The Green Curriculum in Waldorf Schools ~ Part VI October 08 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 Six!

From Roots to Bloom: Green in Grade Six

As the Waldorf class enters grade six, they step towards a wakeful readiness to tackle more conceptual aspects of their studies, with the active imaginations and flexible, mobile thinking that Waldorf pedagogy and curriculum foster throughout the grades. This also holds true specifically for the children’s further exploration and relationship to the natural world. Sixth graders get to the bottom of things with explorations into geology, an expansive study of the mineral kingdom, often leading from minerals to metals, gems and crystals, and completing this spectrum of complexity with some of the roles and functions of mineral substances in the human body. Continued lessons in geography and history lead the sixth graders to pictures and relationships of the distribution of oceans and other bodies of water, as well as the continents, and begin to touch upon aspects of climatology and astronomy. Navigation as the Romans and Greeks used waterways as roads leads to astronomy applied in this practical way. Observation, practiced in every way possible from Kindergarten on, is what leads to deeper science and this is most formally applied in grade six with the introduction of the “hard” sciences. Physics is the “newest” of the sciences with a “new” procedural approach to observation, making the scientific more specific in its demands of clear observation of experiences.

All of the children’s explorations are guided by meaningful connections to real, hands-on experiences of the world, and from their own perceptions they begin to relate to conceptual ideas around those experiences. Light, heat, acoustics, magnetism, and static electricity are explored in this first foray into physics. All these “topics” are derived from everyday experiences of music, color, warmth, and sound. The explorations of sound use experiences in nature and relate them to their growing understandings and capacities in music and in differentiation between qualities of sound. In this way, the sounds of nature, familiar from years of playful observation in the earlier grades, become formal science as the students are asked to record there exact observations and to draw possible conclusions. In this way, the students’ beautiful and pleasing experiences in the great outdoors, are carried with them as a wisdom the children come to know through their own discoveries. In optics, the sun’s light, the friend to the children each morning in the verse said together to start each day, inspiring reverence and awe, becomes one of the first points of investigation, coupled with classroom experiments in light and color.

The arts echo these deepening relationships to nature and the world, working with landscapes, dark and light in painting and drawing. Wood carving useful tools or small figures from the animal kingdom deepen the understanding of the scientific, and in handwork, the students design stuffed animals, working to understand how the form of the animal supports its function. On an on-going basis, layer after layer, the students are brought into an understanding of the world as a living ecosystem in all aspects of form and function, with strong relations and reciprocity throughout. The concept of a whole, interdependent world supports the emergence of an ecological consciousness that is known deeply and truly from the inside out.

- Sarah Hearn