The Green Curriculum in Waldorf Schools ~ Part III October 05 2015
Waldorf Schools strive to co-exist in a profoundly felt, right relationship with the Earth throughout the grades, building inner habits that prepare children to be environmentalists on the deepest levels. The practices and experiences which engender these inner habits are embedded in all aspects of the Waldorf School curriculum from grade one to grade twelve. We are exploring and highlighting some of the elements and ways in which environmental sustainability lives and breathes through each grade of the Waldorf curriculum. Below, we continue with Grade Three!
From Roots to Bloom: Green in Grade Three
Among many other investigations, third grade addresses the question of how we live, survive, and thrive in relationship to the Earth. The children begin to experience story in connection to history, culture and tradition, as they hear stories from the Old Testament, from Native Americans and from other groups and cultures. Specifically, third grade offers many experiential explorations into how humanity works with and transforms nature to meet the needs of civilization. How did ancient peoples work and live with the land? How did they build their homes? Perhaps the class explores pioneers and settlers making their way in a new strange land. In this way, children develop a sense for their place in the world in relationship to nature and to human needs; as they discover the hard work and beautiful modesty of early civilizations, they cultivate reverence for simplicity, meaning and depth, which can support their future responsibilities for people and planet in the complexity of today’s world. These qualities are further developed through practical experiences of our basic needs and their relationship to nature. Depending on their geography, children may construct a livable, physical shelter, in the woods, the park, the yard or even in the classroom. In main lesson and crafts blocks they may focus on textiles, spinning and dying wool, crocheting useful household items like potholders and slipper sacks.
In farming or gardening blocks, third graders take responsibility for the earth; they plant vegetables in their backyards or window boxes; they visit nearby farms to care for the animals and to gain first-hand experiences of agriculture. Math lessons about measurement and weight also find the stage in these experiential lessons, as well as the development of reading and writing skills as they document the stories and adventures of third grade in pictures and writing; in this way, they learn immersed within the rich context of nature’s substances and processes. And, although it is alive and well throughout the Waldorf curriculum, third grade puts particular emphasis on DOING, providing the children with myriad opportunities to experience the earth and her offerings by the memorable sweat of their own brows. When children are fully engaged in this kind of direct learning, they become comfortable and engaged with the world in a way that concepts and ideas about these practical aspects of human survival and the natural world cannot provide. Protected from conceptual isolation, through these practical experiences the children become more conscious of our interdependence with the earth we share with plants and animals, her well-being and her bountiful produce. This understanding can become the backbone for a new culture of environmental sustainability. Children grow up with both knowledge and experience of the beauty, the offerings, and the fragility of the planet, and care to protect her.