The first-grade child is surrounded by a loving, artistic environment rich in imagery, art, movement, and work in nature that awakens the wonder of learning. The first-grade child's new capacities of memory and gross and fine motor skills are nurtured in the first-grade curriculum through imagery, movement, music, handwork, drawing, writing, and foreign language. First grade is a time to awaken the wonders of numbers, letters, language, themes, natural phenomena, classroom habits, and healthy social life. At this phase of the child's development, the six and early seven-year-olds are crossing a major developmental threshold that will free their memory (etheric forces) to construct and deconstruct both tangible and imagined experiences in a new and more consistent way. For this reason, it is at this time, we begin formal learning. The child still learns primarily through imitation and imagination so the environment is nurturing, safe, loving, compassionate, respectful, and patient. Tasks continue to be carried out by calling on the will and feeling forces of the child. As the child's memory shifts during this time of transition, thinking and memory forces are called upon through new learning techniques such as writing, formal recall, and guided illustrative work. Socially, this is the time for forming classroom and community habits that will be carried forth into the coming school years. Starting with alphabet learning in the first term their reading and writing skills develop in a greater way to an average of 7.5-8 yrs. level of reading and spelling by the end of grade 1. They learn to write stories by the end of this grade.
A second grader is like a butterfly who has just emerged from the hard imprisoning chrysalis and sits upon the leaf waiting for those glorious wings to dry and strengthen. He is truly poised for flight “for he has fully entered the second seven-year life cycle of imagination and wonder that Rudolf Steiner describes as the “Heart of childhood” First Grade is the time for creating rhythm and a sense of oneness; in second grade, it is time to explore the dual aspect human nature as the child's feelings awaken. Strong feelings of sympathy and antipathy may be upsetting to parents, but they are necessary experiences for the second grader to live through. They will continue with Skating, Aqua skills, Carpentry, Nature walks, Gardening, Knitting, Recorder and Music, Speech and Drama, Singing, Rhythmic movements, Bothmer games, and Bothmer gymnastics along with the subjects. They explore symmetry and dual human nature through fables and nature stories.
(If not, you will) Now not that the second dentition is well underway, the teeth are struggling to ﬁnd a comfortable resting place in each particular mouth. It is not only teeth that are changing, but the mind and soul as well. New capacities for thinking and judgment are emerging within the child. The “unity of all things” experience of the younger child is giving way to an inner/outer dichotomy. I am here and the world is there,” this may bring self-consciousness, and a critical view of oneself and others strong. Opinions and stronger likes and dislikes emerge. A new realistic view of the world is beginning to manifest. The child will need time to build a bridge between the outer and the newly felt inner world. To help the child connect with the material world, the hands-on experience of the Waldorf third grade curriculum includes cooking, crocheting, working with ﬁbers, gardening, working with hand tools, and exploring local craftsmanship and hands-on professions. A third-grader is also introduced to stories that recapitulate the inner mood of the child at this age. The theme of the stories revolves around the law, divine justice, and the difficulty of living up to one’s higher self.
The ten-year-old zest for life, the quest for knowledge, and the intense desire to socialize can present challenges to some of the established rhythms of the first three years. The children experience many expressions of conflict and separation of confrontation, indicating the paths for healthy resolution and integration. A new awareness has developed of the challenges before them. To develop the capacities to meet these challenges, we wish to give the children opportunities to face situations in the classroom that seem insurmountable and have the experience of overcoming them. They will have the experience, "I had no idea how I was going to solve that problem. But I was able to rely on my own resourcefulness which was more than I knew. I can overcome even the most seemingly impossible difficulties. Therefore, every possible opportunity is given to meet these oppositions in quite unexpected ways, ways in which the child can have the experience of traversing through conflict, and at the same time be led towards a wholesome resolution.
Fifth grade is referred to as the “golden year” because students at this age are especially enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges, and capable of hard work and creativity. Even in the social realm, students display a harmony in interactions that will soon be transformed into the complexities of the adolescent years. This developmental stage is reflected in the curriculum as the students study ancient civilizations and the emergence of many of the great moral teachings of the world. This year’s study focuses particularly on ancient Greece and the cultural expressions of the balance of skill and beauty, art and science, earthly life, and spirituality.
The transition from mythology to history takes place this year as the study begins to explore the impact of individuals, and the atmosphere in the classroom changes as the focus shifts more to individual academic work with a growing emphasis on personal responsibility.
A highlight of the fifth-grade year is the Greek Pentathlon, a social event in which the students meet fifth-grade classes from neighbouring Waldorf schools to compete in the classic Greek athletic events of discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump, and running. This celebratory event is dedicated to athleticism and individual skill and effort, the culminating event in this golden year of human balance.
Fifth graders are physically balanced. Usually able to run and jump easily, they are well proportioned and know their bodies, making them graceful and capable. Intellectually, fifth graders have a greatly increased capacity for examination, thought, and reflection. Their actions are much more planned and considered than in previous years, and their minds can take on a depth and breadth of study previously impossible. The fifth-grade year encompasses a wider scope of study than any previous grade. Their work reflects this new depth of their understanding and questioning.
The fifth-grader also shows a great deal more balance socially and emotionally. A fifth-grade class is usually a harmonious group, with sincere attempts to compromise and apologize being made by all children involved in an argument or dispute. By the end of the year, the divisions between boys and girls and among social groupings are diminishing, leading to a smooth and comfortable classroom environment. Fifth graders are also much more capable, taking on more challenging classroom cleaning, chores, and work than in previous times.