BY MIDDLE SCHOOL, the students’ capacities begin to mature, and the seeds for intellectual analysis and critical thinking are sown. Through each of the main lesson subjects teachers lay the groundwork for the deepening and widening of the students’ understanding of the world and their unique place within it. Students are nurtured and challenged to sharpen their intellect, their eye for beauty as well as accuracy, and their capacity to accomplish meaningful activities.
Sixth Grade: Bringing a sense of order
Sixth grade marks a turning point in the elementary school curriculum. As children become better able to appreciate the relationships of cause and effect, the formal study of science begins. To help students learn to observe accurately, account for their observations, and draw conclusions, new subjects such as physics, geology, and geometry are introduced. As students learn basic concepts and carefully draw and shade geometric forms, they learn, also, to bring order into their own sometimes chaotic feeling life.
Seventh Grade: A time of inner revolution
In Waldorf schools the study of history begins with the ancient cultures of the East and progresses through the great civilizations of the ages. By studying the history of humankind, by considering the lives of others, students come to understand themselves and their own struggles for understanding and mastery of the world around them. Seventh graders also learn about inventions, artistic achievements, and economic structures, all within the context of major themes, such as feudalism, chivalry, Christianity, the development of Protestantism, and the invention of the printing press.
Eighth Grade: Learning to think for ourselves
As eighth graders actively begin to challenge the world around them, we study cultural and social revolutions, drawing upon themes of freedom versus equality, loyalty versus honesty—themes that often closely mirror the eighth grader’s own inner growth.The sciences constitute a major component of the main lesson curriculum. From grades five through eight, students receive an introduction to the earth sciences (botany, geology, astronomy, meteorology) as well as to physics, chemistry, and human physiology. Not studied in isolation, the connections and relevance of these subjects to the human being is highlighted throughout. Another other common thread is that instruction in all of the sciences is directed at helping students learn to observe, to see for themselves, and to draw their own conclusions. Observation involves becoming aware of our assumptions and learning to let go of them. Only then are we truly thinking for ourselves. This method fosters in our students sensitivity to the world around them and a sense of responsibility for it as well as confidence in their own powers of perception, thinking, and decision making.