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The Lower School (age 6 – 14)
Curriculum for Classes 1 to 5
All classes have timetabled lessons in Eurythmy, Music, Painting, Spanish, Mandarin, Handwork, Games, Form Drawing and Religion. Practise lessons in Maths and English are timetabled for each class. Classes 1 to 4 have a weekly lesson in Form Drawing and classes 4 and 5 have choir once a week.
Eurythmy is an art of movement that was introduced into Steiner schools about 90 years ago. It is a specific subject and discipline taught in Steiner schools the world over. At the Steiner Academy Frome, eurythmy is a lesson for children in the kindergartens (age 4 to 6) and the lower and middle school (age 7 to 14). A pianist accompanies the teacher and the children through the lesson.
Through eurythmy movements, the pupil can develop an awareness of the body and a growing awareness of the physical and spatial environment. Music and language are means through elements of the inner or emotional life may be expressed. As a discipline, eurythmy can provide a means by which language and music become immediate and direct perceptions.
Music begins with singing, listening games, flute and simple percussion instruments. Notation begins in Class 3. Singing is an integral part of all lessons, including rounds and eventually part singing. A private tutor is available at times during the school week for individual instrument lessons.
Painting lessons use simple techniques with quality materials, the work developing over the years as the children change, and relative to their main lesson work. These lessons enable the pupils to get a feel for colour as well as painting techniques.
Languages are taught initially through games, songs and poems. Reading, writing and grammar are introduced from Class 4. Spanish and Mandarin are taught from Class 1.
Handwork takes the children through practical learning and a development of fine motor skills by making their own knitting needles, learning to knit, sew and embroider simple, learning to crochet, making simple garments and cross-stitch. Making animals or dolls from their own designs, working with sewing machines, learning about different fabrics designing and making a piece of clothing and/or costumes for plays.
Religion lessons are taught throughout the school via stories, biographies and looking at various religions. These lessons are non-denominational. Many themes are explored with the pupils over the years including respect for human beings, aspects of Christianity, the Bible and the major world religions.
Games lessons include simple movement and cooperation games. In later school years, games lessons will include gym exercises, athletics, gymnastics with equipment and various team sports including netball, basketball and volleyball.
Form drawing is a lesson that appears in the lower or primary phase of the Steiner curriculum and is sometimes referred to as dynamic drawing, or free-hand geometry. At school, there are certain subjects – and form drawing is one of them - where the emphasis is on harnessing and fostering skills and capacities that develop intelligence through movement and form. Some of the aims of form drawing are to:
- develop fine-motor skills and strengthen hand-eye coordination in preparation for writing and cursive writing;
- enhance the powers of thinking in a non-intellectual way. In practical terms, form drawing works in the direction of flexibility and adaptability; concentration and accuracy.
- develop a facility for careful observation and cultivate an aesthetic appreciation for form;
- develop a sense for rhythm – contraction and expansion – balance, symmetry and metamorphosis.
The school marks and celebrates a number of festivals through the school year. Different festivals in different parts of the world derive from a variety of cultural, spiritual, religious and natural roots. A well as providing opportunities to reflect on the spiritual aspect of humanity, festive events are also important in building communities and understanding other cultures and religions. In a more general sense, festivals can serve to awaken the child’s capacities for reverence and thankfulness and together with the round of the seasons the festivals serve to engender a sense for the rhythmical ebb and flow of the year.
The preparation and celebration of a round of festivals – Harvest-time, Advent or May-time – forms a major part of the programme of learning in the early years part of the school. As the children progress through the school, festivals continue to form a part of the programme of social, moral, spiritual and cultural education. They are celebrated in class and whole-school assemblies through craft activities, stories, plays and art-work. Through the curriculum and in recognition of cultural diversity, festivals from different cultures and parts of the world – for examples, Diwali, Hanukkah – are studied and celebrated.
There is a rhythm to the day, week and year, and the celebration of the turning seasons and festivals have an important place. Teaching is pictorial and imaginative, the aim being to stimulate the intellect through activity, rhythm and imagination. Time is spent laying down good habits of classroom life and work, cultivating reverence for nature, respect for others and learning to connect with and care for the children's environment. Writing is introduced using pictures, rhymes and stories, and practised with form drawing and movement. Reading begins with the children's own written work and familiar songs and poems. Listening and speaking skills are also practised, with nature stories and fairy tales from around the world. Number work is begun, again with pictures, rhymes and stories. The four number processes are introduced and a start is made on learning times tables.
Stories from the lives of holy people, legends and fables are the primary literary base for writing, speaking and reading. Cursive writing is begun, and composition is introduced, which aids spelling. Reading skills continue to develop, working with word families, vowels and diphthongs, moving from familiar to new texts. Number work builds with mental maths practise and longer exercises moving on to larger numbers, number bonds, odd and even numbers, columns and carrying over. Free-hand geometrical form drawing is introduced. Nature stories help the children to understand the cycles of nature, reinforced by walks.
The focus is on practical activities, especially farming, gardening and building, and includes a building project. There are several trips in connection with these topics. Stories come from the Old Testament, including Genesis. The children begin to write full sentences from stories and activities, explore nouns, verbs, adjectives and punctuation, and move on to descriptive and creative writing. In maths, practice of all 12 tables continues; long multiplication and long division are introduced, money handling and change, and various forms of measurement - linear, liquids, solids and temporal.
The main lessons provide opportunities for more independent work, including individual project work. Mythology is now introduced, especially the Norse myths, and in form drawing Celtic knot work in particular is explored. In English, grammar work covers the tenses and parts of speech; in maths, fractions are introduced, using all four processes; measurements and area work is continued. There are main lesson blocks on local geography, and local history, beginning with the school grounds and leading on to trips exploring the area. Other main lesson blocks on "Human and Animal" explore the form and functions of the human being, leading to an understanding of the animal world, followed by more detailed study of some animals.
The curriculum provides rich fare and an impressive landscape to traverse. The principal features are summarised below:
- in Maths, the primary themes are a continued study of common fractions and the properties of numbers, with an Introduction to the decimal system and a focus on geometry and the movement from free-hand to the use of instruments;
- the English, the lessons focus on elements of composition, grammar, spelling, reading and creative writing;
- there is an episodic and lively introduction to the Geography of the British Isles and Ireland;
- the change from pre-history and mythic representations to recorded ‘western’ History is brought through the ‘histories’ of ancient civilisations, ranging from India to Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt and culminating in the emergence of Ancient Greece.
- an introduction to Botany lends itself to direct observation of plants in their natural habitat, via class walks and the sketching of different varieties of trees and plants outdoors;
- the study of Ancient Greece is enhanced by a re-enactment of the Greek Olympic Games. This event, held in Sussex each summer, brings together pupils from Steiner schools across Britain and Ireland. The children prepare for, and participate in a day of competitions in a pentathlon of discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump and running. The qualities of grace, beauty and athleticism are emphasised, and winners and non-winners are celebrated!