It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about science within the Waldorf Curriculum. You can see the post explaining the basics of the science curriculum throughout the grades, and the Goethean approach to science in the Waldorf curriculum. Today, much like I have laid out the scope and sequence in many areas of the curriculum, such as Africa or Latin America through the curriculum, here is an overview as I would like to see it for American Waldorf homeschoolers:
Grade One and Grade Two: These blocks typically are about experiences in nature, naked eye observation of nature. I would like to see blocks such as form drawing based in the ecosystem in which the student lives. Other ways children work with nature in first and second grade includes gardening, cooking, care of pets, outdoor play, festival celebrations, toy-making, observation of the sky and weather with the naked eye. First Peoples tales regarding nature phenomena are appropriate in these grades, especially second grade. I would also like to see an emphasis on herbal gathering and preparation of herbal products in these grades. In second grade, I usually do a block based on seasonal changes with poetry and very simple explorations in earth, water, air, fire in second grade – and then circle back around to this in fourth grade.
Grade Three: Based on the stories of the Hebrew People and, in the American Waldorf homeschooling experience, the First Peoples, we find knowledge and develop skills in homebuilding, gardening and farming, textiles and dyeing. I also think there should be a large emphasis on cooking in this grade as this is the basis for chemistry in the upper grades. Another block that could be moved forward is the idea of bringing weather phenomena into greater consciousness. Nature stories from the First Peoples continue to be important.
Grade Four: In this block we begin the sequence of relating man to the different parts of the natural world; in this case Man and Animal. This is tied into careful observation making, and yes, perhaps the first real report that is written by the student. I think this block should also include a large part about the state’s animals and habitats, which is a mixture of local geography and Man and Animal. I also like to spend several weeks on the ocean and ocean animals, and this can also tie back into the weather done in third grade. You can also add an extra block for special areas of interest, such as birds of prey or African animals or insects.
In this grade, I like to do a block that echoes second grade on earth, air, wind, and fire. This year will be using the book “Earth, Water, Fire and Air” by Walter Kraul. The third block I like to do, again, as an American, is to talk about Benjamin Franklin and his work as a scientist and do some of the simple observations around magnetism and electricity. This may be early compared to the traditional Waldorf curriculum, but I think it could fit well by teaching through story the discoveries of Benjamin Franklin and it introduces an American figure.. #sorrynotsorrytodeviate
Housebuilding, gardening, farming, textiles, cooking, baking, dyeing can all contiue. I also make the fourth day of our school experience a “nature day”. This year we will be studying different types of birds each week. I also like to keep telling Native American nature tales, especially about the natural formations in our state, which is a precursor to the mineralogy in sixth grade.
I also like to do a weekly health lesson in fourth grade, even though that isn’t required by my state. Oak Meadow’s weekly health lessons for K-3 grade can be expanded upon for your fourth grader if you decide to go this route.
Grade Five: Botany is usually the science scheduled for this year, but I think you can expand it a bit and talk about habitats and keystone species in your area and what plant habitats they depend upon. I also like to bring in biographies of naturalists and botanists, particularly George Washington Carver and women ecologist and naturalists. Botany of course leads into herbalism and the insect world as well, so you could have a whole block that builds on what you did in first through fourth grade with herbs.
Fifth grade also is a great time for talking about general inventions across the world – the wheel, transportation and how it evolved, even printmaking since that ties into botany. It can be short, and I think you get this piecemeal talking about different ancient civilizations and what each civilization innovated and created, but it’s nice to have it all in one place. This could be a short two week kind of block, but it’s a nice introduction to all the historical changes the student will be seeing in grades 6-8. I also like the idea of a tunnel and bridges block and feel could fit well into this year.
We keep on working with cooking, gardening, building, dyeing, and for our last child I plan to continue weekly health lessons.
Grade Six: Mineralogy, physics, and naked eye astronomy ( I use the persepctive of Native American astronomy) are the typical sciences studied this year, but there are a few extras I like to add on. In mineralogy, I like to talk about dinosaurs and fossils which can be used for exposure to ideas such as evolution and the geologic time record, and I think this time around we will be discussing climate change. In physics and in later chemistry, I always include biographies and particularly biographies of women and people of color.
I like to include Greek and Roman Science – usually aqueducts, tunnels, watermills. One thing I have toyed with is doing an entire block on medicine or based on Galen and the Gateway to Medicine. This could tie into any health studies required in your state. I am contemplating this for the next time I teach sixth grade!
Lastly, I think there should be an ecology unit in this grade – general biomes, food webs, energy pyramids, etc. It goes well with mineralogy and the previous studies of botany and zoology, and sets a great foundation for seventh and eighth grade studies. You could also do a great block on insect life in this grade or go further into zoology.
In this grade, using the fourth day for nature studies can go either way. By seventh grade, I usually don’t have the time to devote a whole main lesson period to nature studies alone and still keep a four day week. Sometimes I like the idea of working more “workshop style” for nature studies in seventh and eighth grade – ie, 2-3 days on a particular nature study topic.
Grade Seven: This grade is jam-packed full of science, with blocks in physiology, physics (usually hydraulics or aerodynamics or both), astronomy using optics, and chemistry. You can also work a lot of science into the history blocks – for example, optics and the Islamic Golden Age. I would like to see a zoology block added here to touch on more traditional life sciences subjects and more animals from fourth grade, and if there was time I would love to see a block about climate change in either this grade or eighth grade.
I also think it is very important to work on reading non-fiction passages about science and working to understand them well in seventh and eighth grade. This is an important skill for research paper writing and for high school.
Grade Eight: There is a lot of science in this grade, including more chemistry, physiology, and physics, along with meteorology (and I include oceanography with the meteorology). I think part of this could block could be the biography of Marie Tharp and the theory of continental drift.
I think there should be a block on climate change and renewable energy and also a general look at water conservation (Project WET could be a good starting point). Another possible interesting block could be one on the biographies of Charles Darwin, Robert FritzRoy and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
This is also a good place to put a computer science kind of block in preparation for high school – understanding how to build a computer, how one works. It could be quite wonderful to build this block around Ada Lovelace.
Just a few ideas for my favorite subject!