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.
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.
Letters are learned the way they originated in human history:
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
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—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 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 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.