Homeschooling Waldorf Fourth Grade: Local Geography

The article “Geography In Fourth Grade”  by Franklin G Kane (available here: was a lovely starting point for me to read regarding the inclusion of local geography in the Fourth Grade that I am planning for fall.  Mr. Kane writes:

“The child around the ninth year undergoes an important turning-point in his development. As Rudolf Steiner pointed out, the whole approach to teaching must delicately adjust to meet the more  conscious, questioning and independent being. For one thing a child of nine or ten now begins to
feel more separate from the environment which until now he accepted as a larger homelike protection. As one of the ways to meet this, Dr. Steiner suggested that in the Fourth Grade a study of the local area should take place. Through observation of the history and geography of the local
environment, a picture develops as to why the industries, occupations, and way of life of his home have evolved to what they are.
Unlike the early study of history that has its origin in the broad, cosmic remembrances of the old  fairy tales and myths of long ago, the study of geography starts nearest the child and gradually expands, in the course of years, to take in a study of the whole world.”

I also keeping this scope and sequence of geography for the fourth through eighth grades in mind as I plan:

And, the last thing I am keeping in mind that in a Waldorf Education we start with the child and with the doing.  Map-making holds a dear place in Waldorf Education – drawing maps, modeling salt dough maps, etc.  This is a wonderful book by David Sobel that could really assist one in planning this block:

To create this block, I used suggestions from both the Christopherus Fourth Grade Syllabus and Marsha Johnson’s free files for Fourth Grade available at her Yahoo!Group.  Here is my tentative outline/ideas, and I hope it will be helpful to you as you plan in your own area and state (and note these are loose ideas, not written in a two or three day rhythm or anything!)

Week One –

Start with taking a bird’s eye look (something for a child past the nine year change!) at our schoolroom, my child’s bedroom and our home moving into our neighborhood –draw maps.  Take a blindfolded walk around our yard and in the little park in our neighborhood.

Walk outside of our neighborhood down to the main street of our community – make a diaroma of our community’s Main Street

Take a field trip to a historic site where there used to be a working Mill on a river near our house; this is what this land used to do and how people lived here!

Draw major features of our city into our Main Lesson Book along with facts about our city and how our city is part of a county

Over weekend between weeks one and two – hubby or I will rent canoe and take child on major river that runs through our area; on Labor Day we will venture to a canyon in our state

Week Two

Main theme this week is the story of the four elements that shaped our state and the animals and  people that settled here; and also geographic terms.  Plan to go to high mountain top near our home and look out over our region at what we can see and identify; visit a park area near our major river that child went canoeing on and build and play in the mud and sand to create land like our four elements story

A look at the special element of water in our state and all the waterways, where they begin and end and create a salt dough relief map of our state

Talk about the barrier islands of our state in story form of course and add to our salt dough map; add beeswax animals to our map – talk about our state animals

Draw a map of our state freehand with the five geographic regions of our state (not sure if this will be here or at the end of this block)

Over weekend between weeks two and three, visit local Native American Mounds

Week Three

Tell story of the Mound Builders, build a mound ourselves in sandbox and then in clay or salt dough

Tell story of the Native Americans in our area who conquered the Mound Builders and how they lived (review from Third Grade); plan to visit the Cherokee Museum in neighboring state

Talk about the Gullah culture, not detailed, in preparation for our trip; cooking projects!

Between weeks three and four hope to visit the coast which has the first developed city of our state and the barrier islands of our state

Week Four

Talk about first settlers in our state, first developed city; first capital city and how this moved around and how this was shaped by geography; make state flag and draw other state symbols

Talk about Gold Rush and farmers; visit farm preserved from days gone by; we have sifted for gold in the past at different places in the state so we can touch on that

Hang up a map of our state and mark places we have gone on this map; talk about how we are not driven so much anymore by industry in our state but by service and talk about several large local businesses.  Hope to visit some of those and finish up with a visit to our State Capitol building that is not far away.

A busy schedule, but at least some general ideas!    Hope that helps some of you who are planning.  All of this will of course be presented in imaginative story and form and not much emphasis on the horrible and terrible but the general flow of how the geography of our land shaped who settled here and why they settled here and how.

Many blessings,


11 thoughts on “Homeschooling Waldorf Fourth Grade: Local Geography

  1. Do you know the book “Mapmaking with Children” by David Sobel? It is a wonderful place-based education book that approaches the topic from the perspective of child development. Not Waldorf, but could be.

    • Sarah – Yes! That is a wonderful resource! The link is in the post above. I just mentioned it as a book by David Sobel without the title, so you must have missed it. 🙂
      Many blessings,

    • Thanks Apple! I hope you share what you come up with as well so we can all exchange ideas….in fact, if you write something up for your state, I will be happy to publish it here so folks can see different families’ approaches!
      Many blessings,

  2. Although my children (ages 7 and 10) usually do quite separate main lesson work, we had a lot of fun working together with ideas from D. Sobel’s mapmaking book this winter. The book outlines different mapmaking skills for different ages, and my kids naturally gravitated to these developmentally appropriate skills while making maps. They enjoyed making treasure maps for everyone to find a hidden treat, and worked for days on “literary maps” of a favorite read aloud book series. I didn’t feel like the work pulled my younger too much into his head, as a matter a fact it was fruitful for him to work parallel to his sister in this one area using material that forms and informs our lives.

  3. I am following Waldorf Essentials in 4th but was looking for further resources when it comes to planning and you blog is always my first stop 🙂 Do you do local history together with geography as I ca’t seem to find anything apart for geography which includes the early settlers. Thanks

    • Hi Melissa! Yes, I do a bit in terms of early settlers – why would they have come here, what geography drew them here, where did the Native Americans in our state settle and what were the features geographically that caused that? What industries started in our area due to our geography? Is there is trajectory toward what we have today in our state – ie, in my state we were going to have canals but then it was decided because the state is relatively flat through parts that miles of railroad would be more cost effective, and now today we are still a hub for airplane travel. It is a great time to break your state down by region and really go through it. I have an updated post on fourth grade local geography in the works, so hopefully that will be done in the next week or two! Blessings, Carrie

    • thanks for clarifying 🙂 our own history is vast actually with temples and connections to atlantis haha so i feel a bit unsure how much info to bring forth!

    • Ooh! I can see where that would be hard. Maybe you can allude to some of the ancient things that you will cover in 5th and 6th grade, and talk about how people have been in your area for a very long time and sort of start with the beginnings of what you see as the more “what grew into” the modern industries of today. Sort of the overview with more to come, but always focused on why and how the geography of your region made that possible. What are the very typical trades of the area? For example, (US examples, sorry!) my friend in Colorado who is a Waldorf teacher covered mining as an occupation; someone in Maine might cover more about lobster fishing…I hope that helps. I do find the local geography block hard to get into a narrative form sometimes! Blessings,Carrie

  4. Pingback: Free Lesson Block Plans and Ideas for Grades 4-6 | The Parenting Passageway

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