The Lower School
Waldorf education is noted for the depth and breadth of its curriculum, which follows the developmental stages of childhood and mirrors the inner transformation of the child from year to year. Thus the child’s educational experience is relevant and satisfying. The curriculum awakens in the child an appreciation and respect for cultural origins and historical foundations. This fosters a sense of world citizenship and belonging in the child. The Waldorf approach to the sciences, as to most other aspects of the curriculum, is experiential and encourages a true interest in and love for nature and scientific inquiry. The arts are integrated into all aspects of the curriculum and develop in the children imagination, creativity, joy in learning, self-discipline, confidence, and skills that will enrich them individually and in community for their whole lives. Read more
At the Honolulu Waldorf School, every morning begins with the Main Lesson. For the first two hours of the day, each class studies an academic subject (math, science, social studies, or language arts, for example) in blocks of about four weeks. This concentrated period allows the children and their teacher to immerse themselves in the material: There is time for projects, individual and group work, artistic activities, field trips, and deep exploration and discussion. Each child produces a book which summarizes the topic, and expresses the major ideas or rules through their written word and illustrations. The result is the student’s own text book of the subject.
The art of storytelling is a major component of the Waldorf curriculum, and each grade is associated with a particular story theme. Beginning with fairy tales and folk tales in first grade, and moving all the way up to powerful biographies of significant historical and modern individuals in eighth grade, stories relate the curriculum content to the human experience, thus giving the student a vivid and personal relationship to the lessons. Through stories, the student’s feeling life is touched, the memory is stimulated, and the will to act is aroused.
The Main Lesson is taught by the Class Teacher. The Class Teacher remains with the class for a number of years. Some teachers start with the class in the First Grade and may continue with it through the Eighth Grade; sometimes a class teacher may remain with a group until fifth or sixth grade when another teacher steps in to carry the group to the end of elementary school. The Class Teacher also teaches the class one or more lessons during the school day and ends each day with the class.
During the rest of the day, the children study and participate in many other subjects. Japanese and Spanish are each taught five times a week in alternating blocks. In seventh and eighth grade the students choose one language, which they focus on exclusively. Periods of singing or chorus, painting, games or physical education, eurythmy, instrumental music, handwork, and, for the older grades, supplemental classes in mathematics and language arts weave rhythmically through the week. These subjects are usually taught by Special Teachers. Special events and excursions as well as many festivals and celebrations are sprinkled throughout the year. Every class performs a grade appropriate play which deepens their connection to a topic studied during the year, music classes perform for holidays and at a school concerts, and all students participate in the May Day, Michaelmas, and Winter festivals. Our classes take advantage of artistic and cultural activities presented by community groups and take excursions around the island to visit farms or sites that expand their experience of a subject and connect them to their island home. Many visitors come to our school to share their expertise in a craft or with a subject. Overnight class trips begin in Grade Four with a visit to a local farm and expand to meet the needs of the growing child.
The grade one through eight curriculum presents a unified whole, covering the stages of development of the six/seven year old through the fourteen year old. Each year gives a foundation for the next, and builds on what came before. The fulfillment of the Lower School curriculum, however, truly comes to fruition in the High School, where the work of the Lower School is transformed through thinking, reason, and the qualities of intellect that are developing in the High School student.
The overview of each grade presented here is instructive but not definitive: Each year the curriculum for a particular grade will be very similar but the ways in which it is presented will vary from class to class. Close
Entering the first grade is a major transition in the life of the child. The first grader leaves the homelike world of the Early Childhood Department, and enters the more structured environment of the grades classroom. Fairy tales, folktales, and nature stories constitute the basic story material of First Grade and these stories provide food for the soul of the child and nurture the capacity to learn in a way that is joyful and enriching. This power of imagination develops the ability to think creatively. The excitement of learning to write, read, and do math is supported through movement, music, and art.
Form Drawing awakens the children to spatial relationships and helps develop the coordination of eye and hand, as well as laying a foundation for reading and writing
Japanese and Spanish language and culture are introduced through songs, verses, stories, finger plays, and games.
Weekly lessons in modeling and painting develop an artistic aesthetic and build the powers of creativity.
Knitting is learned, children learn to create lovely toys while knitting trains the brain
Eurythmy class supports reading through stories and letter sounds, and, along with Games classes, supports the growing social awareness of each child.
Second graders at ease with their school routine and with their teachers, and they are eager to learn. Animal fables and stories and legends of saints and saintly people constitute the story material of the Waldorf Second Grade. The legends exemplify all that is highest and most noble in human striving, while the fables amusingly recount the less desirable qualities of the human being, and these two perspectives mirror the polarities that the second grade child experiences. The students are continuing on their path of joyfully learning to read and further developing their skills in the four arithmetic processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
After learning to play wooden pentatonic flutes in first grade, the second graders further develop their music skills and in handwork class crochet beautiful cases for their flutes.
Foreign language classes engage all the senses as the children taste the foods, sing the songs, recite the poetry, and play the active games of each culture.
In form drawing, students continue to master forms and shapes, and through drawing mirrored forms, clearly distinguish left and right, up and down, strengthening sensory integration.
Third graders are experiencing an awakening self-awareness, which is reflected in the story curriculum of the year, the ancient Hebrew stories in the Old Testament. These stories are filled with archetypal descriptions of human beings facing good and evil, being “cast out of paradise,” and taking hold of the world and making it fruitful and abundant. The practical activities inThird Grade, which include gardening and farming, house building, and measurement. In math, regrouping in addition and subtraction is mastered, and long multiplication and division are introduced. Telling time and measurement are important main lesson blocks. The students become more masterful writers, and work with grammar and punctuation.
Adding to the knitting stitch learned in first grade, third graders learn to perl and create hand puppets.
Mirrored forms in four quadrants are the challenging subject in form drawing.
Singing and flute playing continue, with the introduction of call and response songs and rounds.
All students participate in strings class, learning violin, viola, cello, or bass.
Water color painting takes on more form, painting various motifs from the curriculum.
The fourth grade students wish to further explore their world, and geography is an important subject introduced at this point, as it builds a sense of place and belonging. Local geography is introduced first, and the students become familiar with the topography and history of their school neighborhood, then the city, island, and state of Hawai‛i. The students draw their own maps and model relief maps with paper mache, beeswax, or clay. Fractions are introduced in math. Grammar studies continue, with further work with parts of speech and a focus on tenses. Animals and their relationship to human beings are the focus of science for the year. The story curriculum includes legends and stories of Old Hawai‛i, and Norse Mythology, stories of courage, strength, and cunning, which support the developmental needs of the fourth grade student.
Complex form drawing includes woven knots and braids from the Old Norse tradition and forms based on fractions.
After working mostly orally in the first three grades, fourth graders are introduced to writing and reading in foreign language classes.
Art classes focus on main lesson subjects, and the students paint and model a variety of animals from their zoology lessons.
Building on rounds in third grade, fourth graders begin part singing, and become more proficient on their stringed instruments.
In movement classes, students continue to play group games and work with fundamental skills to build a foundation for games and sports. Circus arts are part of the curriculum, including juggling, stilt-walking, and unicycle riding.
The Fifth Grade is a time when many children seem to strike a healthy balance between early childhood and approaching adolescence. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Waldorf curriculum for Grade Five seems aglow with balance and harmony. Fifth grade is a year of wonderful balance, where the children are finding themselves as individuals, yet still engaged in the heart of childhood. The "heart" of the curriculum, therefore, is the study of the balanced and harmonious world of the ancient Greeks, culminating in the students' participation in a Greek pentathlon, where they travel to Maui, and with other Hawai‘i Waldorf schools, re-enact the ancient games of foot races, long jump, javelin and discus throwing, and wrestling.
The beginning of the study of World History.
Natural Science is approached this year through Botany, with an emphasis on the plant kingdom's relationships to the human being.
In Mathematics, the class moves from fractions to decimal fractions. Reciprocals, averages, and the metric system are introduced.
In Form Drawing, the children work with motifs from the ancient cultures they are studying, and also work with more advanced freehand geometrical construction.