||When the teacher reveals ideas from the curriculum that reflect the students’ own human development, they listen and engage. They experience their teacher’s enthusiasm for the content being taught. They want to learn all they can. They feel that what they are learning is important, gratifying, and demanding—a vast, satisfying curriculum specifically designed to meet the developing mind, body, and soul of the emerging adolescent. Rudolf Steiner designed the upper grades curriculum with these principles and ideas as its basis.
The watercolor painting of earlier years evolves with refined techniques. In clay modeling, students sculpt forms inspired by the curriculum. With the world appearing increasingly black and white, they learn charcoal drawing. Studying the Renaissance, they retrace the discovery of perspective drawing, which requires both technical mastery and philosophical inquiry, as in: do I trust what I see, or what I know to be there?
The eighth grade play is a major presentation, usually Shakespeare. This class also presents The Little Play of the Nativity in December as a gift to the younger grades. Recitation of the world’s great poetry, echoing the human drama, continues to feature prominently. Debating—between Roman orators, for example—develops emerging reasoning skills and satisfies argumentative tendencies.
Reading from the world’s great literature reveals the pain and joy of modern consciousness. In creative writing, stormy moods and emotions are explored through the writing of poems, short stories, and expository and persuasive pieces, with grammar’s structure providing boundaries. Writing assignments like book summaries and research reports include accurate, as well as narrative, descriptions of science experiments.
Eurythmy counteracts the awkwardness and self-consciousness of this age with its formalized, graceful interactions, fostering awareness of one’s presence in space and relationship with others. Eventually, students experiment with their own choreography. In Traditional dance, students learn progressively more intricate dances, including Morris and Sword dancing, with perhaps a foray into salsa or swing couples dancing as well. In physical education, a tendency to droop is counteracted by emphasis on technical training, strength, flexibility and endurance. Precision and skill are honed in javelin throwing, archery, and juggling.
Sixth graders sew a cloth doll or stuffed animal, combining technical skill with a new-found awareness of the human or animal form. Seventh graders design and knit a full-size wool sweater—a lengthy project requiring concentration, consistency, and purposeful work. To enhance their study of the Industrial Revolution and their
fascination with technology, eighth graders use a sewing machine to create a garment.