While Waldorf education places heavy emphasis on the formation of value systems, students and parents at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School are not indoctrinated to any particular way of thinking, world-view or religion. On the contrary, a variety of perspectives are presented so each student has a basis from which to make up his or her own mind. The curriculum gives a diverse and well-rounded view of history, government models, religions, gender, and social forms.
Every elementary school grade has a theme for literature. 1st grade’s literature theme is fairy tales. These stories are filled with rich language and strong archetypes which nourish the child’s feeling life, and also provides the images from which the letters and sounds of the alphabet are introduced. As the year progresses, the students become familiar with all of the consonants and vowel sounds. Then they move on to words and sentences, all of which come from a familiar context such as a story or poem the children already know. In this way, the children develop the decoding skills they will need when they begin to read. They practice copying words and sentences written by the teacher on the chalkboard, with the emphasis at this point in their development placed on translating what they see into motor activity and forming beautiful shapes rather than on reading comprehension.
Movement games and form drawing are integral parts of the 1st grade curriculum, especially during math blocks. First graders are introduced to all four processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) through stories and practice with manipulatives.
In many ways, first grade provides the foundation for all the later grades. Painting, music, form drawing, and all of the elements of creating the main lesson book begin in the first grade. Waldorf schools place a great deal of attention on the importance of play in the child’s physical and social development. The children normally play outdoors for part of every day in all but the most severe weather. In addition to free time when they can play imaginatively, the class plays lots of games together.
Most students are reading by the end of second grade. At this point, students have begun to feel more confident with addition, subtraction and multiplication. In second grade the pace of the day’s activities is accelerated compared to Grade 1. More advanced work in speech is presented. Cursive writing is often introduced in grade two. Timeless human qualities are celebrated through the telling of legends and fables from various cultures. Through these stories, the child of seven or eight can find ways to strive for moral behavior and also recognize that it is human nature to make mistakes. Main lesson books are created which give students the opportunity to draw pictures and copy texts about the lesson material.
The sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world that was fostered in kindergarten and first grade is further nurtured by nature stories (teacher-developed stories in which natural scientific facts are personified). In this way, the children begin to develop a personal relationship to this material, which will continue to enrich their understanding as they learn more abstract aspects of these concepts in later grades. The teacher also is telling riddles, and relating Aesop’s fables which playfully highlight human foibles. The theme of the year is focused on Native American lore. Grade 2 students begin copying short stories from the board into their main lesson books, working on their tracking, handwriting, decoding, and reading skills. Later in the year, they begin to make up short stories in class and write them into their books. Throughout the year, children work with word families to help with their reading and spelling skills.
[/one_half_last] The children deepen the knowledge they gained in Grade 1 of basic number facts and the four arithmetic processes. They often practice rhythmic counting with movement. This lays the foundation for mastering the multiplication table in the following school year. The children begin to explore additive number families such as 3-8-11 (where the first two combine to make the third, and the third minus either of the first two leaves the remaining one). The same principle is introduced for multiplicative number families (2-4-8, 3-8-24, etc.). Finally, the children begin to work with mathematical word problems and “number adventures”. The tasks given to the children in second grade are more complex than in the prior year. Form drawing is related to both writing and to math in its spatial designs, and it helps students develop their powers of observation, spatial orientation, and hand-eye coordination.
Second graders use the wet-on-wet painting technique and extend their work with colors, eventually progressing to paintings representing scenes from one of the stories the teacher reads to them in main lesson. Because it requires a good deal of kneading before it can be shaped, beeswax is considered to be an excellent medium for developing the will forces in the children, as well as an introduction to visualizing and working in three dimensions. The children are now able to sing and play good notes on their pentatonic flutes (or sometimes recorders) at will, so the focus in second grade is on listening to the music, memorizing the sequence of notes, and reproducing that sequence as pleasant music. Chase games dominate the outdoor activities in second grade. Games of this kind develop speed, agility, and courage. At this age, the children first begin to develop a rudimentary appreciation for strategy.
The third grade curriculum forms a transition between the early grades and the middle grades. It is the year of the nine-year-change, a significant milestone in the developmental path of individuation. The children are “coming down to earth”. The fertile and diffuse imagination of childhood is condensing toward observations and practical common sense applications; the sense of wonder turns more inward, directed toward a search for personal identity and a new feeling of separate selfhood.
This phase of the human development is accompanied in the curriculum by the experience and traditions of the Hebrew people: The Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Fall from Paradise, the Exodus from Egypt, the Wandering in the Wilderness, the Ten Commandments, the Journey to the Promised Land, the Kings and Prophets. The children often learn the Hebrew alphabet, celebrate Jewish festivals, and learn traditional Hebrew songs and dances. Such content is complemented by an immersion in practical crafts associated with food, clothing, and shelter. The children take up gardening, they learn to cook and to work with wool (carding, spinning, weaving in handwork); they engage in building.
At the same time there is also a distinct shift toward a more academic approach. In math the students concentrate on multiplication tables, while mastering carrying and borrowing, and learning about longer processes with larger numbers. They also study measurement and apply it in practical ways such as cooking, house building and setting up a shop. Writing in cursive and reading are supplemented by spelling and grammar (parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) and basic punctuation. The pages of their main lesson books become larger and more complex, and the students participate more actively in their composition.
By the end of third grade most students are reading independently, many quite fluently, some at an advanced level. They are familiar with the times tables (up to 12) and are well on their way to mastering them. They understand the calendar and can tell time. They have acquired many new practical skills. They are enjoying singing in rounds and their mastery of rhythm extends to folk dancing. They are learning to compose their own poems and stories. They are ready for the middle grades.
The spirit of the fourth graders is aptly reflected in the northern mythologies of the Edda and the Kalevala. Yggdrasil, Odin, Loki, Ragnarok, and then the saga of Vaianmoinen – a virile mixture of comic and dramatic, these stories are perfectly attuned to the child turning ten. The fourth grade experience is rich in vivid images and in academic challenges.
In mathematics the goal is first to consolidate all that has gone before – the four processes, including their long forms, the multiplication tables through 12 and factoring. The children will strengthen their mastery of numbers by learning to estimate their answers, then derive the exact one, then prove it. Then, moving from the whole to the parts, they will take up a comprehensive study of fractions. They will learn to expand and reduce, add, subtract, multiply and divide like and unlike fractions.
The English language work includes reading fluency, spelling, grammar (completing the parts of speech), punctuation, dictation, and composition. It leads to book reports and simple research projects. The children will be expected to compose a large proportion of their main lesson books themselves, together or individually. Through book reports and research projects, they will learn about rough drafts and final drafts. They also give oral reports.
New main lesson material includes local/regional geography and history. The children will learn how California came to be, and about the people cultures that have lived there before them. Field trips will acquaint them with the life of the Ohlone, the Spanish missions, and the gold rush. They will also learn to make and to read maps, beginning with their own room, home, neighborhood, and extending finally to a physical, three-dimensional map of California. Special attention is paid to how human beings interact with the environment, and how the land and the climate affect their way of life, culture, and the choices they make. Towns and cities, rivers and mountains, agricultural land, travel routes, lumber mining, fishing, etc. are also studied.
In the Human and Animal main lesson block(s) the children will learn about animals as archetypes and as living species. They will study the different broad types of animals, comparing them to each other in form and specialization, and then to a human being, in whom so many traits of the animals live on in a modified and balanced way, to create a being with remarkable new potential. Each child will choose a particular animal or two to study in detail.
The fourth grade class may also receive main lesson on Musical Notation as they learn to read and write music, for it is during this year that they will take up serious instruction in stringed instruments – violin, cello, or viola.
The language arts and history curriculum of Grade 5 is based on the ancient civilizations of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. The creation stories and mythologies of these civilizations are told and explored. Students study the geography of these lands and how they shaped diverse cultures. The daily life, history, architecture, religion and spirituality, science and mathematics of these cultures are studied to give the children a sense of the roots of modern consciousness and how it has evolved, as well as the variety and richness of the family of humankind.
For the first time, history is a separate lesson subject, apart from being presented only as story. The story of human deeds and strivings brings the child to a deeper experience of her/his own humanity. Historical studies trace development through the great ancient civilizations of the past, leading the child to see modern folk as heirs to an evolutionary process. The children as individuals will help this process carry forward, through a pictorial-artistic expression. Ancient Greece, where the human being achieved a balance between science and art, physical skill and the beautiful, life on earth and the life of the spirit, stands at the border between the study of mythology and history. The various Greek city-states are contrasted and compared, giving a picture of different human temperaments. Biographies of noble Greek philosophers, statesmen and leaders, from Solon to Alexander, are studied. The five pentathlon events, running, jumping, wrestling, discus and javelin, are practiced all year, in preparation for the Greek Olympics event held each spring, with children from other Waldorf schools. The Greek ideals of beauty and grace and truth are honored in these games.
Geography now moves into North American geography, leading the child out into ever wider spaces. Aspects covered include the contrasting ways people in different regions lived through their customs, songs, folk dances, legends, history, architecture, crafts and cookery. Study of the great physical features in each region of the earth and the natural resources therein, help to build a vivid picture of our vast country and continent.
Plant study is taught in relation to the whole earth organism. Starting with the form of the archetypal plant, first observed by Goethe, the principle of metamorphosis of plants is introduced. Familiar plants in our own environment, contrasted and compared, lead to a look at vegetation in other parts of the earth. Botany is taught including both scientific observations and the poetic/artistic interpretations.
Arithmetic is a review and strengthening of Grade 4’s introduction to fractions and a further deepening into the world of decimals. Practical application of decimals, in work with money, the metric system and measurement are introduced. The wonders of number patterns and relationships are explored, mirroring many of the great discoveries first made in the ancient civilizations studied. The Egyptians worked with geometry, and the Greeks refined it much further, and thus begins our geometry work during form drawing class, with freehand constructions of various forms, as a preparation to next year’s use of compass.
In the sixth grade, the theme is Rome and the Middle Ages. The teacher will also choose either the geography of Europe, which parallels the study of Rome and the Middle Ages, or that of Central and South America.
In geography the students study the cultural, economic, and social aspects of each area presented. Through this study the children become more aware of social problems and start the recognize a feeling of social responsibility. The students learn that different people from different cultures have various ways of interpreting the world. In this way the children develop compassion and understanding for different cultures around the world.
The students recite sophisticated poetry arising out of the curriculum. There is more emphasis on quality of speech and dramatic expression beginning in the sixth grade. In grammar, the children work with the subjunctive mood, and present and past perfect tenses. They continue to work with parts of speech with the continued emphasis on giving the students a feeling for the expressive qualities and possibilities of the English language.
Math in the sixth grade consists of regular weekly practice of skills developed up to this point. In addition, two morning lesson blocks are taught in math: business math and geometry. In business math students enter into the economic realm and learn about the history and intricacies of the decimal system. The children are presented with the basics of banking and how to calculate different types of interest.
Beginning in the sixth grade, the children learn to use the compass and ruler to create intricate geometric constructions. First the children learn basic geometric terminology and how to bisect a line. Then they learn to bisect angles and to construct parallel lines, angles, and triangles. Eventually the children learn to construct more complex geometric forms. Historical origins and uses of geometry are discussed in relation to the study of Rome and the Middle Ages.
In history, students begin by learning the mythology of the founding of Rome, and its seven kings. They learn how Rome started as a small city-state, and its evolution into a great empire. Through hearing many famous stories and biographies, the students will come to understand how loyalty began to shift from the family to the state, and how the strength, courage and integrity of individuals gave rise to Rome’s greatness. Then they will come to know how wealth and abundance, and the desire for personal power led to its excesses and downfall. As a practical activity, sixth graders will recreate models of Roman architecture or daily life situations from materials of their choice. The students hear how Europe descends into the Dark Ages and learn about the rise of feudalism.
In the sixth grade the children learn basic geology. They study the basic elements that make up the earth and how some of them were formed. They become familiar with the different layers of the planet and in this way are exposed to the different historical epochs. The study of the lime cycle illuminates for the students that lime, a mineral substance, actually originated from living creatures, shells, and corals. The origins of coal, slate, and marble are also studied and in this way the children are introduced to the idea that many mineral substances were actually formed out of living matter. They may also study the precious metals and gems.
In physics, learning is accomplished through the observation of phenomena. Then from those observations they come to their own conclusions regarding the phenomenon being studied. The children study heat and simple aspects of warmth and cold. They explore optics studying the properties of light, darkness and color. The introduction to acoustics includes vibration, pitch, sound transmission, resonance, and intervals. Sometimes musicians are invited to perform for the class. Finally, magnetism is studied and electricity is presented as the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion.
Some astronomy may be studied in the sixth grade though it is most often taken up in the seventh grade. Combining observation, legend, and historical fact the children learn to map the skies. They learn how the early astronomers viewed the heavens and how the first explorers relied on the stars to help them chart their way. They study the constellations, planets, meteors, celestial equator, meridians, and the path of the sun and the moon.
A time honored ritual is the 6th grade performance of the Maypole dance at the annual May Fair.
In the seventh grade students begin to focus on the path of discovery through outer explorations of world history and geography, a look inward through physiology, and a greater self- reflection of their own inner world. The creative writing block, for example, encourages students to look inward and work with the concepts of “Wish, Wonder, and Surprise”. First the children are asked to explore, in depth, the different qualities of these three states of being. They are asked to create poems, short stories, plays, etc. using wish, wonder, and surprise as the basis for their work. Often, a seventh grade produces a journal featuring the writings from the class.
This inner awakening is mirrored in the History curriculum where the theme for the year is the Renaissance. Students study the Age of Exploration, the Italian Renaissance, inventions, discoveries in astronomy, and the Reformation. The history of this period is taught primarily through the biographies of famous individuals.”x”. There are many options for studying this Age of Exploration. Typically, teachers begin with the adventures of Marco Polo, continue with Prince Henry and the Portuguese explorers, move on to the great “discovery” of Columbus, and conclude with Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world. The Italian artists; Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael are studied. Often Lorenzo de Medici and other political figures of the time are included. Ptolemy’s geocentric view of the universe is contrasted with the discoveries of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler and Galileo. The impact of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press is also studied. As the authority of the Church is challenged, the biography of Martin Luther becomes a study topic. In addition to those already mentioned, there are numerous other inspiring personalities of this period that may be selected by the teacher. Overall the children get a sense for the awakening of the consciousness of mankind in all areas of life..
The study of Geography is often interwoven with this Age of Discovery, focusing on the people, the land and how the land and climate shaped the culture of the inhabitants of the area. Following the paths of the great European explorers, it is common for the class to study South America and/or Africa. The children are able to learn about how perceptions of the world shifted with the discoveries by each explorer.
In math, an introduction to the unknown continues with an introduction to the beginnings of Algebra. The rules for positive and negative integers, solving simple equations for “x,” learning the order of operations and working with ratios are some of the new skills that are discovered while practice and strengthening of arithmetic processes continues as well. Another focus is how to combine numbers on each side of an equation and then how to exchange information from one side to the other while maintaining the balance and truthfulness of the equation. The teacher will determine how far to proceed based on the capacity of the students. The study of various mathematicians helps to weave an historical context throughout the curriculum.
In Geometry, students continue with what was learned in the sixth grade and are given more complex geometric constructions and proofs. They learn to measure the area of a circle and to construct a three dimensional triangle, square, rectangle, and a pentagon.
In seventh grade science, students study human physiology, chemistry and physics. In physiology, topics covered include the respiratory, circulatory, digestive systems. The eye and ear may also be included. Bringing in poetry and artwork the teacher strives to balance the scientific detail with artistic offerings. The information presented during the physiology block provides the framework for many discussions on topics such as nutrition, disease, limits and boundaries, substance abuse, diet, exercise and basic hygiene.
For the chemistry curriculum the teacher may chose from the following topics: the study of combustion, acids and bases, and the limestone cycle as well as alkaloids and metals. The children delight in the first presentations on combustible materials as the teacher burns various materials while the children record the results. The children are taught to make accurate observations before drawing their conclusion regarding a demonstration. Worldly examples and historical context are given for each demonstration.
The physics curriculum in the seventh grade begins with a focus on basic mechanics and the six basic machines. The study of light, sound, magnetism and warmth is continued in a more sophisticated manner as are the study of optics, acoustics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics. The children may work with reflections and learn to make a simple pinhole camera. They study the properties of frequency, amplitude, wavelength, resonance and the overtone series. Among other projects they learn to make a primitive battery and to construct a simple motor. The seventh grade play is usually a major production. The class teacher acts as the director and production manager. The specialty teachers along with parent volunteers rehearse the children, create and select costumes, build scenery, and do anything else that needs to be done to make the play a success for the children.
The eighth grade brings a sense of culmination. The goal is to continue developing the capacity for an all-encompassing point of view accompanied by a mood of completion and accomplishment for all that has gone before. It is essential to continue leading the students towards developing the capacity for independent judgment. The students have nearly completed their passage through childhood and are entering the territory of youth, an attainment that gives them an enhanced perspective, sharper powers of observation, and growing critical facilities. From this vantage, with their expanding capacities, the students continue developing the scope and the perceptive abilities to recollect, to connect, and to see relationships. These abilities make it possible to build a more comprehensive picture within the curriculum, whether the subject is literature, history, math, or science.
The students are taught the elements that are used in creating a story. They practice creative writing using the techniques of figurative and descriptive language. Numerous short stories are read and critiqued by the students. Students create their own short story. English practice periods are conducted two to three times a week where the students review the basic rules of grammar, usage, and mechanics.
Algebra is reviewed and expanded. In addition students work with math word problems, ratios and proportions, and review positive and negative integers. Students review exponents and learn how to find the square root of a number. The use of grids and plotting equations are also presented. There is an expansion upon the plane geometry learned in the sixth and seventh grades. The students also focus on aspects of solid geometry. The five basic Platonic solids are taught and constructed. The students are taught to calculate the volume and surface area of different solid figures such as triangular prisms, cylinders, cones, and rectangular solids. The Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio are presented or reviewed.
Math practice periods are held three times a week. A review of the various math processes is conducted: working with decimals, fractions, percentages, graphs, and solving word problems. Strengthening geometry and algebra skills can also be accommodated during these periods. An eighth grade theme is the struggle for human rights, and how this desire has shaped our world. Much of this history is taught through the presentation of biographies. The starting point is the colonization of America followed by a study of the American, French and/or Industrial Revolutions. Immigration and the American Civil War are studied. The students then move on to the history of the twentieth century, looking at some of the people who have brought new ideas to life in the modern era, and identifying some of the questions and possibilities that currently face us. During these blocks the students are assigned historical novels to read, and may conduct interviews with grandparents or other “seniors”, and explore their own heritage, learning how their families came to the United States.
Generally Eurasia is studied in the eighth grade. The physical and cultural geography of this vast continent is studied with special attention to three or four counties or regions such as Russia, India, China, Japan, or the Middle East. Historical references and biographies enliven the understanding of how people relate to their surroundings, and shape the cultural and political direction of a particular place. Students continue to develop their map skills, geographic vocabulary and terminology. Current events related to the regions studied are included in class discussions.
In physiology students learn the composition, location, and function of bones and the interaction of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These are tied in with the action of the brain and central nervous system to provide students with an understanding of how these systems provide a strong, mobile, and sensitive framework for the human body. Human sexuality and reproductive system are covered in the eighth grade. Often an outside speaker, such as a midwife, comes to answer students’ questions.
The curriculum in the eighth grade deals with organic chemistry, specifically sugars, starches, proteins, and fats and oils. It is discussed how these substances are created in plants through the process of photosynthesis and then are distributed throughout the food chain. Tests that are conducted include observing the behavior or these substances under the influence of water, fire, acid and base. More tests verify the presences of these substances in various types of food. Industrial application of these substances is discussed. The students are given the opportunity to make various products such as soap, cold cream, lollipops, paper, pudding, and cheese.
The material presented in eighth grade physics may include acoustics, heat, optics, electro-magnetism, aerodynamics, and hydraulics. Generally two or three of these topics are chosen for presentation over the course of this three week block. Each topic taught includes a practical application such as building a telescope in optics, or an electrical motor, bell, or telegraph in electro-magnetism.
A play is usually performed for two evening performances off campus in a public venue. The choice of this culminating class production is based on the teacher’s insight into the character of the particular class. The class teacher is usually supported by parents who will assist as drama coaches, in putting together props, costumes, program booklets etc. In eighth grade, students are asked to pick any subject that is of a particular interest to them as the focus of their eighth grade project. Using this subject, they spend several months researching and writing a research paper. They create a presentation board and prepare an oral presentation. Each student is asked to submit an artistic project to go along with his or her subject. Most all the work is done at home. Periodic meetings are scheduled with the class teacher. Students are encouraged to seek assistance outside the classroom from professionals in the particular field they are researching. Each eighth grade student makes a formal presentation of his/her project to the community: family, teachers, all other students, and friends as part of the course requirements.
The eighth grade year culminates with a class trip of greater length than in previous years, usually with a rite of passage theme. The trip’s destination and focus is arrived at through discussions guided by the teacher with the students and parents.