Curriculum, Sixth Grade
Between the tenth and eleventh years, the imaginative thinking characteristic of early childhood undergoes a metamorphosis from which it re-emerges as the ability to form abstract concepts. Thought before this time has had a pictorial rather than a conceptual nature. Thought, then is literally imagination's child, accounting for the emphasis placed on the cultivation of the child's imaginative powers in the elementary school curriculum. Rather than forcing the thought capacity into premature birth and functioning, the Steiner schools are based on this ripening in time. The thinking that emerges as a ripened power from the matrix of a healthy imagination is a warm and mobile thinking, the fruit of the living pictures with which the world has been brought to the child. They have awakened his whole enthusiasm for the world around him. The curricula of the next three years are shaped to provide experiences fitting to this new ability.
The physical sciences now begin with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism, and static electricity. Acoustics, or sound theory, leads from familiar experience in tone and speech to experimentation with sound phenomena of other kinds. Sounds in music and nature lead to experiments by which they discover harmonies of relationship made by subdivision in strings. Expressed in fractions, these relationships are revealed as number harmonies; concord and discord are perceived to be mathematical order and disorder. From these experiments the children proceed to problems of tone conduction and then back to the human organism to a consideration of the structure and functioning of the ear and larynx. Optical studies follow directly, beginning, like acoustics, with familiar experiences in the realm of beauty. Each color is studied for its own special attributes and then observed in relation to other colors. Study of color in the world begins with the sun, giver of light. Experiments with artificial light and shadow in the classroom lead to rainbow and prism, then experiments to determine laws of light refraction; the lens and camera are studied. In all these studies the principles underlying the various light and color phenomena are arrived at as end products generalized from concrete experiences rather than stated theoretically before the experiments are made.
Sixth grade history begins with the transition from ancient to modern history, from poetic consciousness to a search for truth in the form of scientific concepts because the 11-year-old himself is involved in such a transition. He is now able to grasp history as temporal sequence of cause and effect relationships: through the decline of Greece, the rise and fall of Rome to the effects of these two great cultures on European civilization up to the beginning of the fifteenth century when once again a great stirring of man's soul drove him to seek new physical and spiritual horizons.
Geography studies the earth's configuration and contrasts: distribution of oceans, seas, continents, and mountain masses with introduction of climate studies and first astronomical concepts. These are applied specifically to European and African geography.
Geology, the study of the mineral world, turns to the structure of the earth, and proceeds from the study of the flora and fauna of the geological ages to minerals, metals, and finally gems and crystals, leading to the functions of mineral and metallic substances in the human organism.
Botany continues with an introduction to horticulture.
Mathematics introduces percentage, interest, profit and loss, ration, proportion, estimation and introduction to algebraic equations. Geometrical design is now done with the utmost accuracy with instruments. Families of geometric figures are constructed and studied for the numerical laws they embody. Theorems are visually demonstrated, but not taught; perspective drawing is introduced in connection with geometric drawing.
Black and white drawing, shadows, landscapes, and color contrasts are taken up in painting. In handwork, the children sew stuffed animals and carve wood to shape an animal and a spoon, developing their skill with tools. Singing focuses on two and three part choruses, songs of the minstrels and middle ages, recorders in descant, alto and tenor voices and Roman music. Eurythmy introduces simple musical forms, with greater depth in alliteration, geometrical forms, and transformations. Foreign languages continue with reading of simple texts, humorous stories, and free translation.
(The above description is paraphrased from Teaching as a Lively Art, by Marjorie Spock.)