The curriculum used at the New Village School is inspired by and based on indications given by Rudolf Steiner and collected in the book Pedagogical Tasks, Teaching Goals and Curriculum Content of a Waldorf School by Tobias Richter. This book is used in Steiner schools around the world. The New Village School uses the picture of human development described by Rudolf Steiner and has expanded on and modified the above-mentioned curriculum to suit the needs of children in a 21st century world in this particular geographical, historical and cultural space in which the school finds itself.
Dr. Steiner describes human development as moving in 7-year cycles. He describes very clearly what underlying experience of the world the children should have during the three 7-year cycle phases that they experience at school. During the first phase, 0-7 years, the children should experience that, “the world is good." In the second phase, 7-14 years, the students should experience that “the world is beautiful" and in the final phase, 14-21 years, that "the world is true."
All subjects are taught artistically, including through the visual and performing arts. Teaching here is done in "blocks." This is the time when the children work with their teachers for blocks of approximately three weeks on one particular subject. During each block, a lesson book is created by the children. This book is the equivalent of a text book, but in this case, a text book that is written by and is specific to the class and the children in that class. The children learn to take the greatest of care with their books. The children develop a sense for the symmetry and aesthetics of a written page.
Each child's progress is characterized thoroughly in parent/teacher conferences and in a written document at the end of each school year. As the students move towards High School age, they are made familiar with conventional tests and the grading system that goes along with them.
A very strong emphasis is placed upon the building of relationships between the child and his/her teacher, the child and the other children and the child and the content of each lesson. Thus learning becomes truly meaningful and each child’s motivation remains an inner one.
We educate our students so they will graduate from Grade 8 with the following:
A thorough overview of cultural developments from the beginning of time until the present day
A good understanding of the phenomena of the world
A rich and sophisticated language
They will be able to ask any question; write their thoughts, ideas, and feelings clearly with a strong awareness for “Self;” and have a deep appreciation of who they are becoming, as well as a deep respect for the world and everyone and everything in it.
Kindergarten simulates as closely as possible a harmonious, nurturing, home-like environment. In this setting, imagination and creativity flourish with children participating in meaningful tasks that develop coordination and cooperative social skills, while unfolding creative and imaginative capacities that build a strong foundation for later academics.
The program includes singing, movement, story telling, beeswax modeling, handwork, gardening and other artistic activities. Toys are made of natural materials, thus giving the children a strong sensory experience and an opportunity to use and develop their fine motor skills. Play as the best and most necessary learning experience in childhood is given a key place during the course of a Kindergarten day.
In the Kindergarten, stories from around the world are shared with the children, bringing to life human qualities, such as courage, kindness and honesty. Through oral storytelling, the children create their own inner pictures. They also strengthen their listening skill, memory skills and vocabulary.
Artistic work in the Kindergarten is an experience that guides young children toward abilities that can be transformed throughout life, for example, watercolor painting, sewing, finger-knitting, beeswax modeling, coloring, drawing and seasonal craft activities. These activities help to develop coordination and the ability to concentrate.
The teachers accompany the children, supporting their social interactions, helping them to play with each other when necessary and generally observing the children in order to ensure development towards well-being and health.
The New Village School Kindergarten children begin their day in movement and music with the children from the other grades. They then go to their own space where they can engage in the activities described above. Meals are shared with the older children, thus creating a strong sense of family and community.
The children are now moving into a phase of development in which they slowly become aware of their capacity to think and to use that capacity more and more consciously. The First Grade curriculum is rich in movement, music, language and thinking adventures of all kinds. The children are ready, at this time in their biographies, to take on the more abstract world of learning to read, write and work with written numbers.
Narrative: Folk Tales
Wisdoms carried in folk tales, nature stories and stories created by the teachers, are passed on to the children in First Grade. These kinds of stories are chosen since the characters in such stories tend to be simple representatives of certain human characteristics and thus accessible to a child of this age. The morality in these stories tends to be uncomplicated and clear-cut and provides a basis upon which the child can develop an ever more complex and differentiated picture of the world and its people. They have a simple morality and give the children an opportunity to begin to discern certain qualities in human beings. In their apparent simplicity, they offer the children a clear-cut idea of what is “good” and what is “not good.”
When the children are introduced to the letters of the alphabet, the teacher works from the sound to the abstract form – from the living movement of speech to the still written form. Thus each letter is embedded in a story in which this sound has an important part to play and similarities in shape to the form of the letter are sought within the story. It is of the utmost importance that the child forms a strong relationship to the sound before it dies onto the page.
In this way, it is the sound of the letter in the words used in the story that helps the children connect to what eventually becomes the abstract shape on the page. The love of speech and language is retained and the pictorial quality, which is now missing in Western script, is restored in the introductory phase.
Poems and stories are learned and when the children have been introduced to all the letters, they begin to write the texts that they know – thus correct reading of especially a non-phonetic language like English is made possible. The first experience of reading is a positive one. An added effect is that the children associate the act of reading with discovering the beautiful texts that they know in a written form.
Just as with the letters, the numbers are introduced in a context. Stories suggesting how human beings began writing down numbers are told, the quality of the numbers are introduced to the children, so that the relationship to numbers and counting is developed from a true understanding of what numbers are. The introduction of the actual symbol for the number comes at the end of a process of getting to know the use of numbers through the medium of stories.
The four processes are also presented to the children in such a way that they get a picture of the actual activity of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before they work with the abstract form of : 30 = 5 x 6. From First through Third Grade, the children always work with whole numbers, as they still experience themselves as one with the whole, i.e. as being in complete symbiosis with the world and the adults around them. Great care is taken to help the children from the very beginning to think accurately and clearly.
The first multiplication tables are learned rhythmically, chorally and then individually.
Form drawing gives the children a chance to move through variations on the theme, “straight and curved lines." The children draw simple forms, mirror the forms, transform forms and begin to create symmetrical forms. The more consciously they move the forms the more beautiful they become. They begin to enjoy the ability of the human eye and hand to create forms on the page. Form drawing is one of the beginning experiences of geometry that the children will later study.
As the child grows and his/her personality becomes much more differentiated, they are able to grasp the more complex aspects of the world. During this developmental period, it is extremely important that the children get a sense of meaningfulness and a very strong sense of relationship to everything that they are doing, before they move on to the developmental phase often known as the “nine-year change” or the “Rubicon” as it is otherwise known, signifies the phase in human development when the child moves out of the symbiosis with the adult world and begins to get a stronger sense of his/her own individuality.
Narrative: Legends and Fables
The Second Grade child is a much more differentiated being and shifts from the simple “good/not good” of the First Grade experience to a more sophisticated understanding of the world. Legends, fables and stories about men and woman who have cared deeply, have lived in sometimes difficult, sometimes intense relationships to the world, are told to the children. The children can admire their courage and love for the world and gain a sense of wonder and awe at the possibilities of a human being to be in the world in a positive and helpful way. Hearing stories of people who had a more complex relationship to their world and time helps the growing child experience their own growing complexity in an unconscious but supportive way.
The Second Grade curriculum expands on the First Grade reading, writing, arithmetic and form drawing content.
The children begin to write and read longer texts with the guidance of the teacher. At this phase, many children begin to read age-appropriate books available in the classroom.
Long division is introduced and the children learn to work in all four processes with larger numbers.
All the multiplication tables up to the 13 times table are practiced and learned.
Math games and mental math play a very important role in the every day work of the children. Stories are used to contextualize the math questions. This gives the children an understanding of why human beings have developed these mathematical processes. It makes their math work meaningful and exciting.
Form drawing continues with ever more complex forms.
The “nine-year change” or the “Rubicon” as it is otherwise known, signifies the phase in human development when the child moves out of the symbiosis with the adult world and begins to get a stronger sense of his/her own individuality. This crisis, meant in the most positive sense of the word, is met in the curriculum with creation stories from all over the world, an agriculture block and a house building block. Thus, the child is given the opportunity to relate, on an unconscious level, to the idea of the creation of an individual human being on this earth and how he/she began to create his/her own space.
Narrative: Creation Stories from Around the World
As the child approaches the developmental phase of moving out of the symbiosis with the mother/father and the world, the question, “Where did I come from and how did it all begin?” begins to awaken in the child. In order to offer the child an opportunity to find an echo for the unconscious questions, stories about the emergence of the world and all that there is in it are offered to the children.
In their individualization process, the most varied, imaginative, multi-faceted ways to approach these questions from ancient civilizations to modern day explanations are provided to the children.
Academic Content Overview
Math, reading and writing skills are further developed and are often related to the content of the agriculture/house building blocks. Cursive handwriting is introduced and the children get the opportunity to learn how to express themselves on paper in a beautiful way. The content of what they are writing becomes much more complex and more independence from the teacher is encouraged in the reading and writing. Books are offered in the classroom and comprehension texts are given to the children to ensure that they are really able to understand not only literary texts but also more factual texts.
The first grammar block allows the children to become aware of the kinds of words that we use – nouns adjectives and verbs are the main focus in the Third Grade grammar block. Vocabulary is expanded in a context. Each block (even the mathematic blocks) allows for the practicing of written and oral language.
Additional Blocks in Grade 3 are:
As the children experience themselves as individuals, the study of agriculture and how the human being began in certain parts of the world to settle and grow her/his own food consciously is a very important contribution to understanding one’s own independence and what responsibilities this process brings with it. Once the human being started to settle and farm, she/he had to take care of the animals that were no longer free and they had to take care of the land that they were now using very differently to how nature used it.
Studying how human beings began to build shelters to protect themselves, the variety of shelters around the world and how again, a great deal of care had to be taken in order to build a sound shelter, gives the child an echo of the “shelter” she/he is now building as an emerging individual, separate from the adults around her/him. In the course of writing about farming and shelter building, writing skills are honed both on the handwriting level and on the content level.
Third graders are introduced to long division and double-digit multiplication, as well as longer word problems. A focus on measurement, with lessons on linear measurement, liquid and dry volume, time and temperature, emphasizes the practical application of math. Students are expected to know their multiplication tables; mental arithmetic games help to strengthen math skills. Form drawing continues to prepare children on their work in geometry.
Four is a sign of stability and strength and balance: the four winds, the four seasons, the four elements. Four represents a sense of steadiness and completion. It is this sense of four, in the midst of separateness and defiance, that is at the very heart of the Fourth Grade curriculum. In Grades 4 and 5, when the child reaches age ten and eleven, the transition from early childhood is complete and the transition towards puberty has not yet begun. This second seven-year period is referred to in Steiner Waldorf pedagogy as the "heart of childhood." In Grade 4 the child feels very much separate from many of the security and comforts that previously were supportive. This is a time to look around and see how one stands in relationship to that which is near and to find security and uprightness through that relationship. The Fourth Grader is at odds with the world. Questions take on a personal twist: "How do you know?" There is an earnestness stemming from a new awareness of just what they're up against in the world. Therefore, every possible opportunity is given to meet these oppositions in quite unexpected ways, ways in which the child can have the experience of crossing and, at the same time, being led towards a wholesome resolution.
Narrative: Tribes and Their Histories
Even though the child has now reached a certain degree of maturity, they still need the experience of living in a group, in a family, in the safety of a community. Stories about tribal culture and customs give the children the opportunity to experience the history of our need for this safety. The chief or leader of the tribe still makes the decisions, but the members of the tribe have their responsibilities and specific tasks.
Independent writing and reading, comprehension text and independent research projects become a part of the work in Fourth Grade. Work continues in arithmetic and form drawing. local history and geography are studied, along with the study of animals.
Grammar blocks continue and work on adverbs, prepositions and tenses are added. Reading and writing becomes more complex as the children, too, become more and more able to grasp complex concepts. The writing skills are applied when writing about the content of the blocks in the morning lesson books.
Writing skills are practiced in context – spelling of words that the children need for their class reports, punctuation, grammar – all these aspects of writing are worked on both in the context of the blocks and also separately in language arts skills classes.
Additional Blocks in Grade 4 are:
The study of animals
The Study of Animals block explores the world of animals and the relationships and responsibilities of the human being towards them. Individual research and reports are a very important part of this block. Each child chooses an animal or animals and writes a report, including drawings and illustrations. The content is presented in a colloquium during which parents and guests can ask questions. This gives the child the opportunity to learn how to speak in public while sharing the excitement of what he/she has discovered and learned.
The growing complexity of the lives of animals as the human being starts to take over more and more of their habitats is explored, and the responsibility that we have for their well-being as well as our own is discussed and studied.
The children learn from each other and not only from the teacher. This is the beginning of the road to becoming an independent learner who is motivated by the passion for finding out more and more about life on Earth.
As the child begins to move out into the world more and more and the individualization process is moving forward, being able to orientate in the world, know where one is, geographically speaking, helps stabilize the child in the new found freedom of expanding boundaries. The children will have experienced the local terrain in their outdoor Classroom Without Walls days. Now it is time to reflect on the terrain that they know and see it in the context of California, the U.S. and the world as a whole.
Individual research is a large part of this block. Each child chooses a region of California to study in depth and presents a written and oral report.
Our local history gives the children another orientation in time – the story of their region is told. They can see how the geography of the region has influenced its history and how human beings have used the land has influenced the environment.
It is critical that the children experience the connections between all the subjects. The world begins to make sense. The children are beginning to understand cause and effect. The inner logic to one phenomenon influencing another begins to become obvious.
Now that the child has moved out of the symbiosis to a certain degree, the work on fractions begins. The child experiences on an unconscious level that she/he is not “the world” but a part of the world – thus it is no longer necessary just to work with whole numbers. All four processes are learned and practiced. Mental math continues with whole numbers and fractions, multiplication tables are practiced and used and all other math that the children have learned continues to be worked on.
Complex forms such as Celtic Knots are introduced to the children and they attempt to copy them. They also work on labyrinths and other complex forms, which they can create themselves.
Developmentally, the children are reaching the pinnacle of childhood. Physically, they are usually well-balanced and beginning to move gracefully and elegantly. Their bodies and musculature are still light. This is a pivotal time when the children can enjoy the final moments of childhood as they prepare to cross the threshold into puberty. Cognitively, the children are more able to understand questions and phenomena in a realistic and reasoning manner. Out of the growing memory powers, a sense for time has developed. Memory allows for looking back and planning for the future and, combined with deepening feeling, for the emergence of conscience and responsibility. Intellectually and morally, the child is ready for new challenges. Foundations for the basic skills in numeracy and literacy have been set down in the tenth year. Elementary notions of personal responsibility and a faculty for understanding "right from wrong" may be grasped from this age. Fifth graders are enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. They still have openness to the world, and a level of confidence that makes them easy to teach. They stand perfectly balanced at a point in their development that places them at ease in the world, harmonious in themselves and in their environment.
Narrative: Stories from Ancient Civilizations
The curriculum supports this phase of development by beginning to explore how people in Ancient Persia, India, China, Mesoamerica and Greece began to settle and give up their hunter/gatherer ways. This is the time, it seems, that agriculture truly began, when writing began to emerge and develop, astonishing architectural structures were built and people worshipped their gods in complex and very formalized ways.
In Ancient Greece, however, the humans were beginning to have relationships to the gods much different to those of the Fourth Grade curriculum Norse Myths. The gods now had children with humans, Prometheus took fire for the humans – there is a distinct shift in the balance of power between the gods and the people who are there to worship them. So it is with a child at this stage in his/her life. There was a beginning sense of one’s own power, one’s own abilities, one’s own story. The adults still are in authorship, but, the child’s own sense of individuality is much stronger and much more available for learning than it ever was before.
The study of the emergence of writing is a perfect opportunity to step back and look at why we write, why is it important that we write beautifully, why is it important to write in the agreed form (spelling). It is only now that this has real relevance for the child her/himself. Studying early forms of writing and realizing that writing is an extension of memory is a very helpful insight for children of this age. They can also begin to see that with the emergence of writing, our reliance on memory alone decreases. That is, once we delegate what we want to remember to a page, we do not have to make the effort to remember any more. Writing, as with everything else, has to be done with a great sense of responsibility and awareness. What is worth remembering and what is worth writing about? If it is worth writing about, how can I write and illustrate my thoughts and ideas beautifully as did the scribes of the past? These are important questions in the language arts classes. Poetic writing, narratives written with a differentiated and beautiful choice of vocabulary, handwriting that is carefully executed. These themes become meaningful in connection with the cultural epochs now being studied.
The children have recited poetry from the very beginning of their school life. Now the beautiful meters of Greek poetry are learned and recited. A new relationship to the spoken word is developed by speaking Ancient Greek texts in the original and also in translation. All the work on reading and writing that has been done before, now begins to take on a real meaning as the children reach this level of consciousness.
In the grammar blocks, attention is paid to the use of tenses and comparative work is done with Spanish and Arabic or Mandarin grammar. (Arabic or Mandarin, depending on which language the class is studying.)
Decimals are added to the work on fractions. The children continue to calculate using the four processes. Fifth Grade is the last time that the children will only be working with arithmetic. Again, from the new perspective of the Fifth Grader, a study of how mathematics emerged is an exciting and helpful activity. Looking consciously at how numbers emerged, revisiting what was told in a story in the First Grade, and seeing that it all makes sense, is a very satisfying experience for the children.
Geometry is introduced in an artistic and meaningful way. Looking at how the straight line and curve of the First Grade lesson are used in all the patterns and decorations in ancient temples, again, allows the children to experience a sense of meaningfulness in what they are learning.
They learn how in Ancient Greece, Pythagoras put words to the phenomenon that was apparent in ancient temple alter designs. We now call it Pythagoras’ Theorem. They see how, when we begin to step back and look, that there is a lawfulness in the way lines and. curves work. These lines and curves were always there but it is he/she who looks, observes, thinks, who can create a theory around what is real.
The children work with lines and curves, creating shapes and learning the names we give to the shapes and why. The emphasis is on the beauty of these constructions at this point.
Working with geometrical forms with their exactness is a wonderful way of supporting the inner balance of the child as he/she gets ready to move into the more turbulent phase of pre-puberty and puberty.
Additional Blocks for Grade 5:
The children move from the Fourth Grade during which they study animals to the study of plants. The botany block is one of the first explicitly scientific blocks in the curriculum. The children study the stunningly varied plant life of California and other parts of the world. Through the study of how plants are nourished (e.g., through healthy soil and water), the children learn implicitly how important it is for us, as human beings, to nourish ourselves in ways that keep us healthy. The colors, the variations of plants and the beauty of the plant world, evokes a response in the child, helping him/her to feel satisfied and calm in the relationship to his/her surroundings. We are particularly fortunate in this part of the world to be surrounded by extremely bountiful and varied examples of healthy plant life.
Alongside the narratives from the ancient civilizations, the children's histories are also studied.
We move out of California into the whole of the United States, continuing to connect, of course, to the countries from which the people of the United States emigrated. Thus, the children can build on their sense of place not only in their own country but also in the world.
In the Sixth Grade, the harmony and balance often experienced in the previous year fades, and pre-adolescent struggles begin to appear. Physically, the child's limbs are suddenly growing. Emotionally, the child is at times feeling critical, uncomfortable and longs to be part of a group. The 12-year-old witnesses what may be described as the death of childhood and the birth pangs of the individual. At this age, the teacher aims to work with the children's growing orientation towards the outer world. As new capacities for thinking emerge, the children can be led to understand causal relationships at work in the world. The students can be challenged and are capable of high standards in their school work.
Narrative: Ancient Roman Narratives and Other Narratives from Around the World of that Time
Ancient Rome is chosen as a response to the stirrings in the Sixth Grader that cause him/her to begin to move decidedly towards the beginning of the post childhood phase of development. The Romans did not stay in their city. They moved out of its confines and spread out into the world. They built incredible roads, bridges, aqueducts and other monumental buildings. They tried their strength against many other peoples.
The challenge sent to the gods by the Ancient Greeks takes a new turn. Man becomes a god and God becomes a man (a Roman emperor calls himself a god and God becomes man in the figure of Jesus). The transition that goes on in the experience of the Sixth Grade child can be compared to this shift in relationship between man and authority as reflected in Ancient Roman history. The Forum, where people tried out their skills in rhetoric, is very reminiscent of the Sixth Grader arguing for what he/she perceives to be justice. The study of Roman Law and Laws created in other cultures helps the student see how laws work and what the consequences are of having laws. How does punishment work? Is it always justified? Does it help?
Speaking about these themes and hearing the stories is a fruitful and meaningful way of giving the pre-pubescent child a sense of clarity and a training ground for her/his own arguments for more freedom and more authorship in her/his own story. By this time, the student will have watched the teachers extrapolate, deduce, make connections, characterize concepts and so, hopefully, the Sixth Grader will be able to think and abstract, will be able to think logically and to more independently describe concepts that are being introduced.
The language arts blocks continue to refine and expand on writing skills. Both orally and in written form, the children practice creating arguments for and against a theme, learn how to justify an argument and so on. The grammar blocks address themes such as the “passive form” of the verb, indirect speech and continue to practice awareness of grammatical phenomena. An Origins of English Block also adds a new dimension to the understanding of the English language and gives a new quality to the children’s writing.
Business math is introduced. The children learn how to do simple bookkeeping and learn how to calculate interest and percentages. Work is continued with all four processes.
Pre-algebra is introduced.
The children learn to construct geometrical forms exactly with rulers, compasses and protractors. They learn to work with angles, areas of geometrical forms and continue to expand their knowledge of geometry.
For the first time, the children are introduced to the idea of physics as an area of study. Now that they have thoroughly experienced and observed the world, learned how to be a scientist and philosopher in their study of Ancient Greece, Ancient China and so on, they can begin, with their teacher, to describe and put words to theories about reality.
Optics is an important theme in Sixth Grade. As the children move into puberty, it is important for them to have a beginning understanding of how we see, how things are perceived and how things really are. Again, this lawfulness, this exactness of explanation, gives a certain security as they move towards the “un-securing” of puberty and hormonal changes.
We study cultures around the world that run parallel to Ancient Rome and Ancient Rome itself as a cultural phenomenon. U.S. citizens of European descent can understand their cultural heritage by studying Roman Britain. English speakers also benefit from exploring Latin. This ancient language is studied to the extent that it helps the student understand the origins of English.
A study of Medieval Europe is also part of the history blocks.
Just as the Romans spread out beyond their own city limits, the children leave the U.S. and move to the Americas of the South. Students choose a country to study in depth and share their knowledge with the rest of the class, thus giving the class an opportunity to get to know the countries of Central and South America as thoroughly as possible. Canada is also part of this work, of course.
The idea of humans looking at the sky and seeing stars and planets rather than gods or goddesses that are governing our lives, is important as the students begin to get a sense of how they can rely on their observational skills and their ability to understand theories. The children will have heard many stories of how people in ancient times studied the stars and drew conclusions about their lives from the movement of the stars. They will know that there were movements, which were seen as good omen and others as evil omens.
As the children sense the huge changes occurring in their bodies and emotional lives, it is important for the student to see that although the stars and planets influence many aspects of our lives, through our own stability and balance and with clear thinking, we can navigate situations which seem to be pulling and pushing us in many directions. Again the regularities and predictable movements of stars and planets gives a sense of stability in a life that is becoming “un-anchored.”
The children, by now, are moving quickly into the first large crisis of a human life – puberty. Crisis here, again, is meant in the most positive sense possible and helping children to move through the puberty crisis is one of the most important tasks of school. Without a healthy puberty crisis, adulthood can be a difficult challenge. The overall themes suggested by Dr. Steiner for this grade are: Explorers, Adventurers, Scientists. The Renaissance was a time in history when human beings fully discovered the power of their thinking and out of that the strength and courage to question establishments such as the Catholic Church. Galileo Galilei and Martin Luther are important figures in Grade 7. This is because the student is now able to realize that through her/his own thinking, she/he can discover and invent, understand and explain many of the phenomena that she/he is involved in or subject to in every day life. Again, cultures around the world at this time in history are studied, so that the student gains a well-rounded picture.
Narrative: Observational Thinkers
We study stories about people who relied on their own observational capabilities, who were true scientists and who realized that through their clear thinking, they could come to conclusions that were vastly different to those put forth even by the mightiest of establishments. An example: Galileo Galilei.
Now that the students are feeling the new heaviness of their physicality, the changes in their skin and in their feeling life, it is critical to help them keep a strong and healthy relationship to their thoughts and ideas. The latent and not yet conscious question is: As I move away from my parents, from my hereditary stream and into my own individual story, how can I be sure that I can rely on myself? Helping the students become more and more aware of their own thinking and how they think is very important.
Giving the children the opportunity to use their – by this time rich and differentiated – vocabulary in poetry and prose, helps them to express who they are in the best possible way. They will have learned in the grammar blocks and in the language arts blocks that what words we choose, what expressions we use, our tone of voice and the beauty of how our language shows who we are.
Poetry becomes very important at this age. Love is an incredibly important theme. The students will have heard many stories of men and women who have loved and will have been able to glean many wisdoms from the stories. Now, it becomes important to speak more overtly about love. The sexual aspect of love is becoming more and more apparent to the students and they need support in dealing with this new range of feelings.
Literature of all kinds, conversations about love, poetry that speak of love, painful and joyous love – all of this and of course, explicit conversations about the implications of sexual love, is critical at this age.
It is essential that the students can speak in a protected and intimate environment with teachers they have known for a long time. They will have been with their classmates for quite a long time, too. This gives an added sense of safety if such conversations are led and held in a caring and careful way.
The language arts blocks deal with creative writing of all kinds, while the grammar blocks focus more on style questions and more subtle grammatical nuances.
Ratios and proportions are introduced. Compound interest is practiced. Work is continued in geometry. Algebra is introduced and practiced.
The European Renaissance and cultural developments of this time around the globe are studied. Developments in the field of astronomy are examined and how sailors navigated using their knowledge of the stars.
Work on studying the other continents of Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe is started.
The students are introduced to the idea that everything is made up of something. They begin to explore how substances affect each other and cause changes to come about. Experiments are carried out, the students observe, note what they observe and learn how to draw conclusions from what they observe. They learn that doing an experiment once does not allow for a conclusion. They see how important it is to work exactly, to observe exactly, to be as objective as possible and to note exactly.
This not only gives them an excellent introduction to the world of chemistry but also gives them a format by which to observe and conclude about their own inner life and the inner life of others. Patience, objectivity, passionate interest and the ability to be connected to what one is observing – these abilities are not only good in chemistry classes but also in life in general.
The work in physics is deepened with themes such as mechanics. How do I move something that is much bigger than myself? How do I find out why something is the way it is? How does gravity work? Who was Newton and Copernicus? Why did Galileo Galilei recant? The students learn about the work of scientists from around the globe who were working at this time. How can I be sure? Can I ever be sure? Does it matter that I can never be sure? How do I live with questions and not always have an answer? Is it good to have an answer? The students are helped to be aware of these questions through the study of people who have struggled with similar inner dilemmas.
The study of the body and what it needs to be healthy is a part of the preparation for a conscious relationship to one’s body – one based in knowledge of how the body functions.
At 14, the pupils are "into" adolescence: bodily and psychological changes are well under way so that, in general, the young person seems more robust and the tenderness of the previous two years has lessened somewhat. Autobiographies, biographies, histories of people who have contributed to world history in any way, are the subject of deep study in Grade 8. How we are in the world, how we react to injustice or need, how we transform what needs transformation and conserve what needs conserving, how we relate to others and how we treat our environment? These are important themes as the students move more deeply into the puberty crisis. This finds a very strong place in the block on Revolutions such as the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Working on developing a language and vocabulary that is capable of expressing the increasingly complex ideas, thoughts and feelings that a person of this age can have is of extreme importance. Awareness of the body and how all the organs work together to allow life to exist are subjects in anatomy. Human sexuality and the ability to have balance and healthy relationships to ourselves and others are examined in physiology.
Narrative: Autobiographies and Biographies
Now is the time to give the students as many opportunities as possible to see how people who have had exciting, difficult and/or privileged lives have dealt with what came towards them. Well-known people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara, Mao Tse Tung, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jaques Lusseyran, to name but a few, are the subject of conversation in the 8th Grade.
Students are asked to read and write about a person of their choice, bring back their findings and are offered opportunities to discuss in class why someone behaved the way he/she did, the implications of their choices and so on. This, again, is an ideal way of allowing the students to explore their own questions and struggles without forcing them to share something that they might not be able to (or might not be ready to) from their own personal experience.
Love stories are of course very important. Shakespeare is an ideal author. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, offers ideal opportunities to talk about what love might really be. Creative writing, writing reports and the difference between scientific writing and storytelling is explored. Each student’s style is examined and suggestions are made on how to improve and enhance one's writing abilities.
All grammatical phenomena will have been examined by the end of 8th Grade and comparisons will have been made to the grammars of the other two language the students are learning.
Additional Blocks in Grade 8:
Continued work on arithmetic
A sweep of history up to the present day including the Industrial Revolution and its consequences
The remaining work on the four continents
Magnetism, electricity and modern inventions
Chemistry and Environmental Sciences
The experiences the students have had during the eight years outside in the environment is used as a basis to study the impact of our human life on the planet. Substances that we create that do not come naturally from the earth, how they are created and what is their impact is an important part of this work.
The local and global climate is studied. We ask how weather “comes about," what are we doing to affect the weather, what occurs naturally, how do I recognize what the weather is going to be like.
The human body is further studied so that the students have a thorough and clear picture of their bodies and a good understanding of how to keep the body healthy. The question of sexuality, reproduction and all the implications of this is a part of the conversations in this block.
These questions are addressed as they come up so that the students feel comfortable coming to the teachers with any theme that is causing them unease or distress of any kind.
For information about our high school program, please contact Meinir Davies, our head of school at email@example.com.