The Christopherus Curriculum – Science through the Grades
Note: The following is an explanation of the science component of the developing Christopherus Curriculum. Remember that, in addition to the Curriculum, we have a range of materials for those parents wishing to put together their own Waldorf-inspired program, including our science book, From Nature Stories to Natural Science.
One of the beauties of Waldorf is how, over the years, subjects develop and expand but also weave back and pick up themes introduced earlier. At the same time, of course, as Waldorf is completely holistic and integrated, science topics will be touched on or worked with in subjects such as history, language arts and math as a matter of course. Further, since Waldorf has a very exact picture of the needs of the developing child, a subject like science will be introduced as a living experience in the early grade school years, only slowly moving into the realm of direct empirical observation. The abstract theoretical stage is not reached until high school. Please see our science book, From Nature Stories to Natural Science, for more about this progression.
The following is a working document illustrating how we will be developing our science curriculum through the years. Please note that we have worked gardening and nature experiences, cooking, geography and ecology into this curriculum as a means of continuing to deepen and broaden the child’s growing consciousness of the world around him, his place of responsibility in the world and his role as an active member of humanity.
Please further note that by laying out the science component of the Christopherus Curriculum like this we actually do ourselves a disservice and potentially mislead people: there is no way that we could encapsulate, within the brief and sketchy outline that follows, the fact that the child’s growing scientific experience and knowledge is as much affirmed and strengthened by her artistic work as by what is normally called “science.”
One very brief example: in kindergarten and the early grades the children paint with only red, blue and yellow. By experimenting with the colors, by having color stories which accompany the painting sessions, the children learn all about the color wheel and the color spectrum. This knowledge is not conscious – it lives within the child’s unconscious, creating a foundation on which to build later conscious knowledge. Thus in 6th grade when the children work on light and color in the course of their physics studies, they already have a living experience of light and color on which to build. In 6th grade, physics remains empirical, focused on what the children observe. Then in high school they once again come back to light and color when they study optics – and now the abstract questions, the proofs and theories, can be thought through, grounded by the students’ earlier experiences.
Again – please regard this document as merely a hint at things to come! We will probably change many things in this science curriculum as we develop our materials over the next several years! However, we thought it was important to let people know what we are planning and to get a feel for what is to come.
Additionally, people who are familiar with the Waldorf curriculum as it manifests within schools will quickly see that we have added or changed some things. One obvious piece is the emphasis on gardening and cooking, subjects that are nearly impossible to do justice to in large group classroom situations. We have also added more geography along the way and tied it carefully to an ecology theme which runs through the 8 years. We have also added more possibilities with animals (animals around me, fish tanks, pond etc) and a zoology block in 8th grade. We have also added a number of blocks on the weather, a subject which also hardly appears in most Waldorf schools but lends itself very nicely to the homeschool environment – and is yet another way to bring a living sense-enriching opportunity for the child to become intimately knowledgeable about her environment.
Gardening; nature stories; nature crafts; weather tree [First Grade Curriculum]
Gardening; nature stories; nature crafts; animals around me; using and growing herbs part 1; terrarium and desert plant environment (indoors); weather observation; dyeing wool. [Second Grade Curriculum]
Three Sisters Garden (Native American theme on building, farming, living in harmony with different environments); domestic animals and farming; bees and beeswax. [Third Grade Curriculum]
Man and animal – how they are interrelated; land, animals and plants around me (local geography, State/Province and country). Working with fruit (jams, dried fruit etc). Four Elements main lesson (elementary explorations into heat, air, water and earth based upon Walter Kraul’s Earth, Water, Fire and Air). [Fourth Grade Curriculum]
Ancient civilizations’ interaction with the earth; wild crafted food; using and growing herbs part 2;botany; neighboring countries (Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean) and the land, plants and animals there; clocks in the Ancient World. [Fifth Grade Curriculum]
Biomes – plant and animal life; weather/climate; geology; setting up a fish tank or keeping reptile or similar pet; geography of Europe and the Middle East; working with dairy products. Physics (color and light, heat and sound; magnetism; mechanics – see Walter Kraul’s Earth, Water, Fire and Air for some hands-on activities related to these topics).
Astronomy; from alchemy to chemistry; food chemistry and nutrition; health and hygiene; fermented foods; Cycles of Life; human physiology 1; geography of Asia, Africa and South America. Physics (mechanics II and electricity).
The Human Being and the Earth – stewardship and sustainability (technology, buildings, food and resources); zoology; the ocean; human physiology 2; chemistry; physics; cooking from many cultures and creating whole balanced meals; geography of Australia and the Pacific; meteorology; electricity; introduction to computers.