The Green Curriculum in Waldorf Schools ~ Part VII October 09 2015, 0 Comments

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. Over twelve weeks, 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 Seven!

From Roots to Bloom: Green in Grade Seven

The grade seven curriculum is filled with the vitality needed to match the seventh graders’ remarkable growth at this time as well as their developing intellects.  Social skills roller coast while artistic abilities flower.  The Renaissance leads the way with the great artists as inspiration for these practicing artisans of early adolescence. Guided by their class teacher, and building on years of observation and appreciation for the gifts of the Earth, the students continue the quest of deepening their understanding of humanity, and its place in the natural world.  On from the Renaissance, the students are led into the sciences to chemistry, mechanics, combustion, physiology, and astronomy. In their artistic work, they explore the lawfulness of perspective drawing as mastered by Renaissance artists, contrasting the polarities of architectural exactness and the free and graceful forms in nature - their budding capacities for discernment and judgment piqued by the contrast. In history they encounter the explorers who, like them, are able to imagine themselves around the entire globe. The role of trade and commerce are made clear and the rich stories of the late Middle Ages, as well as biographies of men and women who made their name in this age through displays of chivalry and courage; as the students’ work becomes more individualized each may choose more specific content or life stories on which to focus their studies and then share with their teacher and classmates. These new individual pursuits support the children’s growth towards independent thinking, public speaking, and an inner source of guidance that will serve them as adults, in daily life, and in wrestling with difficult themes.   As adults climate change and the environment are likely to strike them as vital artistic, community, and social problems not as abstract arguments for or against one idea or another.

The students deepen their relationship to the natural world in the sciences most especially, working to understand the earth’s most basic substances in chemistry and the cause and effects of natural processes, both in the environment and in their own bodies, Acids, bases, the making of salts, Ph balance, digestion and all the human activities taken up with these substances are observed from many different perspectives – as in “The Diary of a Cheese Sandwich! As in other grades, the children come to knowledge through their own direct learning experiences of phenomena that prompts wondering, pondering. A far cry from textbooks filled with predigested concepts that would have students learn such content through the rote memorization of already discovered facts! The students’ persistent, personal encounters with nature emphasize her qualities and features in an inestimable way, internal and penetrating, that cannot happen with any number of indirect experiences or anecdotal descriptions. These encounters and the habits of wondering, and engaging, will also support the students’ efforts and explorations with the environment as teenagers and as adults, Living questions and direct experiences of the nature of the world encourage engagement and comprehension of  the role and effects that individual actions and the collective decisions of society have on the environment. They know how individuals can act out of themselves to make a difference for people and the planet.

Built on the foundation of reverence and the love of nature, the gifts of the Earth in the preceding grades, the children maintain an inner sense of commitment to this world, and through their observations and research assess the benefits and consequences of human action past, present and future, for the Earth and for the living beings that call it home.

- Sarah Hearn