The Green Curriculum in Waldorf Schools ~ Part XI October 27 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 Eleven!

From Roots to Bloom: Green in Grade Eleven

In eleventh grade, the Waldorf students experience their thinking opening to its intellectual zenith. The sciences lead them to continued explorations into the world. New levels of questioning are possible and asking “why” is now in a matured and deepened way. The inquiries of the students show a yearning for the true meaning of things – the reasons and intentions behind a particular phenomenon, action or institution in order to understand comprehensively and to discern their relationship to it. Why are we a nation? Why do plants differentiate themselves? Why are there forces of good and evil at work in the world? The rising up of these and other life questions support the students’ development towards an ecological consciousness – which recognizes the inter-relatedness of all worldly phenomena, action and consequences, seen and unseen.

Waldorf Main Lesson Book - Infinate Lines

In math and the sciences, the students enter into the realms of the invisible. Projective geometry, demands imagination and experience through thinking as they are asked to see the uniting of parallel lines at a point in the infinite. In chemistry young thinkers investigate the invisible realms of atomic phenomena. In physics, the wonder and work to understand the invisible magic of electricity is the focus. In botany, the hidden roots and workings of the plant kingdom reveal their nature and lawfulness. In each area of science, the students are met with opportunities to engage their growing ideas and ideals around the meaning of things in context, to test their theories, analyze their results and expand their capacity for independent thinking.

Through the eleventh grade curriculum, the students’ academic skills are challenged and broadened as they are guided through complexity in research, writing and critical thinking. Simultaneously, the students’ urgent desire for freedom and initiative is supported by an internship or practicum in the local community or region – which allows them to explore more deeply the world around them and ask what lies beyond or behind the background of the perceptible, the obvious, the given.

As the students grow and strengthen their powers of observation and analysis, they are able to develop a love and pursuit of the unknown, the unseen and the unrealized. It is a love which the rote memorization of a given set of facts and concepts can never deliver; it pours through the scientist, the artist, the seeker alike, in concert with dedicated inquiry and investigation. In this way, the eleventh grade curriculum also supports the unfolding inner life of these young adults: the home of their reflective experiences of the world and their individual conscience and morals inspiring them to think for themselves and seek the good, beautiful and true.

In literature especially, the students meet reflections of their inner nature and growing life questions. They travel through the stories of Dante, and the seminal main lesson block of the grail quest in Parzival. The students grapple with the myriad soul forces at work in these stories and within themselves, from pride and selfishness to sacrifice and compassion; doubt and fear, faith and hope. In furtherance of the many stories in the early grades, through imaginations and analysis of the hero’s journey, the students begin to experience themselves as conscious participants in their own development – forming judgments, and discerning next steps, steps needed to promote a healthier, more sustainable world.

~ Sarah Hearn