Subject Lessons at Whidbey Island Waldorf School
The Main Lesson block rotation offered throughout the Grades' instruction is not conclusive in Waldorf education. Many subjects are taught in addition to the core lesson sequences. These typically include--but are not limited to--Form Drawing, Watercolor, Sculptural work in clay and other media, Movement & Games, Handwork and Practical Arts of all sorts, Eurythmy, String Ensemble, Choral Ensemble, Theater and Foreign Languages. Some Waldorf schools also offer such Subject Classes as Circus and Woodworking.
How these Subject Classes are held varies from school to school. Larger schools may have specialty teachers for each Subject classes, while in other schools, the classroom teacher may provide instruction in several Subjects as well. At present, Whidbey Island Waldorf School's Subject curriculum includes Handwork, Fine Arts, Music, Spanish language, Eurythmy and other Movement and Games.
Handwork or Practical Arts
Handwork instruction in Waldorf education provides a means of integrating the mind, body and soul through the work of the hands. Students gain fine motor skill while better connecting the functions of both hemispheres of the brain. Inwardly, the creative work of the hands increases students' capacity for perseverence, problem-solving, respect for the creative process and deepens the sense of satisfaction in accomplishment. Experiencing the rich rewards of work produced of one's own hands translates broadly to greater gains in academic work and reverence for human creativity.
Handwork instruction begins in Early Childhood with simply finger knitting and needle stitching. The curriculum expands throughout all the grades, with instruction provided by the classroom teacher as well as volunteer experts. Over the years, a variety of skills may be learned and projects undertaken. Students may be introduced to needle knitting in the first grade, moving on to crocheting in second. Later, embroidery and cross-stitch are learned. Loom weaving, water and needle-felting, and later machine sewing are introduced. By the eighth grade, students are designing and makes projects from quilts to clothing.
Spanish is the foreign language currently offered at Whidbey Island Waldorf School. Our language curriculum encourages openness to others and an interest in what is foreign. By actively participating in another culture, students are given a different lens through which to experience life.
The imitative nature of the young child lends itself well to immersion classes in the early years. The first three years of Spanish are full of active circle work and cultural activities. The students quickly become adept at understanding Spanish and are willing to engage in conversations, even on the playground. As the child grows they work more consciously on learning Spanish through reading and writing. Fourth grade marks the beginning of academic work through the recording of known verses. At this age, homework may be the completion of a drawing from class. From 5th through 8th grade, each year brings development of skills in reading, writing, comprehension and communication. Vocabulary units and cultural themes are woven throughout the years and bring a fuller picture of the Spanish-speaking world. The students are given assignments more regularly and complete yearly reports. From 3rd through 8th grade, students might experience field trips to art exhibits, dramas, restaurants or performances.
For cross-cultural experiences, the nearby Seattle area represents a wide range of cultures through its restaurants, theater, music and dance venues. In addition Seattle Center offers yearly, family-oriented series of international festivals. There are several Spanish-speaking countries that celebrate their Independence Days in public venues. There is also a growing annual Day of the Dead observance in Seattle. (for more information, search "Casa de la Raza" on the web). Every year, there are more and more Spanish restaurants to visit, some serving up tapas and flamenco, Mexican restaurants with live Mariachi bands, and other cuisines and cultures to experience, including Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Peruvian, Argentinian and Cuban. There are so many, many ways to enhance the classroom language experience through direct cultural participation!
Here at WIWS, we incorporate our languages studies into our festival life, with an annual Day of the Dead altar at school, this year on November 1st and 2nd.
Music in Early Childhood is experienced daily in story and song, with rhythms and rhyme a part of stories and games and more. Formal instruction in music begins in the grades.
WIWS' Grades Music Curriculum:
1st Grade: A weaving of song, story and movement, including new and traditional singing games and beginning work on interval and pentatonic flutes. Music experienced is mostly in the "mood of the fifth."
2nd Grade: A mixture of singing games and dances, rhythmic exercises, pentatonic songs and instrument work, including a continuation of exploration of the pentatonic flute.
3rd Grade: Line and circle dances, songs in different modes, beginning part-singing, rhythmic exercises with percussion, melodic note reading and writing, and work with diatonic flutes.
4th-5th Grade Choral Study: Practice of two- and three-part rounds and songs, continuing work in music literacy, vocal exercises and work with blending and intonation.
Middle Grades (6-8) Choral Study: Increasingly difficult "part" songs, continued work in musical literacy and ensemble work (blending, diction, intonation).
In addition to general music instruction and choral explorations, students begin playing string instruments in the 4th grade. Thereafter, string ensemble study may vary year-to-year as we tailor our program to fit the needs of our various classes. The ensembles noted below are for this 2010-11 school year. We strongly encourage all 4th through 8th-grade students to secure private strings instruction outside of school time.
4th Grade: The violin is first introduced through history, narrative and then in the production of tone. After this introduction, students quickly move on to note reading, playing by ear and ensemble work. The intrinsic rewards of public performance are experienced early on.
5th Grade Orchestra: Students now chose to play violin, viola, cello or bass. Ensemble playing is the focus, with some harmonies and counterpoints, in addition to work on fundamentals such as rhythm and intonation.
6th through 8th Grade Orchestra/Jazz String Ensemble: Students play violin, viola, cello or bass. 2010-11 8th-graders still have the option of playing guitar. Ensemble work focuses on increasingly challenging classical and folk music as well as jazz music arranged for strings.
Beginning with the 2012-13 academic year, our Middle School Students also have the option of choosing the Woodwinds Ensemble, including clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone and flute.
What is Eurythmy? According to noted stage artist and mime Marcel Marceau, Eurythmy is "pure poetry in motion."
(photo by Nan Melville, New York Times)
Eurythmy is a movement form created by Rudolf Steiner as means of making the invisible visible. Through the carefully and gracefully rendered movements of the body as set to music or poetry, such speech or music--and the unseen creative forces that birthed the same--become visible, perceptible to the eye.
Not considered a dance form, Eurythmy is a harmonizing medium between the body and the soul, and between the individual and the group. Whether in the classroom or on the performance stage, the synchronizing of the body-soul experience in the fluid rendering of the choreographed forms both reflects and creates social and cultural meaning for the participant and viewer alike.
In past years, WIWS has been able to offer year-long Eurythmy instruction and experience to all Grades students. We were unable to do so during the 2009-2010 school year. However, we are thrilled to be bringing Eurythmy back to WIWS this 2010-2011 school year for at least one block study rotation. We hope to re-incorporate Eurythmy year-round in the future.
Experience with painting, drawing and modeling with beeswax begins in our Early Childhood program. The element of imitation and the mood with which it is brought guides the young student to explore color, shape and form. In the early Grades, the class teacher then develops form out of the experience of color. Beeswax continues to be used in the early Grades, and clay may be introduced. The students' paintings and drawings arise out of the fairy tales, fables and legends that are experienced in the Main Lesson.
In the upper Grades, observational skills are awakened through black and white charcoal drawings. Students discover the innumerable shades of gray, which they must learn to perceive. Guided exercises and then still-life settings that cast strong contrasts of dark and light are introduced in the 6th grade. New colors are introduced into their paintings, giving students an ability to express a larger range of dramatic events and landscapes. Color perspective, veil painting, portraits, maps, modeling figures and heads foster skills that allow students to perceive their surroundings in a more conscious way. The Class teacher or, sometimes, a guest teacher, may teach this content. By 8th grade, students have a firm foundation charcoal drawing, watercolor painting, pastel drawing and clay modeling.