MRS. NAUGHTON'S 4TH AND 5TH GRADE DISPLAY WINDOW!
Seek within your own being
And you find the world:
Seek in the sway of the world
And you find yourself:
Mark the swing of the pendulum
Between the self and the world
Then is revealed to you
World-being in humanity
Humanity in the world.
If you haven't yet seen the beautiful display in the foyer of the school, then be sure to see it before the end of the month! As well as seeing some fine drawings, and some fluid cursive, you'll get a taste of some of the content that the students in Mrs. Naughton's class are studying this year. Below is a description of what might be considered the beginnings of the sciences, in a more formal meaning of the word, in a Waldorf school.
ZOOLOGY - Having recently come through the trials of the nine-year change, it can be a gift to the preadolescent to begin to develop an appreciation of how boundless and adaptable their human capacities really are. This is why the study of animals, who exemplify adaptability, comes at this time. One of the central themes running through this incredibly important block in a child's experience at AWS, is the specialized nature of the animal kingdom as compared with the relatively generalized capacities of the human being. Each animal that is studied represents a one-sided, or exaggerated capacity, that is mirrored in a less specialized way in the human being. The human being, however, being upright, is able to create, through clear, creative thinking, tools to move us beyond our otherwise limited capacities.
The octopus, a cephalopod, can be seen as representative of our head. What is meant by this? In the human being our heads are the home to our eyes, ears, mouths, noses, to our sensory experiences. We take in our environment through our senses. The part of ourselves that brings order to our sense experiences, our brain, exists in its own watery world of cerebral spinal fluid. The octopus, with its far reaching, numerous appendages (a mirror of our sense organs) has a remarkable capacity to take in and respond to its environment. Just as our faces, reflect our emotions (blushing, blanching) the octopus can change its color in the blink of an eye. In such a way, numerous animals can be characterized until a whole picture of human capacities are found within the animal kingdom.
Through dynamic descriptions of different animals and their natural environments, the children imaginatively slip into the skins of these animals in order to feel the inherent wisdom alive in creation. Through artistic work such as painting, poetry and drawing, they are able to give expression to the feelings that are being awakened within them. The remarkable depth with which this particular group of students have taken up this work is evident in their drawings and written descriptions. Have a look at the showcase to see for yourself. There is a turkey buzzard that it just about to fly off the page!
BOTANY - Currently Mrs. Naughton's classes are taking up their introduction to botany. Not unlike the way zoology is taught, it is integral to the study of botany, in the Waldorf school, that the plants are studied in the context of their natural environment. Plants, therefore, are not studied as isolated specimens but rather as an integrated part of their entire environmental context. Unlike animals, that almost speak to us, plants have a more subtle way of expressing themselves and to appreciate the nature of the plant world the students need to develop a quieter more patient method of observation.
Johann von Goethe, the world-famous playwright, artist and natural scientist in the early 1800's and author of his botanical treatise The Metamorphosis of the Plant, brought us the phenomenological approach to science . Teachers and students in the Waldorf movement, in all the sciences, strive to emulate this very disciplined method of observation that begins with the actual phenomenon before us and recognizes that it is impossible to separate ourselves from participation in nature. The students begin with careful observations and then Mrs. Naughton leads them to find the connections and reflections between their studies and themselves. And before long, the plants are almost talking!
Talking about talking plants... Mrs. Naughton's students will be performing their class play, inspired by their botanical studies, on Thursday, February 14th. Don't miss it!
Also in the display window and not to be missed, are the fourth grader's cross-stitch projects! Wow! This four-fold project includes elements of design, an introduction to thinking graphically (something that will come again more abstractly in 8th grade), as well as bringing the students a rhythmic, mid-line crossing exercise that establishes and activates pathways in the brain.
Brain cell development is strengthened when the fine motor muscles in our hands and fingers (our toes too!) are actively engaged. Developing dexterity in our fine motor muscles is our foundation for clear thinking. Handwork projects ask the children to plan ahead, to progress step by step and to give sequence to the steps. The students learn to create and envision a project, whole to parts and parts to whole again. These skills carry over into math, spelling, reading and writing.
Symmetry that is mirrored in all four quadrants is discussed before the students get to work on graph paper. The children design geometric patterns. The design is then transferred to the fabric by carefully counting stitches and squares. It is both challenging and pleasing to try to keep the design symmetrical. Attention to detail is a necessity. While the work is satisfying in itself, this cross-stitch project is brought to preadolescence in Waldorf schools in order to fortify them for all that is being asked of them by their other teachers. Do have a look at some of the stunning work that is now on display until the end of the month!