The dreamy consciousness of earlier grades now gives way to an intellectual awakening. This is mirrored in the study of ancient cultures, which surveys a huge sweep of time, beginning with the mystical world of ancient India and ending with the Greeks, inventors of logic. The students enter recorded history, tracing the development of modern consciousness which will culminate in the eighth grade study of current events. A similar expansion takes place in geography: the students’ consciousness of place extends to the continent of North America, challenging their increased capacity for memorizing, visualizing, and drawing maps.
In math, emerging intellectual faculties let students move easily from fractions to decimals; in grammar, they grasp subtle differences such as that between the direct and indirect objects of a verb. The beauty and symmetry of geometry is experienced freehand, as yet unencumbered by the technical requirements of compass and ruler. In science, the study of our fellow creatures now turns to botany, one step removed from last year’s engaging animal kingdom, but still capable of eliciting fascination, wonder, and careful observation. The stringed instrument begun in third grade now becomes a mainstay in the student’s life at home and at school. The fifth grade’s traditional participation in the Greek Pentathlon meets their new capacity for sustained physical effort with form, in javelin throwing, long jump, discus throwing, wrestling, and running.
Field trips may include Hindu temple; museums; botanical garden; nature walks/hikes. All fifth graders participate in the Pentathlon—the Greek Olympiad competition with other Waldorf fifth grades.
At the end of fifth grade, the students are poised and ready for the leap known as the “twelve-year change,” into the turbulent, exciting world of adolescence. From sixth through eighth Grade, to meet the students’ new realities with the challenges they need and want, the Waldorf curriculum undergoes a number of dramatic changes.