Davis Waldorf School

Elementary School - Grades 1 - 5

A heads-hearts-hands approach to learning

Waldorf educators have always recognized that a child learns best when his or her whole being – body, emotions and intellect – is actively involved in the learning process. In the grades, each day begins with a two hour Main Lesson, an in-depth exploration of a core academic subject, designed to engage the full range of the child’s capacities. A typical lesson in the lower school, for example, might incorporate story, rhythmic movement, art and the use of tangible “hands-on” materials. This imaginative, multi-sensory approach brings the subject alive for the children and allows them to become active and enthusiastic participants in their own learning.

Waldorf Education recognizes that capacities emerge in students in developmental stages, while also allowing room for individual rates of maturation. This is the foundation for the unfolding curriculum and teaching methods employed through the years in the grades. While the young child until age six or seven learns primarily through physical activity, imagination, and imitation, the children in the Lower School learn best when academics are conveyed through artistic and other kinesthetic experiences that engage their feelings. A sense of beauty weaves throughout the day as the children experience movement, music, drama, storytelling, and painting while engaged actively in learning.

The Main Lesson Teacher

The school day begins with the Class Teacher greeting each child with a handshake and a warm “Good Morning.” Ideally, Class Teachers will carry a class for several years, and they typically stay with a class for part or all of the journey from grade one through eight. In the past at DWS, the school used a system of teachers looping in grades 1-4 and 5-8. After reviewing this experience, the Leadership Team and Faculty decided to determine the looping of a teacher on a case-by-case basis depending upon teacher evaluations and the needs of the school and their class. Whether a Class Teacher loops or not, the school is committed to providing a quality Waldorf education for each and every class.
Because the Class Teachers come to know their students well, they can work creatively to bring the curriculum in a way that meets the needs of their class, accommodating individual learning styles, as needed, and work in close partnership with parents to ensure the best possible educational experience for each child. The warm sense of community that characterizes the Waldorf class provides a secure environment for learning where each child’s gifts are recognized as a unique and valuable contribution in the world. While the Class Teachers become a stable anchor in the children’s lives throughout the formative years, the children also experience a variety of Subject Teachers through the years.

Elementary School Grades Curriculum

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Language Arts Curriculum

The Waldorf language arts program has its foundation in a rich oral language experience starting in the preschool and continuing through all the grades. From preschool onward, teachers bring stories rich in imagery, high-level vocabulary, and complex sentence structure. These stories stimulate the children's imaginations and foster the development of careful speech as well as a broad vocabulary. Teachers also form their speech artistically, and through regular speech exercises engage the children in developing clear, articulate speech. Nourished by the living images in the stories, the children grow increasingly capable of bringing their own creativity to the retelling and writing of stories they have heard or read.

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History Curriculum

The Waldorf curriculum encompasses the broad sweep of human development, culturally and historically. The study areas of each grade meet the developmental stage of the human being, and the curriculum also traces the soul-spiritual development of humanity from the archetypal fairy tale consciousness through mythology and into recorded history. The stories of each grade are lovingly and imaginatively told by the teacher, and the children develop main lesson books from that material. Main lesson book work is led by the teacher in the earlier grades, and is gradually given over to the individual children until, by fifth or sixth grade, the content of the main lesson book is primarily the child's own work. History main lesson books are filled with biographies, stories, and maps that vividly illustrate the content.

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Mathematics Curriculum

Before formal arithmetic study begins in the grades, the child's first experiences with order and rhythm are based in daily, weekly and monthly rhythms. Songs, poems, verses and repeated stories also give the child a sense for order and structure.

Early arithmetic is focused on understanding the quality of the numbers and counting. First the child experiences one-to-one correspondence when learning to count their fingers and toes and then learning to count to 100. While the children are learning to do this, they also begin rhythmical work with clapping, stepping, jumping and so on.

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Science Curriculum

Phenomenology is the hallmark of the Waldorf science curriculum. In the early grades, the children learn to observe and revere the natural world, exploring it on nature walks and through nature stories. In third grade, practical activities come to the forefront, but everything is experiential; nothing is analyzed. The relationship of the human being to the animal world is the study of fourth grade, and the relationship of the human being to the plant world is the study of fifth grade. In middle school, the science curriculum leads the students from experience to observation to judgment and finally, to understanding of scientific concepts.

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Geography Curriculum

In the first three grades, the children explore the local environment on walks and through nature stories. The animals of the second grade's fables are described vividly, including details of their lives and habitats. In third grade, main lessons on farming, shelters, and clothing sound the first notes of climate and geography studies, which will be expanded upon again and again through the grades. In fourth grade, the children truly begin to find themselves in space, as they map their own classroom, school, and town, as well as visit areas of historical and geographical significance. The geography of California is a major area of study.

Music Curriculum

Music is interwoven throughout the Waldorf grades school day. Younger children sing and play pentatonic or diatonic flutes, while older children sing, play soprano, alto or tenor recorders, as well as play a stringed or wind instrument. The pentatonic, or mood of the fifth, meets the young child’s soul configuration through melody, rhythm, and harmony. In the older grades, the diatonic meets the children’s need for a more grounded, rooted melody centering around a tonic note, and their capacity to hold their own part in the presence of other sung or played parts helps them to learn to be an individual within a group, contributing to a harmonious whole.

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Art Curriculum

Fine Arts: Form Drawing, Drawing/Painting, Modeling

Performing Arts: Speech/Acting/Drama

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