A Waldorf curriculum includes developmentally appropriate academic lessons as well as engaging artistic and practical experiences. Beyond main lesson work with their main classroom teacher, specialty classes engage each child in the work of their bodies, minds and hearts. Specialty classes include world language, movement/physical education/games, music/singing/flutes/recorders, handwork. Most of these subjects are taught by specialty teachers who work closely with the class teacher so children experience it as an integrated whole with one lesson or activity enhancing another. Additionally, classroom teachers offer integrated specialty lessons including watercolor painting, clay and beeswax modeling, form drawing, folk dancing and woodworking.
The study of World Language begins in Kindergarten. Through their strong powers of imitation, children develop a good ear and feeling for language by repeating poems, singing songs and playing games characteristic of the culture from which the language comes. Reading and writing of begins in Grade 3, along with a more systematic study of syntax and grammar.
Handwork in the Waldorf curriculum provides the opportunity to “ensoul” our surroundings with items made with conscious thought and care. Handwork balances a child's intellect (counting stitches, rows, following a pattern) with creative self-satisfaction (the ability to make something beautiful and useful). When we engage in the act of making things ourselves, we discover the struggle and joy of the creative process and an appreciation for materials. Hand-eye coordination is essential for balance and harmony. Rhythmic repetition such as knitting and crocheting improve dexterity and cultivate neural development. Flexible, agile fingers in childhood can lead to mobile, creative thinking later and enhance judgment.
Winterberry's handwork projects are tailored to progressively meet children at their developmental level (head, heart and hands). From finger knitting to crochet, cross-stitch and embroidery to woodwork, handwork develops fine motor skills, artistry, and coordination between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. View projects by grade level: Happy Hands, Happy Heart, was graciously created by avid artisan and former Winterberry Handwork teacher Sarah Robicheaux for families learning at-home through the pandemic. Thank you, dear Ms. Robicheaux.
In the younger grades, imaginative play and active noncompetitive games are a central part of the program. Students learn to work with one another as a part of a team bringing their individual gifts to the class. The lower grades participate in chase games, cooperative games, simple dancing and many imagination-based play activities.
In Grade 4, students participate in the Native Youth Olympic games with our neighboring Waldorf school challenging each other with traditional skill and strength-building activities. At the end of Grade 5, students compete in a Greek Pentathlon along with three other Waldorf schools. This culmination highlights their studies of ancient civilizations. Students recreate the original Greek Games competing in javelin, discus, running, long jump, and wrestling. In the upper grades, they continue to play cooperative games as well as more team-based sports. Grade 8 closes their year with a circus performance incorporating skills they practiced for years: juggling, tumbling and unicycling.
Music is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. It touches and nourishes the soul, enriching the child’s inner life. Music class is taught two or three times each week. Students begin singing pentatonic songs in Kindergarten. Formal music classes begin in Grade 3 – transitioning from a pentatonic scale to a firmly rooted diatonic scale. Students learn to sing as a chorus and play in a recorder ensemble as they travel through the grades. As a choir, they begin with a single vocal line, then transfer to singing rounds, which leads to part-singing in the upper grades. Students perform at assemblies, festivals, and concerts throughout the year.
Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms. Winterberry strives to provide this enriching activity by sharing a traveling eurythmy teacher with Anchorage Waldorf School and Birchtree Charter School in Palmer.