What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

In the Waldorf School, there is often a sharp drop-off at sixth grade (the twelve year change), and then again as children enter high school in grade nine, as many parents switch to different forms of education.  This is also happens in Waldorf homeschooling. I know very few people who are Waldorf homeschooling grades 6-8 in the manner in which they homeschooled grades 1-5.  For many homeschoolers, this coincides with an uptick in outside activities of their children with just not enough time to plan or implement something lengthy, the want/need for children to do something more independently, or simply a dissatisfaction with the middle school curriculum as it is often said the true “thinking” part of Waldorf Education begins in high school.

I personally think it may be more of a daunting teaching problem rather than anything else.  I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  January 2002, Volume 7 #1: Did Rudolf Steiner Want a Seven-Grade Elementary School Configuration? – Waldorf Library in discussing whether or not a teacher should be with a class for all eight classes:

Waldorf education is not only about educating but about “awakening” the children. If a teacher does not possess the powers of awakening a certain age group, should one not accept that and instead work with the principle of specialization?

I think this problem of “awakening” children sometimes is daunting not only for teachers in a Waldorf School setting (who really might be better served by being with early years children) and who don’t want to awaken older children, but also for homeschool teachers as well…if we don’t awaken children by throwing facts and judgment at their heads, then how do we awaken them in the middle school grades?   How do we teach?  As the days with older children grow busier and more out of the home, these grades are not spoken about nearly enough compared to first and second grade, at least in the homeschool world. How do we get sixth through eighth graders ready for high school?  Still, though, in my observation of my own children and in looking at other children from even non-Waldorf families and what those children are ASKING to study during those years, the Waldorf curriculum meets those needs in a lovely way.

I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  this article:

The four upper grades deal with the same aspects of the human being in reverse order. In the fifth grade, the great individuals of Ancient History stand as a polarity to the Norse Myths, because they both deal with the human ego. The sixth grade topic of Romans, especially Roman law, is polar to the Hebrew Law because law shapes the astral. The seventh grade topic of Age of Discovery is polar to the topic of animal fables; both are connected to the life of people/ animals or to the etheric in general. The eighth grade topic of cultural history is polar to the archetypes found in Fairy tales of the first grade, because both describe the nature of human archetype thus representing the physical body level of the curriculum. A teacher who masters such interrelationships has mastered the content, form, and organic wholeness of the entire curriculum, and is thereby able to give the children the sense that all the subjects are interconnected and taught for a purpose.

Steiner did give indications of what to bring in these upper grades and it all culminates beautifully in the high school curriculum, where tenth grade is back into Ancient History, eleventh grade is back into Medieval and Renaissance topics, and twelfth grade is back into modern scenes.  A beautiful balance of the working of the will (cultural geography), working with the heart (history and literature), and working with clarity of thinking (math and sciences) permeates all grades.

I urge you to think about how the curriculum that served your children so well in the younger years serves them even better in the upper grades and high school.  I see children in the middle school years who are asking about the exact topics that the curriculum provides! It doesn’t change just because a child is past 12 or even past the 15/16 change.  The curriculum meets the child in front of you.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Sixth Grade Medieval Block

 

We are in our second week of our sixth grade Medieval Block and this time around I have done very different things than I did with my first student so I thought it would be a good time to update some notes on this block. If you are interested as to what we did the first time around, you can see here and here.

This time around, we finished our Roman block by reading the book, “The Dancing Bear” out loud and our sixth grader completed a report about Attila the Hun in between our Roman and Medieval history blocks.  I also had our student read, “Favorite Medieval Tales” by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell and have her pick her favorite story and re-write in her own words.  I think this can be a great exercise for children who struggle with writing.  Usually what the children who don’t like to write will do is make a numbered sort of list of plot points and then you can work with your student on turning the plot points into good descriptive sentences.  We also started the book “Son of Charlemagne” as a read aloud between blocks as well, and finished that book the first week of our block.

Our first week included a look at the Byzantine Empire, with special emphasis on the following: Constantinople as a strategic location, Justinian I and Empress Theodora and their biographies, the Hagia Sophia, icolonclasm, and the structure of Byzantine society.  This is important information for laying the groundwork for the Ottoman Empire, and in understanding the schism in the Catholic Church.

We also spent time last week and this week talking about knights and chivalry, advances in horseback riding that made being a knight possible, the manor and how these grew into castles and the feudal system, and monks and monasteries.  Biographies covered included Pope Gregory the Great, a mention of Pope Leo the Great (also mentioned at the end of the book, “The Son of Charlemagne,”), St. Benedict, St. Hildegarde, and St. Francis and more.  We have painted, and drawn, listened to Gregorian chants, looked at illuminated manuscripts, worked on calligraphy, and we will be working on rose windows and a cathedral drawing this week and into next week.  I wish I knew a stained glass artist for this block, but I don’t, so tissue paper will have to do!  This week we will finish up with an in-depth look at castles and the role of women and children in the Middle Ages, and re-iterate the life of the peasant.  I also want to highlight  some of the technological advances of the Middle Ages (we have already talked about stirrups and horseshoes for knights but for the peasants the heavy plow was an advance).  I have plans for a writing assignment here as well.  We have been reading the book, “Castle,” by David Macauley.  We will spend one day at the end of this week talking about the Ancient Puebloan civilizations, and I have a little kit to make an Anasazi bowl.

Plans for the third week and into the fourth week since we will have a short week due to travel:  Mohammed and the Islamic World.  We will be talking about the symbols of Islam, the difference between Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi branches, studying the construction of the  mosque and hopefully visit a mosque, make rice and date pudding and Seviyan,  and talk about the wonderful scholars of the Muslim world and the arts of calligraphy, Islamic geometry, paper making, the pointed arch in architecture, the wheel/the crank/the rod – lots of projects here! And we will end with the biography of the Father of optics, Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, and the pinhole camera.  I also have plans for a writing assignment here, and to read the book, “Mosque,” as a read aloud.  I also have several biographies of Mohammed ready to read and look through.

Week Five will include a look back at Charlemagne with some primary source readings , the Vikings and the impact on the British Isles (did you see one of the most recent National Geographic issues had Vikings on the front cover?  I just got a copy of it; it proves to be interesting reading!), William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine,  Richard the Lionheart,  and Saladin.  I have a little game ready about the life events of Eleanor of Aquitaine that I found on the Waldorf Inspirations website – have you all seen that?

Week Six will continue with the Crusades, and end with the Magna Charta.  We will also look at the Maya in Mesoamerica and since we just returned from a whirlwind Central American trip, we have some experiential things already in place for this endeavor.

Things happening in other parts of the world during this time period which includes the great kingdoms in Western Africa (my personal favorite), and feudal Japan. I have plans written out for all of these areas, but we will see what we can get to before the end of the school year.  Whatever we do not get to, I will probably start there as our first block of seventh grade.  Look, some seventh grade planning done already!  LOL.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Sorting Through Writing In The Middle School Grades

Waldorf Education lays an amazing foundation for writing throughout the elementary school years by working with rich oral language, varied sentence structure and vocabulary and opportunities for expository writing ( informative), creative writing (narrative), poetry (both written and in songs).  Many of the Waldorf teachers I have spoken to do speak of the need to bring in more opportunities and examples for book reports, reading non-fiction sources and writing reports, and opportunities for persuasive (argumentative writing) throughout the middle school years of grades 6-8. A public school environment would also focus upon cause and effect and comparitive essays in addition to the types of writings just mentioned. I think there are many ways to incorporate all of these types of writing along with grammar and oral language opportunities, but only if one plans ahead.  I  also fully believe on demand timed writing can wait until at least eighth grade if the student is headed to a public school high school  environment (but to know that this can be a focus in some school districts) and to begin in high school otherwise.

There is no one “Waldorf writing” resource for grades 6-8 or high school, although I am partial to the articles by Betty Staley on these topics over at the Waldorf Library On-Line and I like the Comedy and Tragedy booklet that Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc offers for ninth grade.  Live Education does have a grammar book for the upper grades that could be of interest to some.

If you are looking for resources, I have been reading a lot lately in the realm of English Language Arts for teenaged writers (which would essentially cover grades 7-12 in a Waldorf School or Waldorf homeschooling setting).  My favorite author so far is Kelly Gallagher and pretty much anything he writes I enjoy and can find gems in his work for my own homeschool.

I think  in the Waldorf homeschool setting, sixth grade is a great time to work on grammar, poetry, book reports, and  creative/narrative writing and expository writing, which can include gathering information from non-fiction sources.  Looking back upon Mr. Gallagher’s work and the sixth grade year I am in the midst of  with our second child, I am convinced we have done enough reading, but I am not convinced we have done enough writing.  I am working hard to increase our writing volume now.

Seventh grade is a traditional time of creative/narrative writing with the “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in Waldorf Schools.  I find seventh grade is a time when many students really up the quantity and quality of their writing.  I look back upon my first child’s work and I can see this amazing leap between sixth and seventh grade.  Then, in eighth grade, just as in previous years,  there is opportunity for all types of writing and I think also opportunities for using and deciphering news articles regarding current events.   I like requiring book reports quarterly from sixth grade onward (perhaps some of you start this requirement earlier), and I focus a lot on reading non-fiction texts in putting together  2-3  research papers or to accompany larger projects  a year in sixth grade, and then in seventh grade and up even more. Of course, we are learning grammar, summarizing topics, working with poetry and recitation and more throughout the year in all of the middle school grades.

I would love to hear some of your successes in homeschooling grades sixth through eight and how you approached the development of lovely writing in these grades.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Sixth Grade Ancient Rome

I really enjoyed Ancient Rome when we went through it the first time.  You can see the back posts on Rome here for Part One and here for Part Two.  Here is a gallery of work from our first time through Ancient Rome.

This time, my second time through sixth grade,  I tried to keep things to a streamlined flow as much as possible.  There is much that could be included in a study of Roman History, and it is easy to get lost in it.  Here is my general outline, with some ideas for student responses using the Eight Arts of Waldorf Education (drama, speech, movement, handwork, singing and musical instruments, painting, drawing, and modeling):

1.An Introduction to Rome and the idea of Rome as a Kingdom, a Republic, an Empire

Possibilities:  Romulus and Remus (model a wolf’s head, drawing, painting); Numa Pompilius, Tarquinias Priscus and the first census; Roman life, review geography of Italy

Possible Student Responses: Modeling a wolf’s head for Romulus and Remus; Oral (Timeline could be a possibility, although I don’t see many Waldorf Schools making timelines until eighth grade – please do share if you have an experience surrounding this); create title page for Main Lesson Book if using one; painting or drawing seven hills of Rome; salt dough map of seven hills;

2. An Introduction to Roman Society – especially patricians and plebians, how the Romans ate, dressed, etc

Read Alouds:  “Our Little Roman Cousins of Long Ago”  free over at mainlesson.com

Possible Student Responses:  Oral Recall, (making togas or other Roman clothing, making Roman sandals, making Roman meals, playing Roman games), comparison chart of plebians versus patricians

3. The Roman Republic – roads, aquaducts, life of the Roman soldier

Read Aloud:  “A Roman Fort”, the book  “City” by Maccauley

Possible Student Responses:  (making a hodometer, diorama, drawings, making weaponry/masks/shields, making Roman road, making an aquaduct, )  first person account of Roman soldier training or building a fort; possible connection between Roman Republic and American government, values of the average Roman citizen

4. Hannibal and Scipio (possible student response:  drawing, modeling, drama)

5. Slavery – Roman Colosseum-Spartacus  (possible student response – writing, modeling the Colosseum, first person narrative of Spartacus)

6.Julius Caesar 

Possible Student Responses: black and white drawing of Julius Caesar, learning lines from Shakespeare’s play, music was often played at funerals – could compose music for the funeral of Julius Caesar with lyre or singing

7.Augustus Caesar and the Golden Age of Rome (also Mark Antony and Cleopatra); Roman Calendar

Possible Student Responses:  (black and white drawings,  model of Cleopatra’s boat,  paper on Cleopatra, creating dialogue or dramatization between Antony and Cleopatra, paper of technology of Rome)

8. Life of Jesus – Parables, Miracles; The Ancient Church; Early Symbols of Christianity

Read Aloud:  “The Bronze Bow”

Possible Responses:  (drawings, modelings, dramatization, re-creating one of the parables in symbols, mosaic tiles of the early symbols of christianity, meal)

9. Emperor Nero

10. The Division of the Roman Empire; St. Constantine

11. Decline of Roman Empire -the  Huns, the first of the Desert Hermits, Life of St. Anthony

Read Aloud:  “The Dancing Bear”

Possible Student Responses: (drawing, dramatization of life of St. Anthony or Constantine’s vision; a large butcher block artistic response to the life of St. Anthony;  maps of the Roman Empire and the tribes moving in  on paper or in salt dough with little figures; paper on the Huns, sayings of the Desert Hermits)

12. Bridge between Rome History Block and Medieval Block:  Possibly reading a non-fiction source, writing three ideas from each chapter and creating a paper.  We are using a children’s nonfiction book, “Attila the Hun”  for this endeavor.  If one does a math block after this block, a paper could be worked on during the math block.

Would love to hear your plans surrounding Rome.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day In The Life of Messy Waldorf Homeschooling

The older my children get, the harder it is to write about homeschooling.  The Waldorf curriculum is a constant for us, but every child reacts so differently to it in the homeschool environment and it is hard for me to know if any of our experiences will translate.  Homeschoolers tend to paint this picture of things being lovely on blogs and Instagram.  Our days can be lovely too, but  some days are not, and I find with older children they look much different than when I had children all in 5th or 6th grade and younger.  It is not as beautiful as the early grades when all the children were more on the same page as far as the curriculum; it is more academic; it is more juggling for me because the children are so spread out in ages (if you are a first time reader, my children are 9th grade, 6th grade, 1st grade) and it is more focusing on areas that are difficult and time-consuming.

Today started with the usual – breakfast.  My children really want hot meals at most meal times.  My fifteen year old and twelve year old absolutely can cook and do, but I find if I do breakfast it is speedier and gets us off to a better start.  So today I threw oatmeal and flaxseeds in the crockpot with some cinnamon and cut up pears and sauteed some apples in cinnamon, butter, and a little coconut sugar.

We started with our littlest guy.  After his opening verses, he is doing a lovely circle regarding Pelle’s Suit from the book, “Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures” but I added in a number of Spring Wynstone verses about daffodils, violets,  gnomes and the Spring Queen.  In this way, we wake up our voices, our fingers and toes.  We woke up our minds with some movement math.  Then we reviewed.  We started with a little song he knows well.  It was written on the board – (“Spring is coming, Spring is coming, birdies build their nest, Weave together straw and feather, Doing each their best) and we hunted for all the S’s, all the c’s, found the letter that makes the “W” sound, etc.  We also practiced saying the words and clapping on the S’s and stomping on the b’s.  He still mixes up some of the letters and their sounds, so we played some games of putting little alphabet cards that he wrote in order and then I pick a sound and he finds the letter or vice versa (and then he quizzes me!).  We also took turns writing the capital letter on the board and writing the little letter friend that matches – big A, little a, for example.  He re-told the story of Snow White and Rose Red to me in exquisite detail, and we modeled a bear.  Then we painted not so much a bear, but the gesture of a bear in red, with yellow around it for the gold, and then a shy blue hiding in the corners.  The painting looks like the painting of any other first grade with a play of abstract color, but to us it represents the strong bear who could defeat a dwarf and the inner gold we all carry.  I put a sentence on the board from the story and we looked at it carefully, finding all the letters.  Tomorrow we will re-tell the story again, and draw and write from the story and have a new story.

During this, my sixth grader was bringing me her report on Attila the Hun.  She is using the book “Attila the Hun” from the Villians of History series and going through the chapters and writing down three things from each chapter that she learned.  On Friday, we will take all her notes and make it into a little report that will bridge our Rome History Block and our Medieval Block.  And my ninth grader was wandering in and out, muttering about writing up a lab and how the graph was weird (which I later figured out it was because I was having her plot the wrong thing. Oops!  We did fix it).

Next I worked with our ninth grader.  We started with biology.  We have been doing ecology and lately succession and biomes in particular (and catching up on labs since we switched programs in the fall semester and are still catching up). We looked at the lab she was having trouble with, and fixed that.  Then we forged ahead with using a microscope.  Oak Meadow Biology doesn’t require a microscope, but I wanted our ninth grader to have this experience, so today we were using the microscope to review mitosis and using some labs I pulled off the Internet.  We also looked back through our main lesson book at mitosis since this was something we did earlier this year. Then we moved into our more current topic and went through the biology chapter and I have had several main lesson book activities for this topic.  Lastly, we went through the book Kidnapped our ninth grader is reading for literature and went through comprehension questions and vocabulary.  During this, our first grader was playing, our sixth grader was practicing violin and reading the fiction book, “The Dancing Bear” for bridging our history blocks.

We had lunch, which I hurried along and brought a smoothie for myself to the school room.  It was time for our sixth grader  to get to  work.  We worked on spelling, math written and with movement and some grammar exercises regarding possessive pronouns. This all sounds simple, but it took over an hour and we didn’t have lots of time left. We reviewed her information about Attila the Hun and made plans for moving forward.  She has a few things to finish up in her Rome Main lesson book, and we hope to finish this week.  We are also working on business math.  We have gone through the history of math, and we are going over fractions, percentages, and decimals.   During this time, our ninth grader was re-writing her lab, and working on some questions surrounding her literature assignment.  Our first grader was playing in the school room and throughout all three lessons, our little puppy was being entertained by whatever child was available and sitting on my feet with toys.  After school, it  was time to get ready to go to the barn and have a horseback riding lesson.  The fresh air was welcome! We came home for a later dinner  and made dinner and everyone was ready to relax.

We had a slow start to this year and even in January, but things are finally falling into place (at least for now until it changes, LOL).  Hope you all are having some catch-up days to your school if you need it or settling into the groove of a new semester!

If you post a day in the life of your homeschool, please do link it here in the comment box!  I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Carrie

Sixth Grade Mineralogy

This is my second time through Sixth Grade Mineralogy, as it is popularly known in Waldorf Schools. Some Waldorf homeschooling parents want to take a bit broader view of mineralogy as well.  I think Waldorf Schools do traditionally include such things as an introduction to plate tectonics and  some include more about weather and such (see below), but many of these things are really expanded upon in eighth grade with Earth Science being taught through all four high school years.  You can see some Main Lesson Book pages from A Waldorf Journey

I like to do an introduction to plate tectonics in Sixth Grade Mineralogy, and put Oceanography, Atmosphere, and Weather/Climate in mainly Eighth Grade.  Water as a topic is something I would like to see worked into every grade in varying forms, and I think that is a possibility looking at the blocks in Waldorf Education.

The first time I did this block, I focused more on a movement from looking at the surface of the Earth through biomes and ecology, then what helps shape weather on the Earth and how that shapes the Earth’s surface, and then more into traditional rocks and minerals and ending with fossils and the record of time.  You can see a full, long post about this approach here.

This time around, different child, different year, I first and foremost did have the Earth Science Literacy Standards in my head because I was just at a conference.  These include nine “big ideas”:   the idea that Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet; that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and how the Solar System formed, the two types of Earth’s crust , the fossil record; that Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life; that Earth is continuously changing; Earth is the water planet; that life evolves on a dynamic Earth; that we depend on the Earth for resources; that natural hazards do pose risks; and that human beings significantly alter the Earth.

So this time around, I started with the minerals around us – what minerals do we eat?  where are minerals in things we use every day?  From there I moved into :

  • What the Earth looks like from above; the layers of the Earth; an introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Old versus new crust – subduction zones; how tectonic plates can move (introduction); the idea that continents collided, drifted apart, the oceans opened and closed – and how this happened in our own state.
  • Our state was mainly shaped by tectonic processes and erosion; review of our five distinct geographic regions;
  • Mountain building; types of mountains and what we have in our state; how plates moving determine the location of earthquakes and volcanoes; types of faults; tension/compression/shearing; using longitude and latitude to plot where volcanoes and earthquakes have been located;  contour maps
  • Igneous rocks- granite, basalt, andesite, obdisian, pumice. Look at the igneous rocks of our region of our state, and then at other regions in our state. I would suggest making volcanoes here.
  • Sedimentary Rock – sedimentary rock formation;  the most prime example in our state is that half of the world’s kaolin is in our Coastal Plain area; so we talked a lot about kaolin and how its uses, how it is processed; looked at sedimentary rocks in the rock game I have for our state. Limestone and caves; veil painting
  • Fossil record, walk back through time; what is a fossil and what is an index fossil; the eras of the Earth; what fossils do we have in our state and why; Mary Anning; Louis Leakey
  • Metamorphic Rock – ; the rock cycle including erosion and deposition (water, wind, glaciers); properties of minerals; how minerals form
  • Coal and Oil;  formation; the coal mining industry in our state; fracking; renewable energy; what our state is doing with renewable energy (which will be our next five paragraphy essay to write – we wrote one about Jupiter in our Astronomy block)

Resources I used:

  • I mentioned my two favorite ones here – Roadside Geology of Georgia and the game for identifying rocks in my state (boxes of rocks for each region of our state with a playing board for each region); notes from the symposium session I just attended regarding botany and geology
  • Library books: Mary Anning biographies, Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano by Mallory; we tried When The Earth Shakes by Winchester – very text heavy; Experiments with Rocks and Minerals by Hand; Outrageous Ores by Peterson; Volcano Rising by Rusch; DK Eyewitness books on Fossils and Oil
  • Salt by Kurlansky and Schindler; Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea:  Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Burleigh
  • The Living Earth by Cloos (Waldorf resource); Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (Waldorf resource)
  • All About Rocks and Minerals by White (old)
  • Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth:  A First Book About Geology by Schneider and Schneider
  • Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Brown and Brown
  • Different books about renewable energy:  Biomass:  Fueling Change by Walker; Generating Wind Power by Walker; Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen by Ollhoff; Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Peppas; How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Bishop
  • Rock samples and samples of coal

Field Trips:

  • Limestone Caverns including Luray Caverns in Virginia and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky; Granite Museum
  • We missed both a tour of  one of the kaolin facility and the marble festival – they are both only open to the public once a year in our state.
  • There really isn’t anything much for fossils in our state as far as digs but I might join our state’s mineral society because I hear if there is any to be found it is done through that society
  • Our  Natural History Museum does have quite a lot about dinosaurs and a “Walk Through Time” going through our state’s prehistory – we were lucky enough to attend our museum when it had a traveling exhibit from NYC’s American Museum of Natural History about “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs”
  • Another museum in our state has an extensive gem collection and a focus on the uses of gems and metals found in our state
  • Gem show
  • Viewing local streams and watersheds; looking for erosion
  • There are some places of geologic significance we have not yet seen in our state so maybe we will get to some of those in the spring.

Main Lesson Book/Projects:

  • So many projects you could do with this block!  Growing crystals and  basalt columns; making volcanoes and speleothems.
  • Clay modeling seemed so appropriate for this block!
  • Veil painting
  • The writing was intensive in our Astronomy block and our sixth grader cannot write that much two blocks in a row,  so this time we are going to use more of a main lesson book with foldouts, drawings and paintings and any brochures from places we visited in lieu of traditional drawing/summary tactics ( plus a report on renewable energy) that can be extended into the next block.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Sixth Grade Astronomy

I never really wrote a separate post about our first time through astronomy – I think some things are mixed throughout the seventh grade posts.   Anyway, we ended up doing astronomy in seventh grade the first time around, and I remember feeling like I wished I had had more “naked eye observing” skills.  I remember I had Marsha Johnson’s block, I had looked at Live Education, I had some mainstream and Waldorf astronomy resources from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore..and it just didn’t really flow for me.  It was an “okay” block, but probably the least favorite block we had ever done, at least for me,  because it wasn’t really coming from my own knowledge and interest.  My student enjoyed it, but I felt like it was kind of flat.

So, I knew this second time around through the upper grades I wanted to put astronomy in sixth grade, not seventh, and treat the whole year with field trips and experiences that centered around this theme of polarity between heaven and earth with human beings as the intermediary.  We can reach for the stars, we can sink our roots into this time and place, and we can shine where we are.   It is about where we find our place and space in the world.  Such an incredible theme for sixth graders!

My first thought (gasp!) was to not do a block and just experience things, but one thing that I came up with in researching this idea of naked eye astronomy was not only how this ties in so well into Ancient Civilizations, which I knew, but into the First People of the Americas.  And you all know how much I love American stuff in the Waldorf homeschooling experience when I can fit it in.   This little video from rocket scientist  Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock was helpful to me in seeing why I wanted to make this a block and present something from myself in addition to experiential learning and art.

I started researching.  There were some Native American Astronomy lesson plans that I found that helped me start to pinpoint resources and such.  The ones that were most helpful to me were:

  • Sharing The Skies: Navajo Astronomy A Cross-Cultural View by Maryboy and Begay
  • They Dance In The Sky:  Native American Star Myths by Monroe and Williamson
  • The Stars We Know:  Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways by McCleary
  • Her Seven Brothers by Goble (picture book)
  • Star Boy by Goble  (picture book)
  • Storm Maker’s Tipi by Goble (picture book)

Then I looked at Waldorf/Mainstream resources:

  • The best book I have found is this free one at Waldorf Library On-Line called An Introduction To A Study of the Stars by Mirbt
  • Sky Phenomena by Davidson (great source of poems too)
  • Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
  • I see Meredith over at A Waldorf Journey has a brand NEW guide out –I will totally pick this up for future use and as we extend astronomy throughout this grade. Here is the link.
  • Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (mainly for the spiritual perspective of the sun; ideas for biographies) (information often not detailed enough and not up to date)
  • I used Internet resources for various topics that I wanted to up-to date information, especially the NASA website and the NSTA website.
  • I wanted to include the metric system, which we had done in fifth grade.  As an introduction, I  used an article that was a bit old -September 1999 from CNN – I don’t have the headline, but I used it as an example of why we care about the metric system in the US . It was about how NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter because one  team used English units of measurement whilst the other team used the metric system and the measurement systems didn’t coincide!
  • Astronomy Curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards (my state); the astronomy club in our metro area and their resources
  • Poems:  I used poems by Walter de la Mare, a North American Indian song, a poem by William Carlos William.
  • Books from the Library:  Seven Wonders of the Gas Giants and Their Moons by Miller; The Milky Way and Other Galaxies by Kopp; Our Solar System by Simon; The Sun and The Stars by Sparrow; Planet Earth: Continents, Oceans, Climate, Geography by Farndon; Jupiter and the Asteroids (World Book).

Biographies:

  • Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer by Gerber
  • Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman, Astronomer
  • Three biographies about Benjamin Banneker
  • Will introduce the biographies of Galileo and other traditional astronomers , etc   but will go over them again next year in Seventh Grade (my first time through I did the traditional astronomers from the Renaissance/Age of Exploration and tied it into navigation)

Main Lesson Book Pages/Projects/ Field Trips:

First Time Through Astronomy: (Seventh Grade)

  • The Circumpolar Constellations (drawing and summary)
  • Orion the Hunter (drawing) and “Choose Something Like A Star” poem
  • Prince Henry the Navigator (charcoal drawing) and Summary
  • Longitude and Latitude
  • Latitude and The North Star (drawing and summary)
  • The Planets drawing and summary
  • Copernicus drawing and summary
  • Brahe and Kepler
  • Paintings of Terrestrial and Gaseous Planets
  • Projects included model of the solar system, marking out distances of solar system with objects outside
  • Field trips – several field trips to the planetarium
  • Opportunities for eye gazing

Second Time Through Astronomy (Sixth Grade, slightly different focus)

  • Oil Pastel based off Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” for cover
  • The Native Americans and the Cosmos drawings and summary
  • The Earth and the Sun  drawings and summary
  • Equatorial Seasons  drawings and summary
  • The Moon (drawings, watercolor paintings, summary)
  • The Human Being and the Cosmos (drawing, summary)
  • The Planets
  • A five paragraph essay on planet of student’s choice (our student chose Jupiter)
  • Our Solar System Address
  • Projects- model of the solar system, marking out distances of the solar system with objects outside, and this awesome kit from Etsy to “Stitch the Stars” by Heather Lins Home – here is the Etsy link.
  • Field Trips – we found a walk through the solar system that I had no idea even existed in my area the first time I went through astronomy (maybe there is one in your area?), planetarium, and I really would love to take a trip to one of those “night sky” parks.
  • Opportunities for star gazing

Academic Skills we worked on:

  • Metric System and an introduction to Scientific Notation
  • Writing paragraphs: organizing information to write, combining shorter sentences to make longer and more complex sentences,  using -ly words in writing, using words that invoke five senses.  We also have been working on grammar.
  • I assigned a five paragraph essay and that gave us a great opportunity to work on how to make great sentences and flowing paragraphs; using non-fiction sources.
  • Longitude and latitude, reading an atlas.

When our block ended, we will be reading these throughout the rest of the year:

  • Stories from the Stars:  Greek Myths of the Zodiac by Burke through the year
  • 365 Starry Nights:  An Introduction to Astronomy For Every Night of the Year by Raymo
  • Various Native American Star Myths

Our naked eye star gazing is really just beginning as October is the least cloudy month in the Southeast and one of  the best for stargazing.  We have moved into a mineralogy block, but will continue in any opportunities for astronomy as the year goes on.

Blessings,

Carrie