SPECIAL SUBJECTS IN WALDORF EDUCATION
The emphasis on teaching art throughout our curriculum is what makes a Waldorf education unique and impactful for our students! It’s not what we teach, but how we teach that makes us different! We are dedicated to giving our students a hands-on approach to various forms of art, music, world language, and athletics that is creatively integrated throughout the curriculum of each grade. Each and every student will learn to paint, sculpt, draw, knit, crochet, sew, play a string instrument, play a pentatonic flute, learn Spanish, play cooperative games, learn Eurythmy and more! All of these special subjects not only help introduce students to their own creative capacities but also help nurture a student’s motor skills, self-esteem, patience and community connections.
“The teaching of any subject, from science to history, can be enlivened and enhanced by incorporating art into the instruction….Evidence from the brain sciences and evolutionary psychology increasingly suggest that the arts (along with language and math) play an important role in brain development and maintenance.”
— Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education
A movement class unique to Waldorf Education, Eurythmy is a dynamic, joyful lesson accompanied by live piano music. Every Cincinnati Waldorf School student participates in Eurythmy. A class designed to increase spatial awareness, improve gross motor skills, hone social intelligence and translate what is being learned in the head into learning with the full body.
All Waldorf students knit! Knitting begins in preschool with finger knitting and continues in grade school with students making their own knitting needles. Throughout a Waldorf student’s school experience, they will create unique items such as animals, cases for their own pentatonic flutes, dolls, puppets, and socks.
Knitting helps students increase their math and reading skills, expands their ability to concentrate and follow through with a task, improves their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and instills a sense of pride in creating useful objects.
In Waldorf schools, academic subjects are brought to life using many senses and learning styles. For example, second graders often sew their own pencil cases and fourth graders experience fractions by designing and sewing their own fraction quilt. Dovetailing with the study of the Machine Age, eighth grade students design their own patterns and learn the technical skills of sewing with a machine.
Cincinnati Waldorf School students engage in both needle felting and wet felting projects. Felting projects create three-dimensional art forms from wisps of colorful wool.
Students felt useful items such as slippers and geode-shaped pincushions as well as decorative pieces. Felting is an art form that increases spacial awareness and fine motor skills. Students feel a sense of pride in the beauty of what they have created.
Beeswax, in vivid colors, warms and softens as it is kneaded in children’s hands, making it malleable. Students model the beeswax into characters they “see” in their minds during their lessons. The beeswax emits a subtle pleasant aroma as well, making it a true sensory experience. Beeswax modeling reinforces learning by allowing students to manifest mental images into physical objects.
In the second grade, Cincinnati Waldorf School students will have their first experience in the woodworking classroom as they help create their own wooden swords to by used in the Michaelmas play.
The woodworking program begins in fifth grade. Using hand tools like the rasp and gouge, students create functional beautiful objects, including wooden eggs, bowls and spoons. The culmination of the four years of study is the 8th grade creation of the wooden stool, which incorporates the practical skills of wood carving, as well as mathematics and aesthetics. No screws or nails are used; only mortise and tenon joints connect the parts. The result of hours of difficult handwork is a cherished item of furniture: lovely, practical and durable.
In modeling, the artistic process is more important than the end result. each child works to his or her own capability. The teacher strives to inspire and encourage the students and attempts to create a mood of reverence as well as care in the use of materials.
The teacher guides the process, techniques, and content while allowing for individual expression. The content does not stand alone but relates to the main lesson theme for each grade, making it age and curriculum appropriate.
Beginning in the first-grade students are introduced to a foreign language. Language lessons are presented orally in the first three grades using games, poems, and songs. Reading, writing, and an understanding of grammar are introduced in the upper grades, always building upon the earlier oral work. Foreign languages give the children insights into and facility with other cultures. Cincinnati Waldorf School currently offers Spanish in the classroom.
In addition to the benefits of learning Spanish, research shows that learning a second language as a young child improves reading abilities and literacy in the first language.
MUSIC IN A WALDORF SCHOOL
Music and singing are important components of Waldorf Education from early childhood throughout the grades. Beginning in grade 1, students learn to play musical instruments.
Singing is a big part of the Waldorf student’s life from preschool through high school. Beginning with the pentatonic songs in early childhood and lower grades, students move to rounds in third grade and multi-part harmonies in fourth grade and up.
Teachers enrich the curriculum with seasonal songs as well as songs specific to the area of study. It is not uncommon for parents to hear their children singing songs about number placement and multiplication in grade one! Music is utilized to creatively teach both letter phonics and math curriculum starting in first grade. Fourth graders often sing ancient Nordic songs, fifth graders sing American folk songs and sixth graders sing Galileo’s epitaph to a hauntingly beautiful melody.
THE PENTATONIC FLUTE
Cincinnati Waldorf School students are introduced to the pentatonic flute in first grade. By following the class teacher’s lead, the children learn to play this simple instrument by ear. Training the ear can greatly improve a child’s ability to learn.
Cincinnati Waldorf School students begin playing string instruments in the fourth grade. Neuroscience research indicates that string instrument lessons enhance children’s ability to identify sound patterns, harmonies, rhythms and improve language and reading skills.
Games classes at the Cincinnati Waldorf School engage and enrich the whole child: head, heart and hands. We begin in first grade with simple tag and circle games. First graders are introduced to rules-based play through stories and imagery; they are stealing gold from an ogre or trying to outwit the hawks in the trees. They learn to be aware of the movements of their classmates and how to safely interact with them. Basic skills such as throwing and catching are introduced. In second grade, we continue with our collaborative and cooperative games, but we start to add some complexity and strategy. First and second graders boost their athletic confidence by overcoming increasingly difficult obstacle courses. In third and fourth grade we continue to build our hand-eye coordination, while reinforcing compassionate, conscientious play. Non-conventional games are introduced that incorporate skills needed in later years for organized sports. Spaceball, for example, teaches movement, teamwork, passing and spatial awareness that are integral components of basketball, ultimate Frisbee and soccer.
The fifth Grade year is focused on increasing strength, athleticism, and individual achievement. As they dive deeper into Greek history, our fifth graders will train in traditional Olympic events such as long jump, discus, running and wrestling. In the spring, they will compete against fifth graders from many regional Waldorf schools in the Pentathlon. They will be judged not only on their objective successes but also on their form, reverence and sportsmanship.
In sixth grade, we begin to introduce traditional sports such as basketball, volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. Our focus in sixth grade is learning basic skills and rules of the games. We stress the importance of sportsmanship and strategy. We continue to expand on these traditional sports in seventh and eighth grades. Our primary goals are to enhance physical fitness, prepare graduates for high school team sports and to introduce a wide range of activities for a lifetime of joyful movement. By the time they finish with eighth grade, CWS students will have a head for strategy and decision-making, hands that can learn and perform a wide range of skills, and a heart for compassionate, cooperative play.
IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
In the Early Childhood classrooms, watercolor painting provides a color experience that is free of given imagery. The colors meet and blend using the child’s own creativity. The three primary colors are used and brushes have thick wooden handles. The teacher models the use of the materials and gently shows how to care for the paintbrush, paper and paint. It is a magical experience for all.
IN THE GRADES
Class teachers develop their students’ painting skills throughout the grade school years. At first, students paint with the primary colors so that they can experience the soul-qualities of those colors and how secondary colors arise. Later, weekly painting classes support the academic curriculum. For example, language arts and math content, geometric forms, and perspective are all topics of painting classes. Waldorf students graduate with keen artistic capabilities.