The Waldorf Fourth Grade

 
Between the ninth and tenth years of age, children are awakening to a new independence in their feelings about themselves and the world. This time is in many ways a turning point, when basic attitudes are found that will be carried through life. Accordingly, in the fourth grade the children study the human being as mirrored in the animal kingdom.

The common thread is to gain an insight into the human being and gain a love and responsibility for the animal kingdom. With the new awareness of this age, the children paint, sketch, dramatize, and write simple descriptions of the animals in their main lesson books. Thus, the child’s introduction to the study of nature and science is imaginative and artistic. Also, in the realm of feeling are the stories of the fourth grade: the Norse Myths (or perhaps the Celtic or Finnish myths). The mighty characters of Thor, Odin, the Giants, and the cunning Loki move through Middle Earth to the last battle of Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, the end and the beginning of all things.

In form drawing, a subject distinct to Waldorf schools, the children may accompany their work with Norse Mythology by drawing freehand the weaving designs, symbols and decorative motifs of the Norse people or the Celts. The fourth graders begin geography. They start in their own classroom and carefully make maps of their room, then of the school, then of their route to school, gradually branching out to their town, county, and state. They delight in stories of local places, the mountain ranges, deserts, great valleys, and the coastal regions. The crops, minerals, and water resources become alive in them; a part of their inner space.

Composition, grammar, and reading fill many busy hours. In math, fractions are introduced. Whole number math is reviewed with more complicated problems than previously. Handwork (cross-stitching), music, painting, drawing, games, gardening, foreign languages, and form drawing keep the fourth graders very busy.

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