The Waldorf main lesson curriculum is traditionally taught to each grade individually; each grade-level experiences a set of blocks that are intended for their specific age group based on the correlation between the block content and the developmental stage of the child. Beginning with 2020-2021 school year, the Charlottesville Waldorf School is adapting to a new model of class structure which we refer to as the Bay School Model. The Bay School Model combines classes of two ages — eight- and nine-year-olds, for example — in each classroom. Though this is a departure from the Waldorf convention, the Bay School Model is recognized within the community of Waldorf schools as a viable and sustainable model.
There are several advantages to this model that we believe strengthen our school and pedagogy:
- It allows classes to reach healthy sizes, providing opportunities to develop sensitivity to group work, varieties of friendships, and an appreciation for a differentiation of tasks and expectations based on each student’s unique learning journey.
- Classes feel like families with siblings of various ages, strengths, and challenges that contribute to a rich social mix. This demands alertness and flexibility in the teacher, movement against complacency in the curriculum.
- Older students can mentor younger classmates, and the younger students help the older classmates to stay fresh and curious.
- In skills classes (mathematics, language arts), older students who need remedial work have the opportunity to master skills before stepping forward into the next grade; younger grade students have the opportunity to stretch their skills a little further than if they were in a straight grade class.
Due to the uniqueness of the first grade child and the curriculum, and recognizing the necessity of these young children to form as a grade school class, every year the Charlottesville Waldorf School will have a standalone 1st grade. For the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, we will have a standalone 1st grade, a 2/3 combined class, a 4/5 combined class, a 6/7 combined class, and a standalone 8th grade.
Class teachers of combined classes are adjusting the traditional main lesson block schedule to meet both ages within their class. As each mixed grade class has its own “character”, there can be no universal formula that all teachers will use to adjust the schedule, but every CWS teacher is consciously working to meet both age groups within his/her class and planning each year accordingly. This is a challenge our teachers have taken up this year already in preparation, and there is a lot of rejuvenated excitement in our faculty for developing the curriculum going forward.