This new series on the blog summarizes and takes excerpts from the Moving through the Grades chapter in the book Waldorf Education: A Family Guide. Today’s post looks at Lucille Clemm’s contributed chapter about the curriculum of Grade Eight in Waldorf Education.
She says, “With the completion of the eighth grade the children should have a well-rounded general picture of human life and universe … to enter fully and potently into the life of their own time.”
Here is a summary of curriculum highlights for each subject:
History – Industrial Revolution to Modern Day history is taught with special care taken to study outstanding leaders such as Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Science – The theme in science study is practicality. How has mankind used its knowledge of physical sciences? This is shown by exploring principles in electricity and magnetism, hydraulics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics and more. Geography study in this grade gives a “comprehensive picture” of “mineral resources to plant and animal life” along with “the role played by every part of the earth in modern industrial civilization.” Chemistry and organic chemistry is also studied for its practical applications in industry and food.
Math – Practical application is key in math for this grade as well – looking at how the world uses arithmetic, algebra and geometry through measurement of surfaces and volume, the study of graphs and so forth.
Literature and Language – Shakespeare takes the stage and so do the children as they put on an 8th grade play. They also study literature written about human freedom and their in-depth study of foreign languages and culture continues.
Music – Choir, orchestra and band continue to teach acoustics, music reading and more.
Handwork – Becomes the culmination of eight years of hard work. Paintings take life with highlights and shadows, machine sewing is done and carpentry is “Devoted to big projects.”
For more information about Spring Garden Waldorf’s unique Class 8 curriculum, speak with or email our Admissions Director who can also put you in touch with our current Class 8 instructor.
Knitting and handwork is a subject in Waldorf of equal importance to Music and Spanish and the other special subjects. Wonder why? Learn to knit! It requires counting, fine motor skills, spatial awareness and multilateral thinking. Best of all, unlike a math worksheet, this math lesson, a pattern of weaving and intertwining multiple rows, layers, and numbers according to formula, results in a beautiful and functional piece of art. Something each child is truly proud of having made.
Here is an excerpt from after the click:
“Needles are held in both hands, with each hand assigned it’s respective activity; laterality is immediately established, as well as the eye’s control over the hand. The right needle must enter a fairly tightly wound loop of yarn On the left needle, weave through it and pull it away, in the process of tying a knot. Only a steady and controlled hand can perform such a feat, so the power of concentration is aroused . . .”
Music is beautiful and enriching to our lives. Children who learn music gain confidence in their ability to master a complex skill. But research also shows music does so much more for our brains. Below, we have posted some music and intelligence research to go with this lovely video of our 7th and 8th grade orchestra performance.
From The M.U.S.I.C Foundation: “Music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary to learn math and science.”
From Parenting Science:
“Moreover, brain scans of 9- to 11-year old children have revealed that those kids who play musical instruments have significantly more grey matter volume in both the sensorimotor cortex and the occipital lobes (Schlaug et al 2005).”
“People with music training often outperform their non-musical peers on cognitive tasks (Schellenberg 2006).”
“A new study of older adults–aged 65-80–found a correlation between childhood music training and cognitive performance. The more years a person had spent playing an instrument, the better he performed on tests of word recall, visual (nonverbal) memory, and cognitive flexibility (Hanna-Pladdy and Mackay 2011).”
From Science Daily: ”Researchers have found the first evidence that young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.”
From the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: “Short-term music training enhances verbal intelligence and executive function. After only 20 days of training, only children in the music group exhibited enhanced performance on a measure of verbal intelligence, with 90% of the sample showing this improvement. These improvements in verbal intelligence were positively correlated with changes in functional brain plasticity during an executive-function task. Our findings demonstrate that transfer of a high-level cognitive skill is possible in early childhood.”
When you look into or join a Waldorf school you will hear a lot about Main Lesson. Main Lesson is the academic meat in the sandwich of the child’s day. After a hearty morning recess and the good morning class ritual, children begin the 2 hour learning period called Main Lesson, where subjects like reading, math, history and science are taught in the block method.
Teachers typically present topics in three or four week blocks to provide an in-depth learning experience of a single subject. This method also supports our multi-sensory learning approach because the time allotted allows teacher’s to engage the children with a wide variety of activities. This article at the Waldorf Library about Main Lesson says:
“Teaching in main lesson blocks has become one of the most successful and distinguishing features of Waldorf education, for it allows teachers to cover the curriculum intensively and economically, and it provides the students with the fullest possible immersion in a subject. The students’ experience of the subject is further deepened by allowing the subject to “go to sleep,” before being “reawakened” later in the year… The time between the main lesson blocks in a subject allows students’ concepts to develop gradually and to mature. Knowledge needs time to take root, blossom, and bear fruit.”
Another distinguishing feature of Main Lesson is the Main Lesson Book. Textbooks are not used in Waldorf Schools during K-8 grades. Students make their own books for each Main Lesson subject by copying the content of the teacher’s presentation and then illustrating the book with teacher guidance. The children benefit not only from the creativity allowed with this method, but also by the brain function required to carefully record the lecture material.
By Stephanie Sesic Greer
Integrated curriculum across subject areas is a hallmark of Waldorf education, and this integrative approach is applied not only among academic subjects but also between academic learning and social learning. In the early grades, storytelling is a key for student learning.
First graders learn math by hearing and telling stories about gem-collecting gnomes, but these stories also teach important social skills, such as cooperation. For example, when Matthew Minus loses some of his gems, Patty Plus will happily share hers. Teachers in the early grades also tell impromptu stories that address social conflicts as they arise among students. This allows children to consider the nature of the conflict and how it might be solved without naming names of the actual participants in classroom conflict. This inclusive method helps to maintain the class’s sense of community.
In second grade, fables are a main focus of the language arts curriculum, but because these animal stories are also part of the students’ social learning, teachers are careful never to tell children the moral of each fable. Rather, students are encouraged to discuss the fables and form their own judgments and characterizations of the animals based on their behaviors. In this way, young children learn the valuable social skills of interpreting behaviors and responding appropriately.
In the later grades, the social studies curriculum illustrates the higher level social skills of working together in groups for the advancement of society. Examples include the study of Native American circles and Viking councils in fourth grade, Ancient Greek democracy in fifth grade, the Roman Forum and Senate in sixth grade, and European Republics in seventh grade. These lessons about the development of societies throughout history also show how society’s development mirrors individual development in terms of learning to build community.
As with other aspects of Waldorf education, Spring Garden focuses on the long-term value of developing its students’ social skills. Consider, for example, the benefits to Spring Garden graduates who enter the challenging realm of high school with the tools to understand and express their own emotions and to confront and resolve conflicts between themselves and their peers.
How many adults do you know who suffer from the lack of these very skills? How much would society as a whole benefit if more of its members had been instilled from childhood with a deep understanding of self and a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts within their communities rather than to merely assign blame to other groups or individuals? To me, this is the shining promise of a Waldorf education that develops self-motivation in both academic and social development: that our children will know who they are, that they will claim their place in the world, and that they will make that world a better place.
By Stephanie Sesic Greer
Just as conflict is a common occurrence among young children who have yet to fully develop their social skills, so discipline is a common concern among parents who naturally wish to ensure that no harm comes to their child as the result of a conflict.
Here at Spring Garden, some traditional disciplinary tools, such as accident and behavior reports, are used when serious behavioral issues arise. On the whole, however, the teacher’s goal is not to punish children for a behavior but rather to help children progress in their ability to govern their own emotions and temper their own actions so that ultimately, outside intervention or punishment from an authority figure becomes unnecessary.
A child may be separated from the rest of the class as the result of a conflict, but this is not a punishment so much as an opportunity for the child to calm down enough to reflect upon the conflict and to help in resolving it through discussion with the teacher and the other children.
This focus on progress rather than punishment helps children establish an internally derived sense of self-worth. For example, a child who is frequently involved in conflicts on the playground, rather than being scolded or given a detention, may need to have temporary physical limits placed on her or his play area in order to limit the potential for conflict with other children. A child who has a hard time avoiding conflict may need more boundaries in order to feel secure and to succeed on a smaller scale. Once the child has successfully and consistently avoided conflict within this smaller play area where fewer children will be encountered, the teacher will gradually expand the child’s play area. This process allows the child to progress toward better self-control and healthier interactions and, ultimately, a greater sense of self-worth based on those accomplishments.
Avoiding a simplistic system of punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behavior provides real self-improvement to children who might otherwise be labeled as “bad.” In a less obvious but no less important way, the Waldorf method also better serves children who might otherwise be labeled as “good” for reporting the bad behavior of their peers. Children who are told they are “good” for following the rules and reporting the rule breakers for punishment are unwittingly being encouraged to become overly competitive and self-serving, and they are learning to base their self-worth on external factors rather than on a more reliable internal sense. Such labeling of children also creates a divide in the classroom, undermining the sense of community that Spring Garden prides itself on cultivating.
In the next post in our series, I’ll discuss how our teachers use the Waldorf academic curriculum to reinforce students’ social skills.