The Third grade is a turning point as the children move through a stage of childhood that Waldorf teachers refer to as the nine-year-change. The child begins to grow apart from the world, discovering her own identity. Questions arise about attachment to parents, friends, and nature. Insecurity about relationships and impermanence can overwhelm; however, the child also begins to enjoy solitude and everything practical. As the child feels a loss of something safe from childhood, she strengthens her relationship to nature and others. The curriculum rises to meet the 3rd grade student at this challenging place of reestablishing oneself in the world.
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3rd grade incorporates a love for animals and plants into the curriculum, caring for the planet. Practical farming and gardening skills are taught with measurement and grammar culminating in the extraordinary class adventure of an overnight farm stay. The children identify natural cycles, seasonal traits, tend a garden, and make compost. Students complete small building projects, often benefitting the whole school. A large project takes cooperation and communication, as early peoples discovered. Stories of the Hebrew people provide characters and plots with moral challenges, contrasting good and bad. Nine-year-olds revel in the clarity of opposites.
Children apply practical arithmetic to counting money, measuring, cooking, and telling time. Mental math exercises build on recitations and multiplication table rhythms. Students learn parts of speech as naming, describing, and doing words. Grammar enlivens a rational element in the language, introduced slowly and creatively along with the paragraph and punctuation. The students copy teacher writings and also write their own sentences, imitating their teacher’s colorful illustrative drawings. Narratives fill all lessons whether an Old Testament story, the steps of a building project, or a farm trip description. The class paints weekly, creating images from main lessons or farm life, using other studies of color.
Having learned to sing beautifully in unison, students in music class now create harmony. They first sing a melody along with a drone or ostinato pattern, then eventually sing in canon or round. They move to a diatonic recorder. In spring, each student chooses a stringed instrument (violin, viola, cello) to play under the guidance of the Orchestra instructor. In Handwork, the students learn to crochet and make pot holders, hats and granny squares. They also process raw wool and learn to spin wool into yarn after the farm trip. In Spanish, games and vocabulary exercises engage the students. In Movement, cooperative games are played to work with the nine-year-old’s desire to live into an “us and them” division, while other games work to show the importance of working together as a closely bound group.