Revolution, evolution, resolution
The Waldorf Curriculum reaches children ages 7 to 14 through their hearts. Every year we study cultures and histories that reflect in the outer world what the students are undergoing within. By eighth grade, they are questioning everything, challenging the world to show them ideals as well as flaws, looking for guidance in ideas, in history, the culture and the people they find around them. The narrative of the history and sciences of eighth grade are just as exciting and tumultuous as our students’ inner lives.
In grade eight we study revolutions—the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution among them. What happens when our individual desires for freedom clash with the good of others? What is the nature and purpose of human rights? Of law? How can they be in balance? At the idealistic and culturally aware age of our eighth graders, the discussions can grow quite lively. Why is today’s world the way it is? Our history studies progress right up to the present day.
As always, our historical and cultural studies form a jumping-off point for language arts, providing vocabulary words, essay topics, and more. We place great emphasis on grammar. The students may revel in teen slang, but in English class the prerequisite is precision, and proper and ever more expressive and intelligent writing and speaking. Our language has an underlying structure, and its study brings clarity in both expression and thinking. Analysis of the novel moves from plot to underlying themes, and students are led to argue and defend their points of view in persuasive writing.
The growth and hardening of the children’s skeletons opens the door to the anatomical study of the skeleton and its musculature. The students’ earlier studies of the simple machines in grade seven physics return to aid in understanding the skeleton in motion, and the chemical lime cycle of last year’s chemistry appears once again, transformed within us as the skeleton. Anatomy and physiology segue to chemistry, where we explore sugars, starches, cellulose, proteins, and fats and the way these substances work in building the plant world around us and in our own metabolism. In eighth grade main lessons, and within each lesson itself, the focus of learning shifts from outer world to inner world and back again.
The physics curriculum may include acoustics, optics, thermodynamics, meteorology, electromagnetism, and hydraulics.
Studies in mathematics include algebra, areas and volumes of polyhedra, number bases, further exploration of the theorem of Pythagoras, binomials, percents, and growth rates. Our geometry studies focus on the properties and construction of the five platonic solids: cubes, tetrahedrons, octahedrons, dodecahedrons, and icosahedrons.
World citizens and school leaders
If they haven’t already done so, geography addresses the formations, culture and history of the continent of Asia and begins to look at the formations of the earth as a whole. As the year comes to a close, the students have gained a comprehensive understanding of their world, physically and culturally.
The students have been performing a class play each year, but the eighth grade performance is usually something special. For example, having studied England’s Elizabethan period, written sonnets, and delved into the history of our English language, it’s not uncommon to stage a Shakespearean comedy.
They do it—juggling, tight-wire acts, clowning, or whatever ingenious ideas they develop through many arduous house of practice—for the joy of achievement, for the great pleasure of pleasing an audience and bringing smiles to all faces, and because it is fun.
Our eighth graders are encouraged to become the leaders in our student body as well. At the start of their final year at Seacoast Waldorf School, the eighth graders welcome the new first graders into the journey through the grades, individually, with the presentation of a rose to each. Throughout the year the bond between each pair of eighth/first graders strengthens. The older students have the responsibility to foster these young new members of the school community, teaching them their first knitting lessons, drawing and carving their pumpkins in the fall, taking them for walks, perhaps reading to them from time to time. By the end of their final year, each of the first graders is poised enough to present “their” eighth grader with a farewell rose and a loving embrace.
Before graduation, grade eight takes the class trip the students have worked toward all year. These are typically milestones in the children’s lives.
- American history
- History of European expansion
- The major revolutions (American, French, Russian, Industrial)
- Geometry of Platonic solids
- Mathematics, algebra and volumes
- Anatomy and physiology
- Organic chemistry
- World geography
- Asian geography
- Foreign languages – German and Spanish
- Instrumental ensemble
- Physical education
- Independent project
- Business practicum