Sixth grade is a profoundly engaging developmental moment, when students’ perception of the world shift. At Waldorf, this new perspective is paralleled by a move to the middle school classroom area, higher expectations, and a curriculum that incorporates more independent research. Middle school students are ready for the opportunity to evaluate their own work and behavior more objectively. Letter grades are given in addition to narrative reports.
As students experience more structured discipline codes in their daily lives, they become more interested in power struggles and concepts of justice throughout history. A conversation of the rule of law throughout history often emerges during student-directed creation of rules for the classroom.
History comes alive through biographies. Ancient Rome is explored from mythology to the recorded history of the Republics and Empire. The class examines cultures and history of Northern Africa, the Celtic and Germanic peoples, and Islam. In the sixth grade, students begin exploring history beginning with the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and in seventh and eighth grades, they will continue to expand this narrative with the study of pre-Columbian and colonial American and finally the history of the Industrial Revolution.
Geology is studied through hands-on work with rocks, gems, and minerals, and students learn about the environmental conditions that enable the rocks to form, often visiting areas of local geological interest. This is the year the study of physics begins as well.
Economics and the impact of money on individuals and communities begins. Students learn how interest is compounded, how to create personal and business budgets, and explore the concepts of buying and selling. To bring these lessons to life, teachers might ask students to pick a job out of a bowl, research that job's income, and create a household budget. Or students may practice business skills by creating and selling a product or by setting up a store. They also discuss how each of these activities affects others and the world.
The curriculum continues to include rich and diverse studies in art, music, Spanish, theater, physical education, handwork, gardening, and eurythmy.
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