By: Réne Petersen, Trinus teacher.
“….This year marks the pivotal point between childhood and puberty and for a short moment each child is poised at the crest of the wave, marking the end of the first part of their school years. They reach standards of work hitherto never dreamed of. They identify totally with their work; they spend time embellishing it, bringing it closer to perfection.”
In Waldorf schools, 5th grade is considered to be the “golden era of childhood”.
This is the healthiest, most balanced time for the child. In a healthily developing child, everything within becomes balanced and focused on their rhythmic/feeling system. It is their last year of true childhood and is the perfect time to truly immerse them in the world of Imagination and to relish the Arts; before their fully conscious skills for critical thinking emerge more strongly. This is their most creative time and their movements and bodies become graceful and elegant. It is the year for beauty in all aspects of school life and the study of the Greek Culture is a key theme as the epitome of “beauty” in the evolution of humankind. It is also the time when their individuality is beginning to crystallise and truly awaken.
Cognitively, children are more able to understand concepts and phenomena in a more realistic and reasoning manner. Understanding and the formulation of concepts now starts to come more out of their developing faculties for comprehending clear, matter of fact, abstract concepts. Out of their growing memory powers also comes a clearer sense of time. This greater awareness of past/future/planning etc., combined with their deepening feeling life, leads to the emergence of true conscience and responsibility. This is a time of rapidly flowering capacities e.g. the mastery of a musical instrument /true language skills/ particular talents, etc., in this year children make the transition from myths and legends to history and its emphasis on the individual. Children should also now develop a greater consciousness of the interrelatedness of life and the environment. Intellectually and morally the child becomes truly ready for new challenges!
This is the time for us to enjoy, guide and support the children in a truly special way before the onset of puberty and the huge changes that brings for the child: physically, mentally and emotionally.
Language is central to every subject we do, so it could be said that we never stop studying Language Arts. Every single Main Lesson block calls for children to recall, recite, memorise and express opinions and ask questions. Children are required to work on their writing, spelling, grammar as well as free writing. Reading is also presented in various forms e.g. poetry, texts produced by the class/teacher, extra learning etc.
The Language Arts Main Lesson Blocks are special as we go more deeply into the grammar, structure and details of the English Language.
This year the grammar learnt becomes more technical as we go into direct/indirect speech; active and passive voice; subject/object of sentences.
Punctuation is extended further to grow knowledge of and the use of: hyphens, brackets, quotation marks, colon, semi-colon. Children will also be encouraged to use words to paint word pictures as the beauty of the English language and words is explored. This is a year where the beauty of the language comes through strongly in the stories, songs, prose, poetry which we will do in the classroom.
With the study of fractions in fourth grade, the children’s work in “arithmetic” came to an end, and what they learn from this point on is “mathematical,” involving less manipulation and more conceptualization. There are three goals in this year’s math work: the solidifying of those skills learned in the previous grades, learning to express fractions as decimals, and understanding some basic geometrical concepts.
We will review and continue practicing long division and multiplication. In fractions we will explore the 4 operations; simplifying fractions and equivalent fractions. Decimals will be introduced using simple problems in all 4 operations and converting fractions to decimals. We will also work with measurement and money problems to provide practical application of decimal concepts.
History- Ancient Civilisations
This year children will be introduced to formal History starting with these Ancient Civilisations. In this period, world history/evolution (especially the Ancient Greeks) is mirrored in the biography of the 10-11 year old child. This was a time of absolute creativity, balance and harmony. Stories are told from each era to place the children in time and space. There is a focus on the people and characters of the time to help children connect to the past.
Children will be learning about their country Guatemala as we extend their horizon further than what they see on a daily basis. We will explore the geographical features of the country e.g. rivers, mountains, volcanoes, oceans, climate, regions, crops, produce, animals etc. We will also learn about the different departamentos, culture, people, food, commodities etc.
In Class 5 Science we move closer to the Earth itself, studying the plant kingdom; next year we penetrate the earth itself, with the sixth grade Mineralogy block. Science is a great way to help children engage their senses to learn about, discover and understand the world around them. Rather than dissect plants and analyze the parts, the science approach used in the lower school stresses the healthy activity of the senses: the children learn most through what they can see, hear, smell, taste or touch.
Our methodology relies very much on the botanical work of J. W. Goethe, a nineteenth century researcher. Goethe stressed the principle of metamorphosis in the life of the plant, i.e., the ever-changing forms of roots, stems, leaves and sepals that find their conclusion in flower and fruit. Plants act as the go-between between heaven and earth. The plant is the “mediator” of the air and the ground and as such possesses a balance which fits in very well with the developmental stage the children are in at this time. Main lesson book work will include drawings of plant parts and families, charts describing plants growth, compositions and poems about plant life.
Man and Animal
We will do one Main Lesson to cover what we missed when we were a combined class. This year we will focus on the specialisation of various animals in comparison to the human being. We will also place the animals in their environments and learn about different classes of animals e.g. mammals, reptiles etc. This detailed study offers opportunities for the child to develop his/her comparative, conceptual, and observational skills, and it provides additional material for artistic, dramatic, and language arts activities.
In class 5, Form drawing leads to elementary geometrical drawings. This is the last year the children will be drawing shapes freehand as the compass/protractor as mathematical tools will be introduced in the following year. We give children a sense of the dimensions of geometry through the appreciation of both the rules which govern geometry; as well as the beauty of the forms which can be created.