The Handwork curriculum is broad and includes skills such as knitting, crocheting, hand sewing, embroidery, felting, paper crafts, weaving, pattern design and machine sewing. Many of the benefits of the Handwork program are obvious: hand-eye coordination; basic math skills such as counting, the four math processes, basic geometry; the ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion; and the ability to focus on a project for an extended period of time, and reading a pattern, including codes and abbreviations.
There are more subtle rewards that complement these obvious benefits. Students must prepare and care for materials. Many of the created items have a practical use – a case for a flute, an embroidered project bag, a pair of socks. Design and color choice allow for individual creative expression.
While there are times when quiet is needed, such as when you are learning a new stitch, most of the time the atmosphere in the classroom is social and conversational. Students learn to speak politely to one another and respect is fostered.
- Foreign Language: Spanish
The goal of the foreign language program is not fluency by the end of grade eight, but rather to develop the child’s ear for language, flexibility of speech, and appreciation for other cultures. Spanish is taught, initially through games, songs, folk tales, dialogues, puppetry, and plays, and only orally for the first three grades. In this way a broad foundation of vocabulary and pronunciation is built. Translation is kept to a minimum. In fact, it would be rare that the Spanish teacher would ever converse with students in a language other than Spanish – this model is unique to Waldorf Education. Writing and reading are introduced gradually from fourth grade, after which grammar and reading comprehension skills are built systematically over time. History, geography, biography, cooking, and drama are all components of the upper grades language program. The language teachers introduce subjects relevant to the current main lessons of a given grade and skills appropriate for that age.
Joyful and responsible movement is at the heart of Waldorf physical education. Teachers encourage age-appropriate activities in class and during recess. Activities and movement change from year to year, consistent with the development of the child. Kindergarten and first grade games are group activities: circle games with the class teacher and free, imaginative play during recess. Games classes begin in first grade. In second and third grades, the children are encouraged to bring a story to life by moving as their particular character would move. Activities featuring competition and scoring begin gradually in the fourth grade. Individual skills are honed and celebrated in fifth grade as the students prepare for the annual multi-school Pentathlon. Learning to throw a javelin and discus beautifully, rather than relying solely on muscle power, and running as a group, rather than focusing on individual glory, are the core of this day-long event.
Organized sports become appropriate in the sixth grade when rules and structure are very important developmentally. In the seventh and eighth grades the emphasis continues to be on individual improvement and “levity” in the sense of lightness, or opposition to gravity. Activities involving scoring and competition are avoided before fourth grade, recognizing that the young child’s emotional reactions to losing can take all the fun out of this opportunity for joyful movement. In this regard, parents of young children are strongly encouraged to discuss after-school sports activities with the games teacher.
Based on the writings of Sylvia BardtEurythmy, a movement art akin to dance or Tai-chi, is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum, as it was in the first Waldorf school in 1919. The aim of eurythmy is to educate the children to be active and agile in their feelings, their thinking, and their doing, thereby creating harmony and integration between head, heart, and body. Students are then free to express themselves in life, and feel confident to do their work in the world. Kindergarteners experience eurythmy once a week through movement, songs, rhymes and stories. First through Eighth grade classes have live piano accompaniment, and fairytales become exercises, myths, and haikus as the curriculum moves through the grades. Musical pieces become more complex and rich, from Bach to Beethoven to Bartok. Fourth grade and up have eurythmy twice a week, and study elements of music theory, drama, and performance.Eurythmy fosters many capacities in the students:– A deepened connection with language, and its expression in movement
– A feeling for music and rhythm– An exploration of story and drama, gestures, emotions, colors, and moods
– Dexterity and coordination
– Powers of concentration, meditative movement, engagement in complex geometrical forms and patterns, and other intricate choreography
– Harmonious and skillful social interactions, group awareness and self-knowledge
– An experience of artistic renderings of music and poetry
In a Waldorf School, Music is woven through the curriculum and creates a familiar rhythmic foundation for the education of the child. Music also plays an important part in school festivals, plays, and assemblies.
In Early Childhood, music (specifically singing) is an integral part of the daily rhythm and curriculum.
When students enter the Grades, in addition to singing daily with their Main Lesson teacher, students participate in Music Lessons, where their innate sense of musicality is thoughtfully cultivated through stories, games, harmony, listening, reading, and working together in a group.
In Grades 1 and 2, students sing together in unison, learning pentatonic songs for the time of day, seasons, weather, and festivals of the year. Using kinesthetic, Dalcroze, and Kodaly teaching methods, students learn about pitch placement, melody lines, and the pentatonic scale. Choroi two-tone flutes are introduced to students in Grade 1 to begin developing their fine motor skills before they receive their own pentatonic flutes, which will remain with the student until Grade 3.
Reading music is an essential part of Waldorf Education as in Grade 4, students begin to play in a String Orchestra, where they continue to develop their musicianship through playing the violin, viola, cello, or double bass. At the East Bay Waldorf School, private music lessons are required weekly from Grade 4 in order to support the student’s individual progress on their instrument. Music lessons that include singing, flutes, theory, and a bit of history, continue during the week; students sing songs with 2-3 parts, and are expected to be able to read basic melodic lines by the end of the year.
In Grade 5, students are able to sing together in 3-4 part songs, and the diatonic soprano recorder is introduced. String Orchestra takes place twice a week. In Grades 5 and 6, students learn chorus and orchestral decorum, which is being able to listen quietly while the teacher works on one or another part in the classroom. Theory continues to progress at the appropriate pace in the individual classes, and at this point, they are able to put into practice the many Italian terms they have learned for the different musical forms.
In Grades 7 and 8, a formal choir is introduced and the classes now practice music rather than study it. Classroom management is a large issue, and the combination of grades requires a great deal of ability on behalf of the teacher to hold the group. Students are also given the option of Electives in Grade 7, at which time they may choose to continue studying their string instrument and further develop their orchestral abilities, or they may decide to join our Ukulele ensemble.
Reading music is an essential part of Waldorf Education as in Grade 4, students begin to play in a String Orchestra, where they develop their musicianship through playing together on the violin, viola, cello, or double bass. At the East Bay Waldorf School, private music lessons are required weekly from Grade 4 in order to support the student’s individual progress on their instrument. Music lessons continue; students sing songs with 2-3 parts, and are expected to be able to read basic melodic lines.
- Gardening / Outdoor Education
Gardening / Outdoor Education
Every class from Preschool – 8th grade spends time in our community garden – for work, study and play. Beginning in 1st Grade, students are led in formal Gardening lessons with our experienced outdoor educator / farmer.
The Wildcat Garden at East Bay Waldorf School includes a 2.5 acre area including vegetables, fruit trees, medicinal herbs, honeybees, chickens, an outdoor kitchen and access to adjacent Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Through practical and purposeful hands-on work, our school garden program seeks to inspire wonder, understanding, deep respect and responsibility for the earth. All students experience activities with a focus on seasonal and biological cycles- building soil, planting seeds, tending to plants, harvesting, cooking and eating. Lessons are theme-based and integrated with the classroom curriculum. The garden provides opportunity for community building as we realize our strength as a group and celebrate with garden-grown food.
Woodworking at East Bay Waldorf School begins in Kindergarten, then continues at various intervals through the grades, until 5th grade when larger-scale woodworking concepts are introduced, through 8th grade.
“If you’ve had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship-or learn a software program you’ve never touched. It’s not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can’t do. Why couldn’t you? Why couldn’t anybody?”