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4th & 5th Grade

Grade 4

Inner and outer worlds are no longer one for the nine-year-old. We take great care to bring the outer world to the students in such a way that human meaning is discovered in everything.

It is an age of hero worship, seeking an inspiring picture of human nature. History and literature looks at the Finnish and Norse sagas, with their stress on strength and boldness rather than cunning. These poetic forms offer vivid contrasts to enrich and develop this intensified inner life. In composition, the students begin simple narration of their own experiences, while continuing work in grammar and letter forms.

In arithmetic, concrete objects introduce fractions to demonstrate the truths before the concepts.

Social studies begins with familiar things of the student's own time and environment, and gradually leads to experience of less familiar places and events. Simple map drawings of one's own desk, the room, and travel routes from home to school are followed by study of Oregon geography, pioneers, and the Oregon Trail.

In addition to speaking two foreign languages, the students begin to write as well. Their understanding of grammar progresses; they can consciously grasp the rules underlying the construction of these languages.

In music, the students' newly strengthened individuality now gives them the ability to hold their own in part-singing, as they could not have done successfully before. Canons and rounds form a natural bridge to this exciting new skill. They show real delight in harmony; the minor key answers a deep-felt need, leading inward in self-discovery. All students begin studying a stringed instrument in third or fourth grade and participate in orchestra during the school day.

At this crossroads in development, handwork takes up cross stitch. The students design and execute an original cross-stitch pattern, working with mirror images to facilitate harmony and balance.

Physical education and games as well as international folkdancing continue throughout the grades.

Grade 5

The fifth-grader has integrated recent gains and grown more accustomed to being an isolated self, seeing the world from a new perspective. Yet, like the third-grader, he or she is about to leave another phase of childhood behind and cross a new threshold of experience. The curriculum continues to build on already established foundations, introducing certain new elements to prepare for this next step forward.

Until now, history has only a pictorial and personal nature; no attempt was made to introduce exact temporal concepts or to proceed in strict sequences. Now, however, history becomes a special main-lesson subject, as does geography. History, the telling of human deeds and strivings, stirs the student to a more intense experience of his or her own humanity. Geography does exactly the opposite: it leads the student away from him or herself out into ever wider spaces, from the familiar to the unfamiliar. 

The study of history starts in ancient India. Persian culture follows the Indian. The next great cultures studied are those of Mesopotamia, the Hebrews, the Assyrians, and the Egyptians. Then comes the civilization of the Greeks, with whom ancient history ends. Every means is used to give the students a vivid impression of these ancient cultures. They read translations of poetry, study the hieroglyphic symbols of the Egyptians, and sample arts and crafts of the various peoples, trying their hand at similar creations.

By participating in the interschool Olympics, Waldorf students from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia enter into ancient Greek culture. Throughout, history seeks to educate the students' feelings, rather than just their memory for facts and figures. It requires inner mobility to enter sympathetically into these ancient states of being.

Contrast is emphasized in the study of American geography. Every consideration of the earth's physical features is linked with a study of the way human life has been lived in the region, and the uses made of natural resources, the industry and produce.

As a continuation of their look at the living earth, fifth-graders begin to study botany. After discovering some of the secrets of the plant life found in their own environment, the students' attention is drawn to vegetation in other parts of the world.

Fractions and decimals make up the work of arithmetic in Grade Five.

Choral singing is practiced regularly in both fourth and fifth-grades. The C-flute is used in connection with the main lesson. Woodworking begins with carving. Knitting now uses four needles to make socks. Eurythmy, foreign languages, folkdancing, and physical education also continue.

Teaching as a Lively Art

Marjorie Spock, (Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press 1985).