In Waldorf education, the Fifth grade is usually referred to as the “Golden Year”, or the heart of childhood. At this relatively harmonious age, you will see at least flashes of a mature adult response, balanced emotions, and a heartbeat to breath ratio of 4:1, that of an adult.
Students of this age typically have achieved a skill level that allows them to meet new challenges confidently. They are physically graceful and agile, as the proportions of their bodies are in harmony. Socially, fifth-graders display a peaceful quality that will soon be challenged by adolescence.
Right now, we revel in this golden age and meet it through a combination of energetic academic, artistic, and movement work in the curriculum, along with as many adventures as possible!
The ancient civilizations of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece are studied to explore the various stages of human consciousness. The children first hear mythological stories, explore the human being’s relationship to the earth, and discuss ancient perspectives on spiritual life and death. How the landscape or geography (earth’s writing) influences each culture’s perspective is also a significant focus.
The children learn of early forms of writing, geometry, and architecture as much as possible experientially, thus experiencing some of the roots of modern culture.
With the study of these civilizations in this order, children can experience an evolution of human consciousness that meets their growing interest in the more profound questions of life.
Fifth grade marks the critical transition from mythology to history, once we move to Ancient Greece, which is also the perfect representative of a recognition for the equity between physical skill and beauty, art and science, life on earth, and spirituality, that stirs the spirit of the fifth grader. Through studying the Ancient Greek city-states, the class develops an understanding of how the people lived through their diverse principles. For example, the stark contrast between Athens and Sparta captivates them as they see how their ideals influenced their contradictory ways of life.
The study of botany at this age can nurture the fifth grader’s dawning appreciation of the world’s wonderment, as the unfolding of the plant corresponds to their receptivity to the natural world around them. The focal point of botany for 10-11-year-olds is an integration of scientific observation and an appreciation for the poetic qualities of the plant world’s beauty, always cultivating their sense of wonder.
Fifth graders still have openness to the world and a level of poise that makes them eager for new challenges, which are essential as their cognitive capacities increase. They stand perfectly balanced at a point in their development that places them at ease in the world, harmonious in themselves and their environment, for the most part.
The sixth-grader experiences a fundamental shift that may feel reminiscent of toddlerhood, as they tend to say “no” a lot, and reject input from their parents. Their bodies also change and develop, taking on a slightly awkward appearance; the presence of hormones becomes apparent in the physical changes and the emotional accountability of the sixth-grader.
Sixth graders genuinely stand on the cusp of two worlds; they are no longer children, but not quite adolescents. Many retain much of the playfulness of childhood along with their new, unfolding cognitive abilities.
This can be an unsettling time, as they feel their separation from the world strongly. There is often a perceptible pull between childhood and adolescence felt in the classroom, which can be moment to moment! Some are reluctant to leave behind the haven of childhood; others embrace this new entity, seeking the freedom of their future at full speed.
All have emerged from the dreamy consciousness of the myth, ready to learn about themselves and the world. They are full of questions and begin to show the capacity for fully grasping cause and effect, understanding the connections between one event and another, and extrapolating from one experience to another, particularly evidenced in subjects like Astronomy and Physics.
Slowly and carefully, much like their own first toddling steps, the sixth graders are ready to comprehend concepts and abstraction. The sixth-grade curriculum is designed to meet these new cognitive abilities by providing appropriate exercises designed to strengthen and develop the maturing mind without exhausting it.
Here we find the mirror of the polarity of deep feelings inside the students: In history, we explore the lives of the firm, lawful Romans, and later, the emergence of chivalry in Medieval times. Students examine the intense nature of the earth of Mineralogy, to the far reaches of the stars in Astronomy. They practice the stunning execution of Geometric Drawings, along with the mathematical computations involved in calculating interest in Business Math. This is a year of polarities! In addition, everything we do now is linked to the “real world,” as this is their focus now, with the future streaming towards them. By the end of the year, one can see an increasingly mature response to challenges, as they demonstrate they are ready for the task of finding their place in the world.
The Fifth and Sixth grade classes are led by Ms Kalin Wilson and Ms Miriam Cornell