Fourth/Fifth Grade

Fourth-grade students are still in the middle of what we call “the nine-year-old change.” They want to respect adults and be amazed by their world, but their respect and awe must be justified. They become more self-confident as their perception sharpens.

The fourth-grade child is consciously seeking models of competence in teachers, coaches, and others in their expanding social sphere.

They can be highly critical and argumentative; strong opinions about anything and everything, likes and dislikes, are often expressed in class discussions as a new realistic view of the world emerges. Teachers and parents increasingly experience the children as emerging individuals with strong personalities and distinctive gifts, talents, and challenges.

Studying local geography helps the children establish their place on this Earth, as they can now orient themselves in time and space. Learning to make maps of their classroom, school, neighborhood, Sarasota, and Florida, and solidifying the directions of north, south, east, and west, as manifested by the movement of the sun and planets, gives the children a sure way to find themselves in the here and now. This is true in their bodies as well, for by this time, the children should have become quite coordinated in the three aspects of space: forward/back, left/right, up/down.

Understanding their local geography, both physical and cultural, is a way to unite the child to earth, and cultivate a feeling of belonging and purpose.

A journey through nearly 15,000 years of local human history is also offered, as the students are fully ready to orient themselves in time, further enhancing their connections to our local surroundings and the people who came here before them.

In fourth grade, the world – which once exhibited a magical wholeness- begins to break apart. This is the appropriate time to introduce fractions. Through hands-on activities, the children find a world of numbers in between any two whole numbers.

The child’s experience of separation from their surroundings remains painful at times. Out of this difficulty, children begin to form their personalities, consciously choosing those qualities that will make up their own characters and their ways of approaching the world.

The ability to choose consciously is strongly echoed in Norse mythology, which becomes the basis of their language arts study. These traditional tales center on the strength of character, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance while revealing hidden motives, character fallibility, and adversarial relationships of all kinds.

Fourth grade is naturally full of conflict within social interactions that seem impossible to solve in the moment, but are resolved in a safe environment, creating mutual respect, understanding, and closer friendships.

A most valuable quote for the fourth-grader is said by Odin, during one of his visits to Earth, as he closely advises his human creations: “Men die, cattle die, you yourself must die one day. There is only one thing that will not die- the name, good or bad, that you have made for yourself.” This truly speaks to the fourth-grader.

At the same time, their newfound independence broadens the child’s mindset and shows a world of endless possibilities. The fourth-grader has an adventurous spirit, is full of curiosity, and is eager to explore new capacities for learning and creativity.

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.

For students who turn 9 by May 1st, 2024

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