There’s Science and There’s Science! Part II April 12 2016
There’s Science and There’s Science! Part II
When children in Waldorf schools turn nine they explore how the people of the world make their dwelling places using the many substances of the Earth. In grade four they study the animals of their home surroundings and far beyond. The almost universal tendency of children to love animals makes for lessons of real enjoyment as the special qualities and abilities of each different animal is studied. The animals are compared to the students themselves. The students find they cannot do the unique work of one or more animals – they cannot fly like an eagle or cut down a tree with their teeth like a beaver, but they can with their hands make tools to do these tasks.
What Animals Say to Each Other is a ticklingly fun book of imagining what animals might say if they could only speak as humans do. The animals talk in little verses and rhymes of their lives in different habitats. The author, Jakob Streit, reveals himself as a naturalist of the highest order as his poems hold truthful characteristics of the animals. Jakob Streit’s father kept bees and the breadth of his knowledge about bees and their cycles and how they live is science at its story best in these two books; The Bee Book and Little Bee Sunbeam.
In grade five, students delve into plant life and find plants in their own schoolyard or home backyard and examine them closely. After the years of learning to observe, the children are keen detectives tending to delight in finding the names of trees and seeing how a plant in shade might look very different from a plant in bright sunlight, even though they came from exactly the same kinds of seeds. Waldorf Publications carries a book called The Dandelion’s Cousin which is about a relative to the Dandelion - almost the same but different in many ways. This wonderfully illustrated story defines the families of plants and how they can be different while of the same clan – just like human beings!
In the sixth grade Waldorf curriculum the sciences pour forth with physics, astronomy, mineralogy and geography. Then in seventh grade students are taught chemistry, physiology, mechanics, and more complex astronomy. In these middle school grades the teacher asks a great deal of students insisting on very clear and objective observation of experiments.
By eighth grade, the students are becoming real scientists in the classroom. Chemistry continues, physics moves beyond mechanics into hydraulics and electrical currents. Students often build their own motors. Geography holds geology in it. Anatomy follows on physiology; geometry, algebra, and math spill into physics as the phenomena of the Earth are observed.Many understand that in Waldorf schools textbooks are not much used. The students make their own books, filling blank pages with writing of what they have discovered, of what they have learned. They illustrate their lessons with beautiful pictures of the experiments they have observed.
One cardiologist whose daughter attended a Waldorf school noticed an eighth grader’s illustration of the human heart from anatomy lessons. The cardiologist commented that if the whole team of cardiology under her understood the workings of the heart as well as the Waldorf student who drew that picture, she would have the finest team in the country.