Grades 1-8 Curriculum
Prairie Hill Waldorf School is committed to excellence in all basic academic skills. It provides a strong introduction to the classics, foreign language, history, geography, mathematics, and science… The subjects today’s child needs as a foundation for tomorrow’s complex and challenging civilization.
Each morning the children spend the first period of the day – a two hour Main Lesson – with their class teacher. During this time they will intensively study a block from one of three core subjects. In this way the rhythm of the day begins with work that requires the most attention.
After about a month, when one topic has been fully explored a new Main Lesson block is introduced. The Waldorf approach is keeping with current educational theory that learning should be age appropriate and multi-sensory, acquired not only through sight and sound, but also through touch, movement, imagination, and feeling.
Students receive an education that not only engages the intellect, but the whole child through head, heart and hands – an education that integrates the artistic and creative with the scientific and intellectual study.
The day begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 3:35p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday
- Core academic subjects are integrated with the arts
- Additional subjects include foreign language, handwork, chorus, woodwork, strings, recorder, gym and movement
- Each grade performs a play complementing the curriculum
- Field trips and extended day class trips that enrich the classroom learning
- Offers optional before and after care programs for an additional fee
Grades 1-8 Curriculum Description
First Grade: The Child and the Curriculum
As a first grader, the child begins the exciting journey of leaving the safety of home to meet and explore the world. She carries with her a strong sense of wonder and has the budding ability to form rich inner imaginations. The first grader continues to learn through imitation but is also eager to be taught by the class teacher who stands before her.
First grade begins with an introduction to the idea that our world is composed of straight and curved lines. The lines are combined in various ways as forms and the children copy the movement needed to create them. The forms are walked by the children, drawn in the air with large arm movements and then finally drawn on paper as form drawing. This dynamic study of patterns and lines works deeply into the children’s senses of movement, spatial orientation and balance, laying the foundation for writing.
In the language arts, the children are immersed in the oral tradition of fairy tales and nature stories. Fairy tales from around the world deepen the sense of wonder that the students have while conveying profound truths about human nature, human life and the world. The letters of the alphabet are introduced through images from the stories. The students draw a simple picture for each letter that then transforms into a letter symbol. When sound and symbol relationships have been practiced, the students begin writing simple words and sentences; they write and then read what they have memorized.
In first grade, the child experiences the world as a whole, an oneness. The curriculum supports this experience by engaging the whole child, thinking, feeling and willing. In mathematics, for example, the children explore numbers through rhythmical movements (clapping, pacing and chanting), songs, stories, counting games and artistic activities, as well as mental math. The introduction to numbers begins with simple counting. The students next examine the quality of numbers, e.g. the body is one, an indivisible unity. Stories are told to develop a feeling for numbers and their connection to life. The four processes are presented pictorially as four imaginary characters and much practice is done manipulating piles of nuts or stones.
As the children come together as a class it is vital and central to the curriculum that healthy social relationships are promoted and nurtured. The class works hard in learning how to work together as a group and how to respect each other’s strengths and challenges. First graders are paired with eighth graders as buddies who offer special friendships that help make those first steps into the grade school world more comfortable.
Grade 1 Morning Lesson Blocks: Fairy Tales, Nature Stories, Introduction to the Alphabet, Formation of Capital Letters, Number Qualities, Four Math Processes, Straight and Curve Line through Form Drawing, Class Play
Second Grade: The Child and the Curriculum
As the children in second grade become more aware of the world and their own individuality, duality becomes the theme. Duality is demonstrated as many children struggle with the high ideals they want to emulate and the lower instinctual forces to which they fall prey. To support this development the children listen to stories which depict both sides of our humanity; animal fables show characters that have no control over their instincts while legends and stories of the saints show heroic figures who strive to develop their higher selves. Nature stories continue to reveal the natural world to the children. It is important that the material presented to the students is accompanied by strong feelings of love for goodness, truth, and beauty on the one hand, and rejection of what is evil and dishonest on the other hand. The children will carry these ideals within themselves, coming to full understanding later in life.
Form drawing in second grade incorporates exercises combining both straight and curved lines which allow the students to make the transition to lower case cursive letters. This discipline also includes symmetry exercises that emphasize left and right, and mirror images of above and below, further illustrating the duality that children experience at this age.
The emphasis of writing in the second grade is on the development of auditory processing (e.g. short vowel sounds) and visual discrimination as a foundation for spelling, writing, and reading. Students learn the lower case and/or cursive letters followed by an introduction of basic punctuation rules for composition. Within the development of composition, the focus is on the identification of words which builds a bridge from first grade letter recognition to sentence construction in the third grade.
Reading is taught through a variety of activities using both whole language and phonic based approaches. In phonics, the emphasis is on how spoken sounds are encoded by written letters and letter groups. Spelling is based on a whole language approach utilizing context and phonetic cues.
Work with mathematical concepts and skills emphasize intensive practice of the number facts in addition, subtraction and multiplication, including tables up to twelve. Number patterns, families and the dynamic quality of numbers in number lines and circles are explored. Also introduced through imaginative story, practice and manipulation of counters are the concepts and aspects of place value up to the thousands and its application in addition and subtraction, including regrouping (borrowing and carrying).
Much work is done to nurture the social environment in the second grade as the children experience their own individualities and the challenge of rising above their instincts and personal desires. Friendships deepen as they begin to relate to one another in this new way.
Grade 2 Morning Lesson Blocks: Fables and Folklore, Native American Stories, Legends of Heroes and Tricksters, Formation of Lower Case Letters, Sentence Structure, and Fundamental of Reading, Rhythm, and Place Value, Times Table, Number Patterns through Shape, Class Play
Third Grade: The Child and the Curriculum
The third grade year is a time of transition; the children have moved out of innocence and into the age of self-consciousness. They gradually awaken to the difference between self and the surrounding world and develop more awareness of their own inner worlds. The nine year old, becoming aware that he or she is forever leaving the world of early childhood, suffers a sense of irretrievable loss, often with the feelings of insecurity, separation and even isolation. Frequently, this can be a dramatic, even traumatic, process for both the child and the adults around him. The experience of loss is akin to the fall from paradise and is addressed on a soul level by the study of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Movement, speech and listening are the basis for skill development in writing and reading. Throughout the year, the children hear Old Testament stories which depict the journey of the Hebrew people as they move towards redemption and freedom, exploring their experiences of human strivings, struggles and triumphs along the way. These stories are retold, reenacted, drawn, painted, sculpted and written as compositions. Language arts branch out from oral language into the four interrelated areas of reading, writing, grammar and spelling. Reading moves from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
In mathematics, the concepts of carrying and borrowing are solidified and put to work in all four processes. Students continue with memorization of the times tables and math facts relying less on strong, rhythmic repetition and more on recalling the tables automatically and randomly. Linear, solid, and liquid measurements are introduced and practiced in conjunction with the house building and local geography/home environment curriculum. The concepts of time and currency are also explored. Long multiplication becomes a focus later in the year and simple long division may be introduced.
The social studies curriculum centers on the theme “Living on the Earth.” The children have left paradise behind them where they lived off the fruits of the land without taking notice of the work involved. The students’ will forces are tested with practical work in the farming and house building blocks helping them feel capable and at home on the earth. By physically encountering the earth, the children gain knowledge beyond that learned in books, awakening feeling for and connections to nature that leads to responsible stewardship of the earth. As much as possible, children have direct, hands-on experience in the endeavors of home and hearth chores, traditional trades in working the earth, house and shelter building, and other typical occupations. Other creation stories, e.g. Native American, build a holistic image of the origin of the earth and the role that plants, animals and man serve on it.
Grade 3 Morning Lesson Blocks: Stories of the Hebrew People, Hebrew Celebrations, Basic Parts of Speech, Introduction to Spelling, Shelters, Farming, Time, Measurement, Money, continue Four Processes & Place Value, Grammar, Class Play
Grade 3 Trip: Farm Overnight
Fourth Grade: The Child and the Curriculum
Students in fourth grade have made a significant crossing as they move out of the early childhood years. They begin to see themselves as individuals comprising the whole. New territories are discovered both within themselves and in the world. This self-awareness can be seen in the confidence the students carry when moving into new areas of study. Eager to learn about the world, fourth graders need to be challenged and stretched in all aspects of their work. Through rhythmical activities the teacher channels the vast amount of energy that this age brings to the classroom. Concentration exercises are more complex, requiring teamwork and precision, e.g. bean bag toss. In addition, the teacher meets the student’s growing interest of the world by providing more separate curriculum subjects and more opportunities to work independently.
The language arts blocks feature Norse mythology with its cast of complex characters who show the flaws and frailty of humanity. Students begin to see and understand the differences in classmates, teachers, parents and even themselves. They work on spelling, composition, grammar, and punctuation through these powerful stories.
The wholeness of the mathematical experience of the first three grades expands in fourth grade as the world of fractions is introduced and the study of long division is deepened. The whole is fragmented into individual parts and for the first time the students experience numbers that are less than one.
In the fourth grade various other disciplines are taught more formally. The study of history and geography begins by examining local, natural surroundings. Reflecting the experience of separation from the world felt by the ten year old, map making becomes a central activity. Science too is brought more objectively to the students in their study of the relationships of man and animal. Children of this age are often described as being in the heart of childhood. They have a natural empathy for all living things, especially animals and enthusiastically study them from slugs to horses.
Socially, fourth graders see themselves as specific members of a family and of society. The need for rules, structure and fairness is understood by all, but not as easily followed. This need is often carried over into playground games, bookwork expectations, and homework scheduling. The teacher, to promote a healthy environment, guides the developing social awareness of the students. Their longing for rules and structure are met by class meetings, following the example of the Norsemen who met as a group to make decisions.
Grade 4 Morning Lesson Blocks: Stories of the Norse People, Local Geography, Grammar and Basic Composition, Man & Animal, Fractions, Long Division and Factoring, Class Play
Grade 4 Trips: Rock Island Camping and Biking Overnight Camping
Fifth Grade: The Child and the Curriculum
Although there is no major transformation between fourth and fifth grade as between third and fourth, there is much enhancement of what has already been gained. The fifth grader’s horizon has widened considerably; she has become steadier and more self-confident; she has an enhanced consciousness; she is more accustomed to being alone and to seeing the world in a new perspective.
Because the children are developing a stronger sense of their own personality, every opportunity is taken to teach them to respect others. Students are helped to differentiate clearly and accurately between the opinions and experiences of their own and of others. This is emphasized in their written and oral work, e.g. as applied in grammar, to the use of direct and indirect quotations. Writing focuses on clear presentation in sentence structure and paragraph construction. Students continue to strengthen spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
In math, the fifth graders practice long division and their work with fractions. They are introduced to decimals and the relationship between decimals and fractions. Free hand geometry evolves out of form drawing. The students experience the forms of nature as they draw geometric shapes and patterns, e.g. five and six pointed stars as related to the five and six petaled flowers, and the spiral of the unfolding fern.
History is an education of the students’ feelings rather than of their memory for facts and figures. It requires inner mobility to enter sympathetically into the ancient states of being that are so different from our own. Students study the progression of human consciousness beginning with the dreamy time of ancient India where the inhabitants longed to be back in heaven; to the people of Persia who felt it was necessary to transform the earth; to the peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt who loved the earth and their earthly possessions so much that they were buried with them; to the golden age of Greece when men spent their fullest powers to make earth and life beautiful. In the spring the students participate in the Greek Pentathlon with students from other area Waldorf schools. The students are divided into city-states and vie for crowns of laurel in running, jumping, throwing of the discus and javelin, and Greek wrestling. The ideals of truth and beauty permeate the games.
While history moves from the unfamiliar past to the more personal and familiar present, geography takes the child away from himself, out into ever-wider spaces. His consciousness is stretched to all of North America. With their new sense of individuality, there is the possibility that students can become self-absorbed. Geography helps them to move beyond themselves and out into the world.
The pictures of nature in botany that are brought to the fifth graders also lead them outward to a warm connection with the world at a time when their developing sense of self threatens to cut them off from the world. Students study the major plant types as an integral part of their natural surroundings, noting climatic and geographical influences. The unfolding process of plant life is also examined.
Grade 5 Morning Lesson Blocks: Ancient Civilizations – India, Persia, Mesopotamian, and Egypt, Greek Mythology, Greek History, United States Geography, Botany, Decimals, Metric System, Free Hand Geometry, Class Play
Grade 5 Trips: Tress for Tomorrow and Pentathlon
Sixth Grade: The Student and the Curriculum
Sixth graders have taken a step out of the golden age of childhood and are perched on the edge of turbulent adolescence as they labor to bring forth their individuality. Their skeletal systems are active as limbs lengthen and bones harden. Students experience earthliness, finding the force of gravity strong and their movements awkward and angular. All of this makes sixth graders ready to learn about the laws that govern the earth. As they foray into physics, dig into the earth in geology, work with the polarities of black and white in drawing, or journey with the lawfulness and passions of Rome, their desire for facts, for understanding causalities in the world, and for meeting their own moods are addressed.
Students write practical works, including business letters, formal multi-paragraph essays, and short reports, learning the forms our community has agreed on to help convey meaning clearly. Their idealism is fed as they work with the subjunctive tense, that which expresses what is desired but is yet to be realized. The students delve into the almost anatomical structure of the English language as they analyze the parts of a sentence and diagram them.
In business math students come to see the laws that govern our economy and the means by which our needs are met. They experience the discipline of numbers as they calculate percentages and ratios as well as study the relationships among fractions, decimals, and percentages. Discipline is also required as they work with the precise tools of geometry. The figures they create are studied for the numeric laws the forms embody. Students begin using textbooks in their skill lessons for consistent math practice.
In history, the class is immersed in the world of Rome with its discipline and lawfulness that allowed Rome to dominate the world. The students embrace the feeling, “I can do anything!” Yet, an implicit moral lesson lies in their witnessing the excess that led to Rome’s decline, giving birth to Christianity and the Dark Ages. Students begin to understand how differences in geography help shape the lives of people. As their own individuality emerges, the capacity to see the unique qualities of others also develops. The Mediterranean world is then contrasted with Central and South America.
The science curriculum includes both geology and physics. As students study mineralogy, the formation of rocks and crystals is a point of awe and wonder that reflects the beautiful process of bone formation taking place in their own bodies. In physics, students focus on observation rather than assumptions, allowing the observations to reveal the natural, lawful ordering of the phenomenon. Physics includes a beginning look at acoustics, optics, and magnetism.
Grade 6 Morning Lesson Blocks: Rome, Christianity and Islam, Middle Ages, Geography of South America, Physics (sound, warmth, light, magnetism, tribo-electrics), Geology, Business Math, Ratios and Proportions, Geometric Constructions, Class Play
Grade 6 Trips: Caving Camping, High Ropes Course
Seventh Grade: The Student and the Curriculum
In the seventh grade, the students are leaving the security, dependence and dreaminess of childhood behind. New forces of self-determination are surging up in them. They are looking into the world that is opening up ahead of them with excitement, enthusiasm and a longing to find their place within it. They vacillate between an incredible passion for finding life out for themselves, and a fear of failure and loneliness. They have a longing to become connected to the world around them as artists, explorers, scientists, philosophers, and more. It is the task of the teacher to help them create a bridge between their passion and the world; they must be empowered to find themselves as individuals within the community. The teacher brings challenging physical and mental group exercises to the class with a focus on team building, e.g. canoeing, ropes course. The students perform service work, helping to bring them out of the self-absorption of puberty and move them towards meeting the needs of others.
The language arts curriculum for the seventh grade focuses on understanding the individualization of writing, of different points of view and style. The students experiment with developing their own styles. They also learn to understand the points of view and techniques used for expression by others. The natural mood swings that the students experience are explored and articulated in the creative writing block, “Wish, Wonder and Surprise.”
Seventh graders relate to the biographies of the first mathematicians and their longing to understand the universe through the clarity and purity of numbers and mathematical concepts. Geometry is studied in practical applications that help to build the bridge between the individual’s thinking and the construction of life all around us.
Students study the biographies of key personalities of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration and the Reformation. The focus is on understanding the transformations that occurred in the world through the struggles, initiatives, and awakening of individuals. Geographical boundaries were broken down during this historical period and so, in geography lessons, the students begin to look at the world as a whole, focusing on the connections that began to be developed across the globe laying the foundations for today’s political, economic and social world conditions. Particular attention is given to Africa as one of the areas that was explored and colonized during this period.
The science curriculum endeavors to develop the new capacities for individual, free thinking that are emerging in the seventh grader, including objectivity and enthusiasm for the world around them. It is hoped that the student will experience both the understanding of accessible phenomena and the mystery of all that is still unfathomed.
Grade 7 Morning Lesson Blocks: Reformation and Renaissance, Age of Discovery and Exploration, African and European Geography, Chemistry (combustion, acids and bases, and nutrition), Anatomy and Physiological Systems, Physics (optics, magnetism, current electricity and mechanics), Astronomy, History of Algebra, Geometry, Class Play
Grade 7 Trips: Canoeing and rock climbing camping trips
Eighth Grade: The Student and the Curriculum
As the student turns fourteen, he stands at the beginning of a process that will unfold over the next seven years. Puberty marks this threshold, but it is more than sexual maturity; it is, more importantly, the birth of critical thinking and judgment. These capacities come at the painful cost of breaking away from the warm, lively attachment to one’s own small world causing feelings of deep loneliness. Yet, antipathy, in puberty, has the rightful task of pushing back the world in order to create an inner space in the teenager. He must discover his center and search for his own separate identity. At the same time, he must move outside of himself and find a new way back into the world with direction in life and his own path toward people and community. He begins to see the world differently, coming face to face with the raw facts of reality. It is the task of the teacher to strengthen the individual forces inherent in the students and to stand firm before them with inner strength and conviction so that they may discover their own.
In the language arts curriculum, the students read and analyze various selections that are written with different perspectives and styles. They also study the elements of a story, e.g. plot, setting, characterization, theme, and use these elements to create their own stories. While their work together may focus on the short story, the students independently read a selection of books, often with the theme of man’s struggle for freedom. Formal debate is introduced to show the logical steps in developing an argument and to appreciate different, yet valid points of view.
Mathematics helps develop objective thinking and to strengthen the students’ budding capacity for logical thought, as in the simple algebraic equations of “if a, then b.” Students work with Algebra ½ or Algebra 1 textbooks in their skill lessons for consistent practice. In geometry, students try to construct the platonic solids, (tetrahedron, cube, dodecahedron, etc.), in clay or paper before they calculate their areas, surfaces, etc.
In eighth grade, the students not only want to move out into the world, they want to alter it, to conquer it, to leave their mark upon it as a way of defining who they are. The personalities of the great industrial, scientific and political revolutions from the 1700s to the present day speak to the students and show them how individuals can effect change in the world. The fight for human freedom echoes the growing feeling of independence within the students and their developing self-reliance. The fight for freedom is revealed in the history of the United States, from the Boston Tea Party, framing of the Constitution, the Civil War, abolition of slavery, suffrage, to the Civil Rights and Women’s movements.
In geography the students explore Asia in its vast diversity of land, cultures, history and philosophies. The continents of Australia and Antarctica complete the students’ grand tour of the varied peoples, cultures, and lands of the world.
Through the sciences of climatology and meteorology, the whole world is examined again. Students see how the layers of the atmosphere and air pressures affect the world’s climate and weather. Previous work in physics is deepened and the students study the practical application of scientific principles as in hydraulics and aerodynamics. In chemistry, the basic organic substances of sugar, starch, protein and fat are explored as well as their application to diet, technology and manufacturing. Human anatomy and physiology are observed in the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems, and through the stages of embryology.
Even as the students stand more strongly as individuals, it remains vital that they learn to work together and build healthy, social relationships. As a class, they continue to refine communication skills and explore ways to remain warm while becoming separate individuals, to avoid the destructive “anti” energy, and to speak and act without polarizing others. They learn to honor and celebrate the uniqueness of themselves and others.
Grade 8 Morning Lesson Blocks: Revolutions, American History, Modern History, Shakespeare, Chemistry (metals, gases and solids), Physiology (skeletal and muscular system, eye, and ear), Physics (current electricity, hydraulics, and aerodynamics), Meteorology, Geography of Asia, Antarctica, and Australia, Number Bases and Equations, Set Concepts and Platonic Solids, Class Play
Grade 8 Trip: Culminating trip that includes personal and team challenges as well as service opportunities