Starting in the grades, special subject classes become an integral part of the curriculum. Students meet with the special subject teachers outside of main lesson several times a week.
Art (Grades 3 to 8)
At Mountain Phoenix, art is everywhere. You will find it in the curriculum, in the main lesson books, on the chalkboards, and throughout the classrooms and hallways. It is used as a tool for teaching and a way of understanding learning.
Art class always ties in with the main lesson themes in each grade. The more connection that is created between the main lesson studies, and what the students are creating in the art room, the deeper the learning becomes.
Once or twice a week, every grade from 3 to 8 class comes to the art room to focus their studies on the visual arts.
Music (Grades 3 to 8)
“Many teachers have discovered that music can also be a powerful means of integrating other aspects of the curriculum. By tapping into the experiential and expressive aspects of music, teachers can add a distinctive dimension to instruction in other subjects. This insight has been used to develop interesting and productive pedagogical models like the Waldorf schools in Europe and the United States. In the Waldorf schools, for example, the goal is the education of the whole human being by paying attention to the needs of the human spirit. The arts particularly are used as part of a theory of human development that helps children find nonverbal modes of expression and understanding.” (Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education, The Report of the National Commission on Music Education, March 1991)
Music classes become part of the curriculum at MPCS in third grade, at which time students are all required to join the Orchestra. Students in orchestra focus on the stringed instruments, which are violin, viola, cello, and bass. We perform music from multiple genres, including traditional fiddle music, classical standards, and even pop! They participate in orchestra until the fifth grade when they have the option of switching to band.
Band offers a variety of instruments including Brass: tuba, baritone, trombone, trumpet. Woodwinds: Tenor, Baritone and Alto saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Oboe, Bassoon. Percussion: Marimba, Snare, Bass, Toms and hand percussion. The band performs a variety of music ranging from classical to modern at four concerts a year.
Apart from Band and Orchestra, students also take part in Choir, where they learn various folk songs as well as holiday songs.
Handwork (Grades 1 to 8)
“We cannot underestimate the self-esteem and joy that arises in the child as the result of having made something practical and beautiful – something which has arisen as the result of a skill that has been learned. In an age when children are often passive consumers, who, as Oscar Wilde once said ‘know the price of everything and the value of nothing,’ learning to knit can be a powerful way of bringing meaning into a child’s life.” – Eugene Schwartz
Handwork includes, but is not limited to, knitting, crocheting, hand sewing, embroidery, cross stitch, wet felting, paper crafts and machine sewing. Students are taught a progression of developmentally-appropriate skills that support and inform what they are learning in different areas of the curriculum. A sampling of the many benefits of handwork:
- Increases fine motor skills
- Aids brain development
- Develops math skills
- Teaches the process, importance, and joy of finishing a project
- Unleashes creativity
- Strengthens hand-eye coordination
- Improves concentration
Students in Grades One to Eight take handwork courses. In Grades One through Five, handwork is a key part of the curriculum and all students take handwork two to three times a week depending on their schedules. Upper School students choose from a variety of handwork electives each semester.
Spanish (Grade 1 to 8)
The approach to foreign language learning in Waldorf Schools is, of course, a very creative one, and shares something in common with other immersion methods. Foreign Language in Waldorf Schools also looks quite different during grades one through four than it does during grades five through eight. The early grades are all about imitation, singing, and gestures, and it should be a bit like conducting an orchestra. By the third or fourth grade, this orchestra changes a bit as children become individuals and are ready to now understand what they are saying or singing. They awaken a bit like a seed and are not as willing nor as able to literally jump in and dance and join with a group singing or reciting a memorized poem. The upper grades (four through eight) are a time when the learning of grammar is encouraged in the Waldorf Method, as it is grounding for the child. They are more in the head and are ready to write down that long poem memorized in the second grade, and then later they even take it apart. Upper grades also do a lot of skits and short dialogues, as well as sometimes drawing and writing songs in books, as the arts are encouraged for all subjects.
Students in Grades 1 to 8 meet with their Spanish teacher twice a week.
Games (Grades 1 to 8)
Healthy children thrive on movement imbued with purpose, creativity, and fun. At Mountain Phoenix our children are blessed with lots of time outdoors as they play games designed to strengthen stamina, ignite their imagination, and gracefully coordinate movements, all while supporting social health as they delight in the universal language of play. As they interact physically, they learn about each other emotionally. They learn not only how to perform a movement, but when…when to let the other reach the ball, when to thrust into action or withdraw in preparation and anticipation, how to be a group, a team, a class, or to simply be the best individuals they can be.
Depending on the children’s age and state of development, the Games curriculum stages movement as an augmenting tool to lift the spirits while strengthening the body and solidifying camaraderie within the class. Sometimes they have a goal, sometimes they have a vision, but mostly they have joy in the movements, and the movements feed a larger sense of health, both physically and in the sense of belonging to community.
All grades students have games class several times a week.
Eurythmy (Grades 1 to 3)
Eurythmy is putting language and music into movement. The student learns how to make speech visible by using movements that represent the letters of the alphabet and grammar. The same is true for Eurythmy as visible music. The student will learn movements for all the tones in music, for major and minor, and how to express the music of different instruments.
Eurythmy opens for the children a new and deeper understanding of language and music from the one they would have from “just” talking or playing music. The experience of learning Eurythmy gives students the opportunity to go beyond a theoretical understanding of language and music.
A classroom teacher can work on a deeper level with children who have Eurythmy than with the children who don’t. For one thing, they can understand language and music in a much more advanced way, but they also develop social skills which will enrich the learning experience. In the Waldorf curriculum, Eurythmy is one way to develop the three basic soul emotions of thinking, feeling, and the will.