The Green Curriculum in Waldorf Schools ~ Part VIII October 16 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 Eight!

From Roots to Bloom: Green in Grade Eight

Eighth Grade represents an important milestone in the education of children as they complete their lower school experience with deepened exploration and exciting culminations. As part of the eighth year, the students turn a critical eye to modern history, examining important turning points from the zenith of world exploration to the struggles for freedom and independence in the French and American revolutions, to the history of industry. Biographies of famous leaders carry the students through time from Napoleon’s great conquests to the strength and ideals of the modern civil rights movement. In each case, the students look at the economic, social, and environmental consequences of these events. Students are encouraged to ask questions and evaluate for themselves: how are we connected by the shared use of the natural resources of our planet? How are these resources used and distributed in our interconnected world?

In the sciences, eighth graders study the complexities and wonders of various functions in the digestive, skeletal, muscular and reproductive systems in anatomy, while they explore further aspects of physics in electricity and magnetism, along with hydraulics, aerodynamics and meteorology through intensive hands-on experience in each discipline: the students are led through experiences of cloud and weather observation, the mechanical properties of liquids, and wind power, to name a few; and they have the opportunity to perform many of the very experiments that led to important historical discoveries in physics! They are never asked to take as fact a scientific phenomenon that can be brought to cognition through experience in their own classroom or in the great outdoors. This sets the bar high for students to think for themselves, cultivate scientific rigor and an enthusiasm for exploration and discovery.

In mathematics, eighth graders deepen their experience and work with algebra and geometry as it appears in the world around them. Theorems and laws are never taken as mere concepts but are connected to the wonder and diversity of the natural world (from the spiral’s of the sea to the constellations of the night’s sky) and to the man-made achievements in art and architecture. In the arts, the students continue their work with perspective and three-dimensional drawing and painting, and expand their repertoires in the practical arts by taking up advanced knitting and felting projects; designing and creating their own clothes with a sewing machine; and learning the skills of basket-weaving, leatherwork, and joinery.

The graduating eighth graders have learned to trust and develop their observation and experience as an unparalleled guide to meeting and understanding life, the earth and her gifts. They enter the upper grades with a strong sense for the importance of furthering their own questions (not just settling for answers) and of developing an ethic to seek the good, beautiful and true in themselves and in the wide world around them. Waldorf students carry within them these living ideals, along with delicate, refined capacities for observation, insight and action capable of tackling the countless and inestimable needs of our planet in the 21st century.

- - Sarah Hearn