For the Grade Six student, the world is delineated in absolutes, with more inclusive thinking still in the future.
In bringing education for this developmental stage, the curriculum focuses on Roman law, black and white drawing, and specific gym exercises involving overcoming obstacles and teaching through the method of “compare and contrast”.
“I am deeply grateful for Waldorf education, which woke me up and helped me rediscover my imagination.”
Author of “The Never-ending Story”
Former Waldorf student
As students in Grade Six begin the bodily changes of puberty, there is often a loss of the harmony and grace of Grade Five. The skeletal changes in this age bring shifts in the very structure of the body. It is at this stage that physics and geology are first introduced. Special events in Grade Six may include a camping trip to study geology and mineralogy. Study of the “physical body” of the earth matches the students’ experiences of changes in their bodies.
For the Grade Six student, the world is delineated in absolutes, with more inclusive thinking still in the future. In bringing education for this developmental stage, the curriculum focuses on Roman law, black and white drawing, and specific gym exercises involving overcoming obstacles and teaching through the method of “compare and contrast.” Where geometric shapes have been drawn freehand in earlier grades, the Grade Six student learns exact construction with compass and straightedge as well as the mathematical properties of these shapes. Business math and perimeter and area are also introduced.
Concepts of physics are explored through phenomenological observation of acoustics, beginning with music, and they expand into the study areas of heat, cold, light, sound, and electricity. Astronomy is approached from a geocentric perspective, providing the concept of orientation between earth and sky.
History offers a view of the Romans and their control over the physical world with aqueducts, roads, and cities. The students are led to understand how the strength and excesses of the Romans led to destruction (indigenous cultures, and eventually the Roman Empire itself). This lays a basis for an understanding of the order of Medieval societies (feudal society, monasteries, etc.).
Twelve-year-olds experience sensitivity and hurt feelings and yet they can also appear insensitive and judgemental of their peers. They want to be part of a group, but at the same time, they are becoming more aware of what they want for themselves. There can be a grouping off, and peer pressure may get intense as the children are trying to secure a place for themselves in the world.
With the surge of hormones and changes in the physical structure of the body, the emotional roller coaster is gaining speed, making life complicated for both the children and the adults around them. The students will need space to digest their feelings and experiences and to feel that they have a part in making decisions, both at school and at home.
The children need to exert their independence while balancing it against the needs of the group and learn to work together, developing meaningful relationships with each other.
As causal thinking is developing and the desire to recognize logical connections awakens, we see polarization governing the thought processes, and by extension, the conversations. For the Grade Six student, the world is delineated in absolutes, with more inclusive thinking still in the future. Everything is judged, categorized, and labelled in accordance with the values of the group with which the children identify. Morning lesson subjects, therefore, offer many occasions to recognize and discuss polarities on a factual level: e.g. right and wrong, rich and poor, weak and strong (history); or North and South, West and East, temperate and extreme (geography and history); warm and cold (physics).
As the children move through their Grade Six year, the curriculum provides opportunities to grow in self-confidence, social cooperation, personal responsibility, and perseverance. The students are ready to set goals and conquer something that they are interested in. This is particularly fostered through projects, the introduction of evaluation and self-evaluation, the class play, and sports.
The blocks about Roman History and the Geography of South and Middle America or Europe have the goal of developing a sense of living history and geography and include opportunities to explore different perspectives and voices. In class discussions during the review as well as in specific subjects like physics, the students have the opportunity to bring consciousness to their thinking process and build up the capacity for clarity of thinking and differentiating between observations, opinions, and conclusions. Another area of capacity building focuses on making connections and paying attention to relationships between geography and history, or the present and the past. Problem-solving takes on a greater role in learning, e.g. in math activities, in Handwork, in staging the class play, or in conflict resolution.
The curriculum’s goal is not to be exhaustive, but to provide selected quality experiences, sow the seeds of interest, develop clear and differentiated thinking, and bring the themes the children are dealing with developmentally into the sphere of the subjects we study, reflecting on them and working through them in a larger context.
As the capacities of thought, feelings, and will grow exponentially, we use biographies to bring the human element into History and Geography, but also into Geology and Astronomy, and we work on the virtues of civility (especially through the Cyber Civics curriculum, but also in class discussions in general) to support the children in integrating these different spheres.
The Roman epoch reflects what the children are experiencing in their bodies. The Romans focused on dominating the physical world. Their buildings, cities, roads and aqueducts, their general standards of organization, the Roman army, and their conquest of the Western world–all these actions and achievements match the feeling of confidence and a consciousness of personal power of the sixth grader. The Romans marched in step across the known world, offering a choice to all they encountered: surrender and join, or be crushed. This is reflected in the children’s soul lives: Each one is a Roman emperor trying to maintain control of their own feelings by laying down the law. The students come to understand how the strengths and excesses of Roman leaders led to the destruction of the Roman Empire itself. It is in this context that we encounter the birth of Christianity. Another aspect of the Roman Empire is a renewed awareness of the geography around the Mediterranean Sea, radiating north to Britain and the wilds of what is now Germany, to the eastern part of the Mediterranean, and to Northern Africa.
Medieval Times in Europe, Japan, and the Islamic Realm
The history of Medieval times takes us from the Dark Ages in Western Europe to the spread and influence of Christianity and the system of feudalism and chivalry. Moving east, we follow similar themes, looking at Medieval Japan and exploring parallels in terms of feudalism, chivalry, and the role of monasteries. We look at the birth of Islam, transformations in Muslim societies, and the influence of the knowledge accumulated and digested during the Golden Age of Islam on Western societies.
In Europe, the Middle Ages brought great changes to everyday life: In a world where people had very limited choices and social hierarchies and gender roles determined life to a huge extent, the beginning of the Little Ice Age, the decimation of the population through the Plague, and the Crusades opened up new possibilities for farmers and merchants. New ideas, knowledge, techniques and materials coming from the East could take root. The Silk Routes continued to be arteries of trade, connecting East and West and leading to exchanges in goods, knowledge, and technology.
Geography of South and Middle America (or Europe)
We take the physical geography of South America as well as the land bridge to North America as our starting point, studying the landforms – mountain ranges, rivers, pampas, rain forests, and coastal belts – which characterize the continent.
Based on our understanding of the landforms, we explore specific cultures and civilizations in the Amazon basin (Kayapo), the Andes (Inca,) and the varied landscapes of Yucatan (Mayans) and gain familiarity with the location of today’s countries. Comparisons to North American First Nations cultures on the one hand and the Roman Empire (which spread around the same time as the Mayan civilization blossomed) on the other provide an awareness of similarities and differences in terms of structure and ethos. While our topics come from the realm of geography and history, this block is focused on the craft of organizing information through maps, mind maps, and writing.
Alternatively, the teacher might choose to connect the theme of Ancient Rome to the geography of Europe and explore the continent following the expansion of the Roman Empire and may connect military strategies and decisions to major and minor land formations.
Cyber Civics is a comprehensive middle-school digital literacy program that addresses an urgent and growing need to teach students how to become ethical, safe, and productive “digital citizens.” Research shows that while young people seem incredibly tech-savvy, most know little about the core concepts of “information literacy” (how to find, retrieve, analyze, and use online information). Throughout the year, information literacy skills are brought in a way that makes sense to middle school students. Students experience hands-on activities that emphasize ethical and critical thinking through discussion and role-playing games.
We approach the study of geology by looking at the biographies of common people who used their specific experiences and observations to come up with ideas about geological processes. We explore the polarities of the world of minerals, expressed in the fiery genesis of igneous rocks, the watery development of the sedimentary rocks, and the transformational (metamorphic) processes under the Earth’s crust. The students learn to use specific techniques to identify rocks, practicing with our extensive rock collection. As a means of understanding the practical applications of the study of minerals, we also examine fossils and the origins of “fossil fuels” such as coal and petroleum.
Astronomy is approached from a geocentric perspective, providing the concept of orientation between earth and sky, which allows the students to see themselves in a relationship with a cosmos that is so much larger than anything they can imagine. We look at the way the ancient sailors discovered the curvature of the earth and how earlier civilizations in East and West observed the phases of the moon, the yearly cycle of the earth, and its relation to solstices and equinoxes and the zodiacal belt. This brings an awareness that our perspective or point of view is crucial to understanding what we observe: why the North Star appears “fixed,” why day turns to night, why the seasons change, or how size and perspective play a crucial role in eclipses. We also examine how in the 16th century, astronomers in Western Europe built and expanded on ancient knowledge (developed in Mesopotamia, India, and Egypt) by using mathematical calculations to describe and predict astronomical events.
Physics is approached phenomenologically through the observation of the phenomena of sound, warmth and cold, illumination, and static electricity. Every day starts with one or more demonstrations, which the students observe without any idea of what to expect. This is followed by a verbal reconstruction of how the demonstration was set up and what was observed. The next day, we review the experience, describe the phenomena we observed, and try to take note of all the elements that played a part in the outcome. Based on this process, it is sometimes possible to formulate a hypothesis.
This block begins with a sweeping look at the history of economics–from the gift economy and the dominant value of reciprocity in subsistence cultures, to barter between two people and the establishment of trade networks; from the gold coins of the Roman Empire to the creation of “banks” by the Knights Templar during the Crusades in the Middle Ages; and finally to global trade and the role of contemporary banking. The students may engage in a project to experience creating a business first-hand: In small groups, the students work together to plan small business projects, research their target group, come up with a business plan (taking into account the need to cover their costs and make a profit), and create logos, menus/lists of services, and price lists. The concepts of percent, debt, and interest are introduced and practised in this context. This block creates an awareness of a very dominant aspect of life and includes practical skills which the students can see applied every day.
Through the years the children have been using and perfecting their body as a ‘’drawing instrument’’ in form drawing and freehand geometric drawing. This year, compass and straightedge are used to construct the circle and the polygons resulting from its division. Most of these forms are constructed within a circle, showing the dynamic change of the design, depending on the chosen starting point. In this process, the students learn to construct parallel and perpendicular lines and to copy and bisect angles. Great emphasis is placed on figuring out the necessary logical and technical steps to construct each shape, neatness and accuracy in the execution, and finally bringing out the beauty of these drawings through colour.
Computation, Mental Math, and Number Sense
Students review and strengthen basic arithmetic skills, including mental and vertical processes of multi-digit addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as fractions, and decimals. This includes an awareness of the order of operations, estimation, rounding, and self-checking.
The working use of the following concepts is introduced and/or solidified: fractions and mixed numbers; place value of decimal numbers; conversion of fractions to decimal numbers; percent; the conversion of decimals to percentages and the reverse; ordering decimals, fractions, and mixed numbers by value; and ratio and proportion.
Pre-algebra skills are explored: order of operations, integers, mathematical laws, graphing number pairs, T-tables and data management techniques (bar graphs, broken and continuous line graphs.)
Word Problems and Problem-Solving Strategies
Students work on problems involving measurements (time, linear, weight, money); fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals; data management; and averages. The class often works in small groups or with a partner, where the objective is to problem-solve rather than follow a “recipe.”
Simple expressions of feelings and sensations can be difficult to formulate at this stage of development. During this period, students tend to become inarticulate in the presence of adults, yet they develop fluency in the rich vocabulary of teenage jargon. Both phenomena are aspects of the search for their own individual ways of expressing themselves, so stylistic exercises can be a great help.
The recitation of poetry and prose continues to be cultivated, and the students are expected to present projects (Rome, small business.) The class play provides another opportunity to hone public speaking skills while allowing everyone to step into a different character.
This year, the focus is on a more analytical perspective with regard to planning one’s writing, depending on the genre. Mind maps, questions, categories, or notes on the board are used to learn to develop a structure for writing assignments. The students narrate stories from Roman history based on notes on the board; later they summarise biographies, using a consistent structure–either in the form of a mind map or a composition–based on a text. They also make mind maps or write factual summaries to describe the geography of South and Middle America. For the Physics block, they learn to take notes of the set-up of demonstrations and the phenomena they observed before writing their composition or lab report.
Students continue to work on spelling patterns, commonly confused words, sight- and subject-related vocabulary, and inferences and antonyms/synonyms. At this stage, consistent ability in the use of spelling rules, as well as in memorization of sight words, is required for the larger volume of new vocabulary, including a conscious awareness of homographs and homophones and their usage. Latin and Greek roots of common words and expressions are introduced and explored when they appear in our speech (especially in the block on Roman History), but also through systematic study through homework assignments. Students also practise editing skills and begin to self-edit the first drafts of their work.
Reading and Reading Comprehension
Reading and reading comprehension are worked on during novel study as well as during project-oriented work when students are expected to do independent research. Short verbal reports about a book such as the Track Series (Jason Reynolds), which the students read in groups, or class readers help to create an awareness of the diversity of perspectives and writing styles, stimulate interest in curriculum-related topics (e.g. medieval times), and prompt others in the class to extend their reading
In Grade Six, the main goals of French lessons are for the students to speak with greater confidence about a specific topic and to become better at recognizing and using grammatically correct constructions. The students build on their repertoire of verbs and grammar and write longer texts and exercises in French. The focus is on speaking in the secondary language during class as much as possible and becoming very comfortable in asking questions without the teacher’s guidance. While songs, verses, skits, and speech exercises are still part of every lesson, there is a shift towards an understanding of the concepts and structure of the language, building on what the students have learned through imitation in the earlier years. This will be an important step towards developing a deeper understanding of the culture and heritage of the language.
Some of the themes of the year typically include letter writing, stories related to the subject of astronomy, and the country of France. The students study the different regions, its people, culture, and geography, and work on a research project which includes a written, creative, and oral presentation component.
Six graders are faced with a new experience of life and the world, and the artwork reflects this discovery through drawings increasingly in black and white. A body of drawing exercises done just in black and white comprises many of the drawing lessons. Theoretical and technical skills are developed this year, working with the sense of groundedness the children need at this age. Observation of light and shadow creates three-dimensional perception, and applying colour theory to their paintings allows the children to discover how to convey perspective or mood. Wet-on-wet painting remains a component of the art lessons while drawing takes a more important role than it has before. Subjects are mostly inspired by the topics studied in the morning lessons and by seasonal changes, or they are related to a specific skill or medium that we explore. Various methods and mediums are part of the process of the children’s work throughout this year, including charcoal, pastel drawing, clay work, and pencil sketches.
In Grade Six the students return to the sewing projects for the first time since Grade Four. After a brief introduction to the technique, they undertake a large project to construct an elephant toy of their own design. To connect their work to the practical and social world, students are encouraged to look into the social life of elephants and closely observe the structure of the animal in relation to its life and environment. They learn about the construction and production of fabrics, from raw materials to making thread and cloth. Based on their observations, students develop individualised patterns for their elephants and learn the basics of pattern drafting and design requirements, as well as new sewing techniques. The students have hands-on opportunities to understand the three-dimensional world and experience that great accuracy is needed to make the patterns come together, mirroring their experiences in geometric designs. This project offers the children another opportunity of growing in resilience, creativewill, problem-solving, ability to plan, and taking responsibility for their work, along with the further development of their fine motor skills and spatial orientation.
In Grade Six, the students need to work together in small groups in order to be productive. They are now competent in terms of preparing the soil and planting a garden, but their focus shifts from this activity to their own lives, and they need to be challenged to take responsibility for specific tasks and persevere without allowing themselves to be distracted by social dynamics.
While in the fall, everyone weeds, harvests, turns the ground, and spreads wood chips, this changes in early spring when students cultivate a garden in small groups, planning and planting their crops following specific instructions and taking into account the mix in a healthy garden: root (potatoes, beets,) fruit (squash, cucumber,) leaf and flower crops, as well as the principle of companion planting.
Students learn and experience a variety of simple and more complex rhythmic patterns using body percussion, found sounds, and percussion instruments, helping them develop a listening ear with an awareness of texture and blend. Recorder skills continue with soprano and tenor recorders, including ensemble work, solo work, and improvisation activities. They review major scales and add minor scales to their repertoire. Music theory studies include the review and extension of previously learned concepts: the grand staff, time signatures and note values, dynamics and tempo, articulation, key signatures, and chords. Ukulele work continues with familiar songs and folk songs, adding several new chords and progressions, and learning about musical form.
In choir, students continue to sing together in unison and in harmony, practicing seasonal songs, rounds, performance pieces, and rhythmic singing games. Singing together in a larger group provides the children with the opportunity to expand their musical interests and talents and to practice controlled self-expression and self-discipline. The children continue to develop their ability to sing in tune with and without piano accompaniment, thus challenging their listening skills. Many songs are learned by rote, but the students also practice following along in a musical score, noticing musical terms and symbols. Participating in choir provides students a chance to experience the inherent beauty that exists in the collective study of music, while also practicing important skills such as perseverance, sense of responsibility, cooperation, focus, respect, and leadership.
In Physical Education, we strive to develop desirable attitudes toward physical activity through team effort and personal achievement. We work on overcoming the limitations and inhibitions brought on by adolescent physical changes. We continue to encourage tolerance, cooperation, and self-discipline and look to see whether the students are able to contribute to team decisions and ideas.
The year begins with working on individual stamina (beep test) and cross-country running; throughout the year, soccer, volleyball, floor hockey, and basketball skills are introduced and practiced.
LWS provides opportunities to participate in larger team sports and individual sports events hosted by the London District Catholic School Board. In September, the students participate in our annual Terry Fox Run, and at the beginning of October, we train students for cross-country running. In the spring, practicing for the annual Track and Field Meet (sprints, long distance and relay runs, long jump, softball, shot put, and accessible events) provides opportunities for the students to test their athletic skills.