6th – 8th Grade
Middle school years: Between the tenth and eleventh years, the imaginative thinking that is characteristic of early childhood undergoes a metamorphosis from which it re-emerges as the ability to form abstract concepts. Thought before this time has had a pictorial rather than a conceptual nature. Thought, then is literally imagination’s child, accounting for the emphasis placed on the cultivation of the child’s imaginative powers in the elementary school curriculum. Rather than forcing the thought capacity into premature birth and functioning, the Steiner schools are based on this ripening in time. The thinking that emerges as a ripened power from the matrix of a healthy imagination is a warm and mobile thinking, the fruit of the living pictures with which the world has been brought to the child. They have awakened his whole enthusiasm for the world around him. The curricula of the next three years are shaped to provide fitting experiences to this new ability.
- The physical sciences now begin with the study of acoustics, heat, magnetism, and static electricity. Acoustics or sound theory leads from familiar experiences in tone and speech to experimentation with sound phenomena of other kinds. Sounds in music and nature lead to experiments by which they discover harmonies of relationship made by subdivision in strings. Expressed in fractions, these relationships are revealed as number harmonies, concord and discord are perceived to be mathematical order and disorder. From these experiments the children proceed to problems of tone conduction and then back to the human organism to a consideration of the structure and functioning of the ear and larynx. Optical studies follow directly, beginning, like acoustics, with familiar experiences in the realm of beauty. Each color is studied for its own special attributes and then observed in relation to other colors. Study of color in the world begins with the sun, giver of light. Experiments with artificial light and shadow in the classroom lead to rainbow and prism, then experiments to determine laws of light refraction; the lens and camera are studied. In all these studies the principles underlying the various light and color phenomena are arrived at as end products generalized from concrete experiences rather than stated theoretically before the experiments are made.
Sixth grade history begins with the transition from ancient to modern history, from poetic consciousness to a search for truth in the form of scientific concepts, because the 11-year-old himself is involved in such a transition. He is now able to grasp history as a temporal sequence of cause and effect relationships: through the decline of Greece, the rise and fall of Rome to the effects of these two great cultures on European civilization up to the beginning of the fifteenth century when once again a great stirring of man’s soul drove him to seek new physical and spiritual horizons.
Geography studies the earth’s configuration and contrasts: distribution of oceans, seas, continents and mountain masses with the introduction of climate studies and first astronomical concepts. These are applied specifically to European and African geography.
Geology, the study of the mineral world, turns to the structure of the earth, and proceeds from the study of the flora and fauna of the geological ages to minerals, metals and finally gems and crystals, leading to the functions of mineral and metallic substances in the human organism.
Botany continues with an introduction to horticulture.
Mathematics introduces percentage, interest, profit and loss, ratios, proportion, estimation and introduction to algebraic equations. Geometrical design is now done with the utmost accuracy with instruments. Families of geometric figures are constructed and studied for the numerical laws they embody. Theorems are visually demonstrated, but not taught; perspective drawing is introduced in connection with geometric drawing.
Black and white drawing, shadows, landscapes and color contrasts are taken up in painting. In handwork the children sew stuffed animals and carve wood to shape in an animal and a spoon, developing their skill with tools. Singing focuses on two and three part choruses, songs of the minstrels and middle ages, recorders in descant, alto and tenor voices and Roman music. Eurythmy introduces simple musical forms, with greater depth in alliteration, geometrical forms and transformations. Foreign language continues with the reading of simple texts, humorous stories, and free translation.
- Students of this age are charged with emotional vitality, questioning everything and seeking to overthrow authority, seventh grade history is an intensive study of the Renaissance, bringing all previous cultural achievements to a glorious flowering and ushering in a new age of wide scientific inquiry and exploration. Alive with drama and colorful figures, these are times when history is at its most story-like. The Arthurian legends and voyages of discovery round out this period, providing historical novels, biographies, ballads, and tales of adventure in literature. Composition, grammar and spelling continue.
Mechanics begins in physics with the lever principle as found in the human arm. From their experimentation the children learn the basic mechanical concepts and their application in the machinery of ancient and modern times. Inorganic chemistry is introduced as a study of the combustion process. From the beautiful legend of the bringing of fire to earth by Prometheus to a study of combustion in the human organism in the digestive processes, fire can be observed externally in the breaking down of substances by oxidation. Physiology is introduced as the study of life processes in man: blood circulation, respiration and nutrition in connection with health and hygiene. Astronomy in the seventh grade is extended to give a picture of the world space. From their own place on the earth the children observe the solar, lunar, planetary and stellar phenomena which lead them to a picture of world spatial relationships.
World Geography, which now runs parallel to history, takes up the theme of adventurous exploration and covers the whole globe. The children’s knowledge of astronomy is called upon to further their understanding of climate, tides, and other influences on cultural and economic life of the peoples of the earth.
Mathematics introduces negative numbers for the first time, venturing into mathematical thinking that has no relations to physical perceptions, making real demands on the child’s imaginative powers. Square and cube root and ratio are introduced. Algebra and business arithmetic study continues. Geometrical, perspective and black and white drawing are continued in more complex form.
Acapella singing, motets, madrigals, ballads and Renaissance music are introduced. Recorder continues. Eurythmy explores poems with contrast, wonder, surprise, ballads with quick dramatic movement, drama and tragedy. In handwork the students sew hand puppets or vests and embroider. Woodworking and modeling in clay continue.
- The task of Middle School education is to give children an understanding of man and the world they live in, to offer them knowledge so rich and warm as to engage their hearts and wills as well as their minds. Such an understanding is the basis of all real efficiency in later years. With the completion of the eighth grade the students should have a well-rounded general picture of man and universe. This last year in the Middle School grades should not only bring all previous experiences to a new peak, but enable the children to enter fully and potently into the life of their own time.
History, therefore, is an intensive study of the industrial revolution to the modern day, focusing as well on the outstanding individuals such as Napoleon, Lincoln, Jefferson, Edison, and culminating in American history. Geography takes up the same theme, showing the role played by every part of the earth in modern industrial civilization. A comprehensive picture is given of the relation of mineral resources and plant and animal life to the life of human beings in various regions of the world (world economic geography).
Physics lessons complement these historical and geographical surveys. The practical uses made of man’s new knowledge of all the physical sciences are thoroughly explored. In addition to further studies in acoustics, thermodynamics, mechanics, climate, electricity and magnetism, the pupils are now introduced to hydraulics, aerodynamics, and meteorology. Chemistry is also considered in relation to industry. Organic chemistry (fats, sugars, proteins and starches are identified) is studied for the role it plays in the building of organic substance. Man is again the subject of nature study through the study of physiology of the human organism, observed from the standpoint of form and movement.
Mathematics also emphasizes the practical applications of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Demonstrations in plane and solid geometry lead to problems in the measurement of surfaces and volume. The study of graphs is introduced.
Literature focuses on the theme of human freedom in the short story, letters and Shakespearean drama. Painting concerns itself for the first time with highly conscious studies of highlights and shadows in portraits and landscapes.
In foreign language, the students begin a study of poetry and metric forms. Machine sewing, darning, artistic hand-sewing projects and carpentry devoted to large projects requiring real skill and imagination culminate the handwork program. Music takes up Elizabethan music, American music and symphonic form. Eurythmy complements other studies with exploration of poems with tension and relief and contrasting moods.