The Grades Classroom

The Class Teacher ideally takes the same class of children through eight years of elementary school (First to Eighth Grade), teaching all the Main Lesson subjects. For the teacher, this means time to really get to know the children and help their gifts unfold. For the students, this relationship offers stability and guidance.

Textbooks are not used in the elementary grades. Instead, the teacher creates the presentation and the children create individual books for each subject, recording and illustrating the substance of their lessons. These books, often artistic and beautiful, are an important way in which art is integrated into every subject.

Main Lesson is the two-hour period every morning in which the main subject of the day is presented. That subject―for example mathematics, history, botany, or acoustics―is taught daily for a 3- or 4-week block and then put aside, perhaps to be continued later in the term. This approach allows for concentrated, in-depth experience; freshness and enthusiasm; and time to digest what has been learned.


Drama plays a major role from the early Grades on, creating poised speakers before audiences. An annual Class Play allows students to submerge personal drama in a stage character, while meeting a wide range of emotions. The Eighth Grade play is a major presentation, usually Shakespeare.


Making Speech and Song Visible
The movement art known as eurythmy, developed by Rudolf Steiner, is unique to Waldorf schools. It may at times resemble dance, gymnastics, and theater, but its aim is ultimately to harmonize the child’s soul-spiritual nature with the body, by making the body a more flexible and responsive instrument of the soul’s intentions. Eurythmy classes feature recitation of verses or stories by the teacher, and piano accompaniment for parts of the lesson. In moving to music and the spoken word, the children become aware of different rhythms, repetitions or rhymes, tone color, moods, and the narrative arc.

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World Languages

Spanish and German classes meet twice a week beginning in the First Grade. The goal of world language teaching in Waldorf Schools is to encourage a positive attitude towards people of other cultures and languages. We strive to foster human understanding through language and culture. We help the students see the world in a different way and broaden their own perspectives.

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Form Drawing

Capturing Dynamic Movement on Paper
Form drawing is also unique to Waldorf schools. It allows one to experience the inner nature of things through movement—which is one of the basic learning modalities of the early Grades. First, the children move with their whole bodies to create shapes; then they draw the shapes on chalkboards or paper. The shapes are archetypal patterns and designs such as those found in nature, incorporating straight and curved lines that “freeze” the movement, making it visible in space.

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Handwork and Practical Arts

Practical arts, handwork, and crafts are an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum.  Decades before brain research could confirm it, Rudolf Steiner recognized that brain function was founded on body function. Learning these skills in the early Grades leads to motor skills that later metamorphose into lively thinking and enhanced intellectual development.

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The Mathematics curriculum strives to awaken in the student not only the ability to think logically and critically, but also a feeling for the beauty, lawfulness and clarity of mathematics. The curriculum imparts the standard components of mathematical knowledge necessary for success in high school and beyond: arithmetic, fractions and decimals, percentages, measurement, algebra, ratios, geometry, number bases, and more.

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Music permeates and harmonizes life in the Waldorf school through a curriculum designed to develop the innate musicality with which every child is born. In First Grade, children sing and learn to play a simple wooden pentatonic flute. Both activities are practiced daily through the elementary school years. In Third Grade, diatonic flutes and string instruments are introduced. Students may choose a wind instrument beginning in Sixth Grade.

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Letters are learned the way they originated in human history: First Graders hear stories, draw pictures, and discover the letter in the gesture of the picture. This process is accompanied by phonetic work in songs, poems, and games, helping to establish a joyful and living experience of language. Through the Grades, texts taken from the humanities curriculum―for example the book of Genesis, the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Kalevala from Finland―provide material for reading practice.


Recess at HVWS, as in Waldorf schools everywhere, is structured and guided integrally into the rhythm of every day―as an element of breathing in and out through the curriculum like the rhythm of the ocean waters. After concentrating in class, students of all ages interact at recess and work out the lessons they have internalized from the curriculum. Recess is also crucial to social inclusion. One of our golden rules, "You can't say, 'You can't play!'" can easily be heard from a young student engaging in play with others―for it is in the encounters on the playground where the children can find their way with each other.

The Arts

The Arts—including drama, painting, music, Eurythmy, drawing, and modeling—are integrated into the entire academic curriculum, including mathematics and the sciences. The Waldorf method of education through the arts awakens imagination and creative powers, bringing vitality and wholeness to learning.

The Humanities

The Humanities begin in First Grade with folk and fairy tales and continue in Second Grade with mythology and legends; Third Grade with Old Testament stories; Fourth Grade with Norse mythology; and the ancient cultures of India, Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Greece in Fifth Grade. These studies provide the background for the study of history and arts presented through excerpts from original texts. By living in these cultures through their legends and literature, the children gain flexibility and an appreciation for the diversity of humankind. By the close of Eighth Grade, the children have journeyed through Rome to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Exploration, and up to the present day.

The Sciences

The Sciences are taught experientially: the teacher sets up an experiment, calls upon the children to observe carefully, ponder and discuss, and then allows them to discover the resulting law, formula, or principle. Through this process, rigorous, independent thinking and sound judgment are trained. Children progress from learning about nature through the direct experience of a nature walk, to the study of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Astronomy, Physics (including Optics, Thermal Physics, Acoustics, Static and Current Electricity, Magnetism, Mechanics), and Physiology.

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I want to work with people whose imaginations have been unleashed and who tackle problems as challeng
es rather than see them as

An education enriched by the creative arts should be considered essential for everyone.

-John Sculley, former chairman/CEO of Apple Computers, Inc.

Click for an overview of the HVWS Grade School Curriculum.
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