spoken language. The students learn to speak and understand German through song, speech, games, play acting and puppet shows. Group speaking is also emphasized.
Handwork continues finger knitting from kindergarten, and the children learn how to knit with needles. This is an indispensable part of the curriculum in first grade because of the relationship between finger movement, speech and thinking, as supported by modern brain research. It helps to support the reading process though functional eye-hand coordination.
Watercolor painting is a well-loved part of the day, when children explore the nature of color, as is the creation of form in beeswax modeling and beeswax crayon drawing. Students also practice form drawing from the very first day of first grade, which helps them orient to reading and writing in the two-dimensional world of the page.
Music reigns throughout first grade. The children sing during many subjects, and they begin flute playing in daily main lesson activities. The pentatonic scale of five notes is used because the notes can be played harmoniously in any order. The class also shares a play tied to the curriculum, as one group, in verse and song.
In eurythmy, the children move through the lesson as if taking a journey into picture-filled stories. This movement fosters a healthy, holistic integration of all the aspects of a developing person, helping each child find balance and center within themselves while working with the class as a whole. The games and movement curriculum introduces imaginative games and Bothmer gymnastics to encourage teamwork, cooperation and individual successes.
The second grade child is poised between the innocent, imaginative consciousness of early childhood and the more worldly consciousness of middle childhood. Wondering anew at the kindness, then cruelty, of one’s friends, and at the honesty, then deceitfulness, of one’s own nature, the eight-year-old child becomes aware of the greatness and the shortcomings of human beings.
What better time of life to introduce fables and, as a balance, the lives of saints? In their language arts and history studies, the second graders explore the landscape of personality traits: the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Traditional fables hold a rich source of wisdom about human nature and the world. There, human traits are exaggerated in the brave lion, the timorous mouse, the pokey turtle, the clever fox, and so on. The children can see themselves and their classmates through the antics of the animal kingdom and learn valuable lessons about life. Then, through the lives of saints from many cultures, the children see how the human spirit can aspire to the loftiest deeds.
All basic academic skills continue to develop at a rapid pace. The children practice writing and reading skills and are excited by their ability to enter entire imaginative worlds of their own choosing. Students are at home in the world of numbers. Mathematics lessons include the times tables in rhythmic movement of clapping and stomping, sequence and patterns in numbers, continued work with the four processes, and the introduction of place value as an antecedent to carrying and borrowing. Laying the ground for future science blocks, the students continue their experiential exploration of the world of nature through observation and stories.
As with the first grade, the entire curriculum is integrated to present the world as a whole, not as disjointed and disconnected pieces. Likewise, all students continue watercolor painting and their exploration of the moods of the colors, beeswax modeling and crayon drawing, as well as form drawing with vertical and horizontal midline mirror forms given for each child. The handwork curriculum works on knitting and embroidery, leading to the creation later of their own hats, among various other projects. String games, hand-clapping games, and counting knitted rows also support this work. In German, lessons continue to take inspiration from main lesson blocks of study. Students begin to speak individually and conversationally through games and activities that are filled with new descriptive language. Puppet shows from rich German tales also continue.
Musical instruction continues as in first grade and includes singing as well as pentatonic recorder. Eurythmy movement describes stories and forms, with a strong emphasis on inner listening and inner visualization of images and forms. The movement now includes, but is not limited to, geometrical forms, Curves of Cassini, expansion/contraction with music, little dances with piano/forte dynamics and stories of animals. Activities with copper rods help the children gently center themselves. Games and movement classes focus on imaginative games encouraging teamwork, cooperation, problem solving, and individual successes, with opportunities to improve coordination and balance through obstacle courses and gymnastic activities. A class play tied to the curriculum is shared with class families, and local field trips deepen students' learning experiences.
Second grade is a time when a child's sensory-motor system, a foundation for all higher learning, culminates its most intense growth period. As such, students receive an Extra Lesson assessment to provide a better understanding of each child’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of fine and gross motor development, balance, bilateral integration, early movement patterns (reflexes), body geography, spatial orientation, dominance, and visual and auditory processing. By observing these, we are better able to assess a child’s readiness to take on more complex and challenging academic work and further support him or her in the classroom and at home. Based on the assessment, the class teacher works closely with our educational support consultant to bring specific physical exercises to meet individual children and the class as a whole.
In third grade, through the themes of creation stories, house building, and farming, the children are brought literally down to the earth in their education. The students themselves bring a special blend of capability and innocence, plus a powerful energy for work. Enthusiasm, from the Greek word meaning "infused with divine spirit," is the quintessential third grade characteristic.
The students are connected to all that surrounds them in the world, yet they experience a profound change in their inner lives during "the nine-year change." The preeminent mode of learning up until this age is imitation, where the child primarily replicates what teachers do and say. The child begins to experience a new emergence of self wherein s/he becomes and feels more separate and distinct, more an individual. With this change, the child can be more objective and critical, but also experiences a period of separation and loneliness.
The curriculum for the third grade is designed to help the child stand as an individual on the Earth, confident of his or her ability to become a valued member of the human community. The stories of the Old Testament provide a metaphoric picture for the child of the separation from the parental home (Garden of Eden) and of the ability to make one's way in the world through individual good deeds and the laws of the community (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). During these language arts blocks, students are introduced to the parts of speech in grammar, spelling, and cursive writing to facilitate their own independent writing skills. They typically learn Hebrew as part of their study of the Hebrew legends as well.
On the practical side, the themes of house building and farming show the child how basic human needs are met on this Earth. The solidity of the foundation of a house, the firmness of the floor joints and the uprightness of the stud walls give the child a picture for his or her own development. Likewise, the farming block creates a picture of the bounty of the Earth and of the human responsibility to care for our collective home. Children study how human shelters have been made by many cultures. The native American way of life is especially interesting for students at this age.
The study of measurement in the mathematics curriculum allows the children to discover how human beings orient themselves on the Earth. The children learn about the earliest attempts to mark the passage of time by watching the cycles of nature to the later inventions of the water clock and sundial, which they may construct as a class. How distance is related to the measurements in the human body (e.g., the king's foot being "a foot") is a fascinating discovery for how the human being is truly the "measure for all things." Further topics in mathematics include carrying and borrowing, number patterns, and word problems. Rhythmic math movement work also continues. They also learn about money and currency through the stories they hear and may open their own market for the school to visit. Later in sixth grade, business math will leverage this foundational learning.
In music, the children begin singing rounds and playing a stringed instrument, as well as the soprano recorder. In the arts and handwork, the children spin fleece into yarn, and continue painting, crayon drawing and modeling with clay. In handwork class, the students learn to crochet their flute cases and further develop dexterity of fingers and flexibility of hands. In games and movement, the students work together in imaginative games and Bothmer gymnastics. In eurythmy, morning main lesson work is deepened and supported through forms and movement supporting the nine-year change. German continues with stories and much more complex games, rapidly expanding vocabulary to hundreds of words. Students are fluent and lessons are filled with conversation. The class play, related to their studies and intended to bring forth each student's innate gifts, is shared with the school community.
In addition to day trips to venues tied to the curriculum (e.g., local blacksmith, ship-building museum, etc.), a highlight of the year is a week-long field trip to work on Hawthorne Valley Farm in New York.
In the fourth grade, the children have left early childhood behind, but have not yet begun puberty. The teachers of the fourth grade class increasingly experience the children as emerging individuals with strong personalities and distinctive gifts and talents, as well as challenges. The children have lingering characteristics of the nine-year change as their self-consciousness intensifies and their perception of the world continues to sharpen.
Cognitively, the children are more able to form independent mental images and to recall them at will. Though the pictorial element is still strong in their thinking, reasoning begins to emerge in a more objective way since the child can now distinguish between one’s environment and oneself, and between what is past, present and future.
The Waldorf curriculum meets the fourth grade child's development by bringing forth, from the past, the Norse myths whose gods and goddesses exemplify strong individual characteristics, both for the good and for mischief. Where the children experience life as overwhelming and challenging, they find kindred spirits in the Norse gods and goddesses who met life headlong with courage, compassion, faithfulness, sacrifice and, occasionally, cleverness run amok.
The study of local geography helps the children establish their place on this Earth. Learning to make maps of their classroom, school, neighborhood, and the North Shore, and discovering the directions of north, south, east, and west as manifested by the movement of the sun and planets, gives the children a sure way to find themselves in the here and now. This is true in their bodies as well, for by this time the children should have become quite coordinated in the three aspects of space: forward/back, left/right, up/down.
The students also have the opportunity to do their first research project as they discover the wondrous versatility of the form of the human being in “Human Being and Animal,” a zoology block. Here the children study the specialized skills and habits of the animals and come to realize how upright posture, the organs of speech and the adaptability of the hands contributes to the uniqueness of the kingdom of the human being. Likewise, the child can see the responsibility that belongs to the human being toward the other kingdoms of nature due to the human being’s own special abilities.
Reflecting the fact that the world is no longer one whole for the children, the study of fractions enters in the mathematics curriculum. Concrete experiences of making and cutting up pizzas and pies, and anything else the teacher can find to break into parts, becomes the basis for the abstract experience of adding, subtracting, multiplying, reducing, and expanding fractions. Students also begin to read "musical fractions" (half notes, quarter notes, etc.) in their stringed instrument music studies.
In German, students are introduced to grammar, reading, and writing through activities and lessons tied to their morning main lessons. The fine and practical arts include clay modeling, geometric figures, form drawing of Celtic knots, watercolor painting and—in handwork—cross-stitch embroidery. Music classes continue with singing canons, singing rounds, and using harmonies. Instrumentally, the children continue recorder playing and playing their stringed instruments in a group. In movement, eurythmy brings supportive activities for the newly awakening inner life to help this integrate with the world and humanity through movement. Games and movement activities are filled with qualities of courage, cleverness and sacrifice requiring teamwork and strategic cooperation. Similar to the introduction of rules, or grammar, in main lesson language arts, the students are ready for rules to guide their games and movement work together. Rhythm is also stressed through games involving running and jumping, rope jumping and Bothmer gymnastics. Field trips and a class play continue to support and deepen the students' academic work.
The fifth grade has often been referred to as the "golden age" of childhood. The fifth grade child has established himself/herself solidly in space and time, and puberty is still a year away for most of the children, making this the most harmonious time in a child's development. Up until this time, subjects have been introduced in a more personal and pictorial nature, but beginning in fifth grade, students are capable of experiencing temporal concepts emerging from sequences of events. Thus the children begin their formal studies of history and geography as subjects. Human history tells of human striving and deeds in a way that helps the children understand the nature of the human being. Geography, on the other hand, involves them in contemplating the world outside of themselves, in ever widening distances from their homes.
The study of ancient history begins with the cradles of civilization in ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. The tableau of human history reveals the work of human beings in transforming the Earth, creating written languages, searching for answers to spiritual riddles and building great cultures whose contributions have been the foundations for our own civilizations. The children read translations of ancient poetry, study hieroglyphics, recreate the building of the temples and pyramids as models and incorporate ancient art into their own artistic work. Grammar blocks echo the theme of time as verb tenses are introduced in compositions.
In contrast, the children study American geography, with its varied and vast representations of the Earth's physical features. Geography will take the children away from their immediate surroundings and begin to introduce them to the use of natural resources and economic relationships among people living in various regions. A natural extension of the study of geography is the study of botany, the study of plant life and its relationship to the living Earth. The students learn first hand about the relationship of the plants to the earth and sun, how they change in the course of the year and how they differ around the world, a step into the field of ecology. The whole evolutionary sequence of the plant kingdom from the lower to the higher plants is examined, in much the same way that the animal kingdom was studied in fourth grade. At Moraine Farm, the botany block will hold many exciting possibilities.
In the mathematics blocks, the students review fractions and learn about fractional equivalents, mixed numbers, reciprocals and improper fractions. They begin the study of decimals and decimal place. In addition, the children are now able to begin free-hand geometric drawing as a result of their previous years of form drawing.
In German, academic work becomes more pronounced, continuing stories and games that culminate with work in their first chapter book. German writing and reading are a regular part of class and enhance morning main lesson studies.
In handwork, students design and knit their own pair of socks. The fine and practical arts program may include clay modeling, carving, drawing geometric forms and form drawing and continuing their exploration of watercolor painting integrated with their studies. In eurythmy, students move together to form the pentagram, the five-pointed star, in different variations to support this harmonious stage in their development. Rhythmical activities, rod work and dances from ancient Greece are also introduced. In music, the children continue their study of the recorder and singing.
A highlight of the year is the games and movement curriculum for the Olympics, tied to their studies of ancient Greece. This is an exciting competition with other Waldorf schools in the pentathlon sports of discus throwing, javelin throwing, shot put, long jump and running. Students from six Waldorf schools join together into teams, or Greek "city states." The class play often brings an aspect of their study of ancient cultures to life. Field trips deepening main lesson work also happen throughout the year.
The sixth grade student has reached the beginning of another turbulent time in his or her development with the onset of puberty and physical and hormonal changes that mark this period. The gracefulness and harmony of the fifth grade year are gone, replaced at times by mood swings and the pressure of the peer group.
The study of Roman history is introduced at this age because it so directly speaks to the physical and psychological changes in the children: the construction of great buildings, roads, aqueducts, and cities, on the one hand, and the destruction of indigenous cultures through conquest and the empire itself through excess, on the other hand. The students may also have Latin studies incorporated into their word study in grammar blocks. The decadence and dissolution of the empire, the Dark Ages, and the subsequent rise of two of the world's great religious traditions (Christianity and Islam) mirror the battles going on in the souls and the bodies of the children at this age. The Arthurian legends and the search for the grail help the students form their own questions ("quests") around love, chivalry, honor and respect. A "knighting ceremony" for the students culminates their medieval studies.
The Waldorf curriculum supplies ample opportunity for the students to hone their critical thinking skills with cause/effect reasoning and strict observation in the science curriculum and exact thinking in their studies of geometric figures and relationships. The students are ripe for the study of Geology. Physics, too, gives the students insight into the properties of acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism, and static electricity and the laws of causality inherent therein. Astronomy is taught phenomenologically as observations of the movements of the sun and planets, visible constellations and the moon phases. An understanding develops about the relationship between what occurs in the sky and its impact on climate and vegetation on the Earth.
Business mathematics lessons are designed to give the students real experiences of the world through learning principal and interest calculations (as a beginning step into algebra), percentages, profit/loss calculations, ratio and proportion, and estimation. The beauty of mathematics is expressed and experienced with a new precision, using tools in geometry. Throughout the year, the students practice their math skills through mental math games and rhythmic movement to deepen their studies. The students also move many of these geometrical forms in eurythmy class together.
In German, students continue to practice their ability to speak, understand, read and write German. They hear and read Emil und die Detektive and complete written homework on a weekly basis; their first examination is based on their German text. In German, the students are introduced to great poetry, ballads, and novels and begin to study poets that informed the eighteenth century German Golden Age. Music studies proceed with individual and ensemble recorder playing (soprano, bass, and tenor); strings orchestra and sectionals; and singing (which may include solfeggio training), and sing complex harmonies and minor keys.
With so many changes underway inside the sixth grade student, sewing a soft doll conceived from their own design in handwork allows a place for some of their feelings to go. Additional fine and practical arts lessons now include working with wood to create swords for the students’ knighting ceremony (rasping, sawing, carving. and filing), clay modeling veil painting. and form drawing.
In the games and movement curriculum, the students are introduced to joyfully competitive athletics, especially team sports such as hockey, football and basketball. Learning technique and undertaking fitness and training become important disciplines that the students both need and welcome. Juggling also enters the curriculum, echoing the "juggling" students manage with personal lives and academics. Students also begin playing on the basketball teams, the Hawks and Lady Hawks, for their middle school years.
In eurythmy, the students move geometrical forms to exercise their grasp of the laws of geometry from their morning main lessons; complicated forms that they imagine appear as they move! In addition, rod exercises support their physical development and posture, as well as their orientation in space.
A class play and field trips deepening main lesson work are also highlights of the year. In addition, the students may choose an elective of study in the wintertime among various offerings such as photography, snowshoeing, jewelry making, etc.
If you know seventh grade students, you are familiar with the expressiveness and forcefulness of the adolescent's emotional life at this time in their development. Overthrowing authority and challenging life itself with their questions, the students also seek with every breath to assert their independence and to find their place among their peers. What better time to study the Renaissance, that flowering of humanity in which lived colorful individuals who made their mark in the sciences, the arts and human social life? A new way of looking at the world developed in these times which depended on close, exact observations of the world, the basis of our modern scientific method. The students learn perspective drawing related to their Renaissance and Algebra studies. The study of the Reformation and the Age of Exploration also resonate with the development of the children in these adolescent years. Students hear biographies of Martin Luther, Columbus, Leonardo DaVinci, and others and have their first creative writing and poetry block, "Wish, Wonder, and Surprise," which gives wings to their need for self expression.
The physical sciences taught in seventh grade bring the students fully into abstract thinking, which is mobile and free to create concepts, thanks to its metamorphosis from the imaginative thinking fostered during the younger grades. Mechanics begins the physics block with the discovery of the lever principle in the human arm. The study in this block extends to the basic mechanical principles applied to ancient and modern machines. Other topics in physics are the laws of refraction, reflection, heat and electricity. During the chemistry block, the students observe the properties of substances, especially acids and bases, and the way in which they interrelate. Combustion of substances is a theme that leads into the study of physiology and the life processes in the human being. At this age the students can be more objective about the human being and discover what contributes to health or illness, especially in the area of nutrition. The study of astronomy continues as observation from the Earth, but this leads the students to experience the Earth's spatial relationships through solar, lunar, planetary, and stellar phenomena.
The mathematics curriculum is very demanding, calling on the students to use thinking that has no relationship to physical perceptions. Students must come to understand negative numbers, algebra and plane geometry, irrational numbers, graphing, roots, powers, and formulae. Using their new powers of abstract thinking, the students study the golden mean, the Fibonacci series, and other math phenomena related to their history studies. In addition, the students learn to apply the laws of perspective, devised by Renaissance artists, as a way to understand ratio and proportion. Regular math skills classes supplement the math main lesson blocks.
The geography curriculum takes the students out into worldwide spaces with the theme of the explorations of the New World by European explorers. Here the study of Astronomy helps the students understand how such exploration was possible. In addition, the studies of climate, tides, weather, and similar phenomena give the students a picture of how world cultures have adapted to a wide variety of climatic regions.
In German, students hear German biographies that expand their history main lesson work. They receive their first creative writing assignment and do other compositions related to eighteenth century Germany. In addition, they continue to play games using their basic knowledge of vocabulary and verbs. The handwork and other fine and practical arts curricula encompass felting, sewing, sculpture, perspective drawing, and black and white drawing. In music, students continue to participate in chorus and orchestra and become acquainted with other musical styles, including madrigals, ballads, opera and oratorio. Eurythmy brings creative expression to important works of poetry using copper rods. Games and movement includes team games and sports, such as volleyball, softball, football, and basketball as well as juggling and Bothmer gymnastics. Students also enjoy a reading workshop with the eighth grade class each week. A class play is a powerful forum of expression and creativity for the students. In addition, the students may choose an elective of study in the wintertime among various offerings such as photography, snowshoeing, jewelry making, etc.
Eighth grade students stand at the threshold of adolescence as they culminate their Cape Ann Waldorf School education and prepare to go on to many other schools all over the region. As the students complete their elementary years, the teachers strive to help the students know the human being, the world and themselves so that they can confidently create a place for themselves in the world. In order to do this, the curriculum must bring them fully into the present day.
The eighth grade history curriculum covers the great revolutions for human freedom during the French, American, and Russian revolutions and the modern civil rights movement. Studying biographies of people such as Napoleon, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and Martin Luther King brings alive the ideals for which these human beings fought and even died. The students also study the industrial revolution and the accompanying social changes which affected the lives of all men and women. Charles Darwin's view of the evolution of the species is examined in relation to the modern scientific worldview. Themes in geography also give a comprehensive worldview of the economic interconnectedness of human cultures through the human use of plant, animal and mineral resources distributed throughout the world.
The science curriculum covers anatomy, especially the skeletal and organ systems, and organic chemistry, with emphasis on the processes of photosynthesis and digestion. Topics in physics include hydraulics, aerodynamics and meteorology. Through the principles of mechanics in the steam engine, the students learn how modern knowledge of technology led to the industrial revolution.
In the mathematics curriculum, students continue the study of measurement, algebra, and plane and solid geometry, including construction of the five Platonic solids. Graphing linear equations is introduced. Regular math skills classes supplement the math main lesson blocks.
Literature and writing for eighth graders concentrate on the theme of human freedom through the short story, Shakespearean drama, poetry, and the practical art of writing letters. The eighth grade also studies modern novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird. In English class, students practice essay writing and learn to write formal research papers as well.
German academic work increases with written compositions, examinations and conversational games. Our students often place in higher-level language classes in high school from their strong foundation in German. In handwork, sewing machines are introduced as a product of the industrial revolution, and the students design and produce their own clothing. Fine and practical arts studies also include portrait and landscape painting and charcoal drawing with an emphasis on light and shadow, sculpture, and carpentry such as designing and carving their own stools. Students continue their instrumental music in orchestra and take up Elizabethan songs, popular music, and other forms of American music. In the games and movement curriculum, students continue team sports and Bothmer gymnastics. Students also enjoy Reading Workshop with the seventh grade class. In addition, the students may choose an elective of study in the wintertime among various offerings such as photography, snowshoeing, jewelry making, etc. A class play culminates their studies of Shakespeare or modern history.
Students take up a final project with a mentor and share their process and personal accomplishments with the school community. In addition, they work closely with a mentor to develop their written speeches for graduation.