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Eugene Waldorf School

Curriculum, Fifth Grade

The fifth grader has enhanced her recent gains in consciousness and grown more accustomed to being an isolated self, seeing the world in a new perspective. Yet, like the third grader, she is about to leave another phase of childhood behind and to cross a new threshold of experience. The curriculum must, therefore, not only continue to build on already established foundations, but introduce certain new elements to prepare her for her next step forward.

History has until now only a pictorial and personal nature and no attempt has been made to introduce exact temporal concepts or to proceed in strict sequences. Now, however, history becomes a special main lesson subject, as does geography. History, telling of humankind's deeds and strivings, stirs the child to a more intense experience of her own humanness. Geography does exactly the opposite; it leads her away from herself out into ever wider spaces from the familiar to the unfamiliar. History brings the child to herself: geography brings the child into the world.

Ancient history in the fifth grade starts with the childhood of civilized humanity in ancient India, where men were dreamers. The ancient Persian culture that followed the Indian felt the impulse to transform the earth, till the soil, domesticate animals while helping the sun-god conquer the spirit of darkness. The next great cultures were those of the Chaldeans, the Hebrews, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. Next comes the civilization of the Greeks with whom ancient history ends. Every means is used to give the children a vivid impression of these four ancient cultures. They read translations of poetry, study hieroglyphic symbols of the Egyptians, sample arts and crafts of the various ancient peoples, trying their hands at similar creations. And they re-create an Olympiad, complete with javelin, Greek wrestling, and other historical events, with other Waldorf schools around the area. History is here an education of the children's feelings rather than of their memory for facts and figures, for it requires inner mobility to enter sympathetically into these ancient states of being so different from our own.

Geography emphasizes contrast as American geography is studied. Every consideration of the earth's physical features is linked with a study of the way human life has been lived in the region, the human uses made of natural resources, the industry, and produce.

As a continuation of their study of the living earth, the fifth graders begin a study of botany, the plant world. After discovering some of the secrets of the plant life found in her own environment, the child's attention is drawn to vegetation in other parts of the world.

Fractions and decimals continue to be the chief concern of arithmetic study in the fifth grade.

Regular choral singing is practiced in fourth and fifth grades with the C-recorder flute being used in relation to the main lesson. Many children begin participating in orchestra within the school day as they move from beginning strings classes to intermediate and then advanced skills. Woodworking is begun with carving, and knitting now uses four needles. Eurythmy, foreign languages, and physical education also continue.

(The above description is paraphrased from Teaching as a Lively Art, by Marjorie Spock.)

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