Each morning begins with same beautiful rhythm: Opening Verse and a Circle time alive with awakening movements and beautiful, rich song and verse that are moved and sung and spoken together in chorus. Main Lesson follows with a time of review, an introduction of new material and a time of application and action. Then, we end our morning with a Closing Verse and a lunchtime Blessing. This is the good work of each morning that the children and I do together. The image and concept brought in the morning carry throughout our afternoon activities; however, our afternoon schedules and special subjects change daily.
You can look at Waldorf curriculum in many different ways. You can examine the various subjects taught to children in a class, and how the integration of those subjects meets the developmental needs of that age group; you can also look at how the subjects develop from year to year and see the spiral nature of learning, where new skills are built on existing skills. What's more difficult to see are the cross-links between the different skills and abilities at different ages. For example, the relationships between learning to knit in the lower grades and mathematical skills in middle school; or, between folk tales and fables in classes 1 and 2 and ecology in upper school, grammar in middle school, or even the ability to form judgements in life after school. This "diagonal curriculum" is just as essential to the educational tasks as the other two more "horizontal" and "vertical" curriculums. And in the case of all three, each teacher must work in freedom, adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of each individual. (paraphrase from "A Horizontal Curriculum, The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum).
The following are afternoon special subjects taught 1-2x/week in 1st grade (many excerpts are taken from The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum):
Eurythmy, Isabela Guardia Ferragutti, Mondays at 11:30am.
Eurythmy is an art of movement that engages the whole human being, integrating bodily movement with movements that arise within soul, thus creating a harmonious relationship between the soul-spiritual element and the body...Eurythmy works with the polarities of levity and gravity, not physically but essentially through the inner experience of the soul, with what can be called ensouled movements and is more like dance than gymnastics.
In first grade, spatial forms and arm movements are developed out of and in accordance with the children's imaginative experience. The archetypal form of the circle is the starting point for eurythmy lessons and all movements start from the circle and return to it. Other elements of a eurythmy lesson include: children walk straight and curved lines, spirals and figure eight patterns; arm gestures for vowels and consonants are embedded in narrative; short pentatonic melodies accompany stories; various movement rhythms of walking, running, hopping, etc., and other fine motor dexterity exercises.
Foreign Languages, Mandarin—Sabrina Chu, Mondays at 1:30pm; Spanish—Maria Del Mar Damany, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 12:30pm
The aim of foreign language teaching is to encourage a positive attitude toward people of other cultures and languages, as well as fostering human understanding generally through establishing the ability to empathize with another person's perspective and way of seeing the world.
Learning foreign languages orally strengthens the pupil's ability to listen to another person, to follow and grasp the other person's spoken and unspoken intentions, since it enhances sensitivity to language at all levels and not merely at the semantic level. This encourages greater powers of understanding, forming balanced judgments and empathy, all qualities needed in complex social situations. Being competent in at least two other languages supports the ability of flexible, mobile thinking, since the different languages allow access to different realms of experience and this in turn stimulates greater interest in the world and in other people.
Handwork, Mrs. Stauffer, Tuesdays at 10:30/11:45am
Thinking and understanding arise out of activity and movement, indeed living thinking is internalized movement. In view of the fact that modern life has deprived children of so many opportunities to imitate and practice meaningful movement through activities of the hands, education has to compensate if children are to develop in a healthy way.
Handwork lessons are more than a means of promoting dexterity and skill. Through rhythmically repeated movements and exercises while working on tasks suited to the age of the children, the hands help to bring about both a strengthening of the will and of the capacity for logical thinking; the transition between these is the cultivation of the feeling life.
J. Piaget stated that schooling intricate manual skills was essential for the development of intelligence. It should be noted that there is a difference between an intellectual education as opposed to a training of the intelligence. The intellect focuses on grasping facts and seeks to conform with what already exists or is known. Intelligence, by contrast, is not directed to finished things. It understands what is in movement or still in the process of becoming.
It is precisely in the encounter with the material world that we can appropriately meet a world of "process." In our overly sanitized society children need to play with and explore basic materials and processes; likewise they need appropriate challenges that will help to equip them with essential skills to manage the practical affairs of life and to develop a moral sense of responsibility for the environment; both the natural and human.
Biodynamic Gardening, Mrs. Bream, Tuesdays at 1:30pm
From Gardening in Schools, "Most children will not become farmers, many will not become gardeners, or even have gardens, but every morsel of food they put in their mouths has some relationship to farming. Every beverage they drink, the air they breathe, the water in our rivers has a direct and moral relationship to farm and garden."
Working and observing in a garden over several years, participating in full harvest cycles, gives children a direct experience of how the garden makes a direct demand on them and how their own personal efforts lead to creation of new life. Through this, it becomes a matter of course for them to want to help and share responsibility for care of Mother Earth.
Gardening also provides stability and balance during times of physical and psychological change. Meaningful work strengthens the limbs. Psychological qualities such as reverence, gratitude, endurance and wonder are awakened. Learned skills help children gain confidence in their own skills and potential and respect for the skills and contributions of others.
Art Studies, Ms. Connell (Painting, Drawing, Modeling)
From a lecture given at a conference on art and education at the Waldorf School, March 1923. Steiner formulated the educational task of art teaching as follows:
"Children need art—both the fine arts and poetry and music. And there is a way of being actively engaged in both sorts that is suitable for children in their school years. If you are a teacher you should not talk too much about one or another art form being 'useful' for the training of certain human faculties. After all, art exists for its own sake. Teachers should love art so much that they do not want this experience to be lost to children. They will then see how the children grow through their experiences in art. It is art that awakens their intelligence to full life.
A sense of duty develops if children can use their urge for action to gain control over matter in a free and artistic way. It is the the teacher's artistic sensibility that brings soul into the school. They bring a happy mood into the children's seriousness and dignity into their joy. With our intellect we merely comprehend nature; it takes artistic feeling to experience it. If children are taught to comprehend things in a living way they become 'able' people, whereas children who engage in art learn to be creative people. In the first case they are merely applying their abilities; in the second case they grow through this very application. However clumsily a child models or paints, this activity awakens inner soul forces. When children engage in music or poetry they feel their inner nature uplifted to the ideal plane. They acquire a second level of humanity alongside the first.
None of this is achieved if art is taken as a separate, unrelated subject and not as an organic part of the whole of education. For all the child's education and instruction should form a whole. Knowledge, culture and training in practical skills should all lead to a need for art, just as artistic sensitivity should reach into the realms of learning, observation and acquisition of skills."
Curative Education ("Mystery Lessons"), Resource Specialist Maria Del Mar Damany, Mondays at 9:15am and some Fridays.
At the heart of Waldorf Education lies an approach that seeks to meet each individual child on his or her own terms, and yet the new and greater challenges presented by many children today require special attention. Drawing on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner's pioneering Curative Education Course, Maria Del Mar does class observation and then designs support programs to meet and support children's growth and development. She works with small groups of students from each grade; keeping the students for several weeks and then switches to new groups. Her goal is to have worked with all of the grades' students by the end of the school year. When your child works with Maria Del Mar, they will bring home some fun "homework exercises" to deepen the benefit of the work they have done with Maria Del Mar.