Teaching changes significantly in the sixth grade to address new conceptual capacities that are awakening in the children as they approach adolescence. The curriculum, as well as the needs of individual students, becomes increasingly complex through the next few years. The newly and often chaotically emerging individuality of the pre-adolescent yearns to find a place within the world that is unique and recognized and respected by others. The sixth grade is a firm, intentional step into the outer world. It is an arrival upon the earth. Changes in the physical body as the children approach age 12 become noticeable. There is an increased awareness of gravity and weight; hormones begin to affect the feeling and emotional life as well as physical maturity; and differences between male and female development become a source of interest. The themes explored over the course of this school year are chosen expressly to assist both the inner and outer questing of these young people.
The more traditional sciences enter into the child's experience as they begin to study physics. Parents are able to observe the true beauty of the 'phenomenological' approach of Waldorf Sciences as their children are taught to observe phenomenon through the scientific method, while also viewing everything in the world (and beyond) as an open 'living concept' full of evolving possibilities.
Sixth graders are moving into more complex work with geometry and mathematics and at age twelve have an expanded capacity for reasoning and logical thinking. All this is reflected in the handwork curriculum as well. Students envision, create the pattern, and sew a three-dimensional stuffed animal.
In the older grades the children begin to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of music, song, instruments and rhythm. The children study music from the times, regions and cultures they are studying to gain a deeper more enriching understanding of different people and movements in consciousness from around the world.
Bi-weekly Hike/Nature-Based Field Trip
While studying the medieval games our sixth graders train in medieval skills such as castle-wall climbing, stilt walking and archery. At the end of the year they gather with children from other Arizona Waldorf schools at the Desert Marigold campus in Phoenix for a three-day hands-on Medieval History festival/lesson. The excerpt below from Desert Marigold gives an image of the spirit of this event:
"During this event the campus is transformed back into that era with a beautiful display of pageantry. The Medieval Games are a tradition which offers each student the opportunity to practice the seven virtues in his/her own life, build relationships and trust with other squires, develop new physical skills and shine during the two days of challenges. At the Knighting Ceremony the students reflect upon what he/she has experienced, and is recognized at the Closing Ceremony for his/her virtuous acts.
The Medieval Games are celebrated in many Waldorf schools around the world. The pedagogical reasons for The Grade Six Medieval Games undergird the whole event and the preparation toward it. One reason is to provide the beginnings of the child starting to look at himself in a new way, especially in relation to virtue and one’s control over one’s own inner human development. Another is to offer students from a small school the opportunity to connect with other students who are pursuing physical, academic, and moral excellence in a similar way. A third is to step away from our egalitarian social stream into a more ancient hierarchical (and yet still trustworthy) way of being so that each student can see a strong-and-upright leadership model to internalize. This model is very different from the other heroes/leaders our society offers. And there are many other reasons…including that an education can often be enormously fun!"