During the 8th Grade students study Revolutions.
The goal of a Waldorf education is to lead young people to understand themselves and the world and to offer them knowledge so rich that it engages their hearts and wills as well as their minds. Such a basis provides a strong foundation for strong intellectual accomplishments in the following years. Eighth grade curriculum carefully advances all previous experiences to a new height in preparation for high school.
This year, as students move deeper into the throes of adolescence, self-expression becomes even more important to them. Waldorf education meets this need by emphasizing speech, to help students communicate their thoughts and feelings well. The study of the English language intensifies with the first reading of Shakespeare, as students learn to speak beautiful prose and poetry with feeling. Working together, they often put on one of his plays. The teacher may present a unit on reading and writing short stories. Review consolidates all previous work in Language Arts.
In history, the class is immersed in the period of time from the Revolutionary War through the Agrarian/Industrial Revolutions to the present day, with an emphasis on the inventions that inaugurated the technological age. Biographies of inventors demonstrate the challenges they overcame. The year ends with a unit presenting a sweep of U.S. history.
A unit in geography rounds out study of the continents, particularly mountains, rivers, flora and fauna, and humanityâ€™s impact on the earth. A separate unit tackles climate and meteorology.
In science, students complete their middle school study of physiology with a survey of the human skeleton, muscular system, and physiology of major organs. Physics continues with topics in aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. A unit in organic chemistry presents proteins, carbon, and sugars, and their role in nutrition, in addition to the role of chemistry in the Industrial Revolution.
Mathematics continues with algebra, geometry, and arithmetic, as well as a unit on solid geometry and platonic solids. Mental math continues.
A unique feature of this year is 8th grade independent projects: sustained efforts, in which each student creates a display, product or performance about a subject of interest to him/her. Students also write about this topic and present their projects orally to the school community, demonstrating their ability to work independently and seriouslyâ€”vital skills as high school approaches.
Spanish instruction continues with a look at Mexican culture and history along with a review of everything that has been studied through the grades in preparation for the transition to high school. In German, students practice speech and read poetry and classical and contemporary authors, and simple creative writing in German. They also learn elements of German history.
Middle school arts culminate in a range of more complex endeavors. This is the final year of instruction in wet-on-wet painting; with some mastery, students continue painting landscapes or seascapes, and more. Charcoal drawing and work with shading continue. Eurythmy complements other studies with an exploration of poems with tension, relief and contrasting moods. Handwork and woodwork tasks complement study of the Industrial Revolution by utilizing mechanized processes. In handwork students use sewing machines to create articles of clothing; they also complete the handwork and machine-sewing on several quilts. In the wood shop, students work more out of their intellects, learning about cams, levers, and gears, and how they transfer motion from one plane to another. Their project: the design and construction of a movable toy, which requires real skill and imagination. Students also construct rustic wooden stools using mortise and tennon joinery.
A special feature of this last year of middle school is the 8th grade trip. While many grades take a variety of field trips and overnights, this is a more extended trip from several days to a week, which caps the year. Typically it relates to an aspect of the yearâ€™s curriculum, such as geology or history, and involves challenging physical activity. These trips have taken students rock climbing, kayaking, and river rafting. One class spent a week on the Oregon coast, learning about wild foods there and building a umiak (a traditional native canoe) which they launched in the Willamette river.
Music in Middle School
In addition to the music incorporated daily into academic lessons, a full program of instrumental and choral music is an important part of every studentâ€™s experience. Students at PWS start with stringed instruments in third grade. In sixth, they may switch to band instruments. String orchestra and band meet twice a week, then combine into a full orchestra. Students may join a chamber ensemble as well.
By middle school, all students sing in three- or four-part harmony in choir, which meets twice a week. All students participate in two formal concerts per year; two additional solo recitals are available. These concerts, in addition to class plays and numerous presentations at assemblies, train students to be comfortable performing before an audience, an invaluable skill.
Students are encouraged on a regular basis to attend local concerts throughout the year. By listening to a wide range of musical styles and compositions, they are able to begin to distinguish among the characteristics of different genres.
By the end of eighth grade, students are ready to proceed to a greater level of musical challenge in high school.
Physical Education in Middle School
Middle school physical/movement education engages students in a wide range of games and activities to develop fitness, spatial awareness, and posture. Students learn a progression of skills and games that culminate in playing many official sports, including badminton, archery, volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, flag football, Frisbee sports, and track and field. Activities may also include Bothmer exercises, stretching warm-ups, fitness testing, gymnastics/acrobatics, circus arts, salsa dancing, cooperative games and group challenges.
Movement lessons are structured to teach and encourage students to learn leadership skills, cooperation, teamwork, sportsmanship, inclusiveness, personal responsibility, and initiative, all in the context of healthy social interactions.