Leaving the poise and harmony of the fifth grade, the sixth grader leaves behind the feeling of childhood and steps out with fiery will forces to take his stand onto the firm earth. As he or she enters puberty, his or her solid bones lengthen, and the child starts to acquire the firmness and heaviness of the adult. The dreaminess of the earlier years gives to a “logical”, argumentative challenge to authority and the defense of ones “rights”.
To meet this the Waldorf curriculum passes from the botany of the fifth grade to geology, a study of the firm mineral element of the earth’s body down to the innermost depths of the earth where they meet another sort of inner, fiery element. The lawful orderedness of crystals feels right to the sixth grader. Balancing the investigation of the earth’s interior, the children also raise their view towards to sky, and beyond, in their study of astronomy. The lawful orderedness of the relationship between earth and other members of the solar system, as affirmed by the rightness of human thinking, fills the child with satisfaction as well as with awe at the beauty to be found.
This year introduces physics, the laws of optics and acoustics are experienced through concrete experimentation and observation. Theoretical discussions are bound to follow (discussions at this age are unavoidable) but only at an elementary level (these themes will be taken up more abstractly and mathematically in high school); the focus here is on the doing.
The gaze into the wider world is taken a step further with the transition from ancient Greece (at the end of fifth grade) to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Just as the sixth grader wishes to meet and conquer the outer world, Rome was determined and had the ability to dominate its physical world. Divide an conquer is a strong theme at this age. Beyond conquest, Rome’s ability to build aqueducts and maintain a far-reaching road system attests as well as develop the administrative means to manage an empire attests to its skill on the physical plane.
Equally impressive is how the excesses within the Roman culture led to its own fall, a moral lesson conveyed by the teacher without “moralizing” simply by relating the facts of history. Such lessons are invaluable for the young soul who has left childhood behind and who must master him or herself as well as the laws of earth.
In English lessons, reasoning behind cause and effect is taught by the grammar of the conditional. Ongoing are regular dictations and comprehension exercises. The lessons in science and history introduce report writing. In maths, percentages, profit and loss, simple interest and proportion and ratio are covered; geometry lessons introduce the use of the protractor.
To see what the children will be learning this year, please click Sixth Grade 2013-14