5th Grade - The Golden Year


Developmental Picture of the Student

Fifth grade is referred to as the “golden year” because students at this age are enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. A sense of self-consciousness emerges, yet they remain confident and harmonious with their surroundings. They develop an ordered sense of space and time, and hold a deeper understanding of personal responsibility and the ethics of right and wrong.

How the Curriculum Meets the 5th Grader

The students learn the history of ancient civilizations including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. These histories of human deeds and strivings present the child with a broad picture of the diverse experience of humanity. They study the mythologies and religions of these cultures and discuss their philosophies of creation, life and death. Working with early forms of writing, geometry and architecture, the fifth graders experience, in part, the roots of modern culture. Through these classical stories, students develop inner imagination and empathy with an ancient world that is  different from their own.

Fifth grade also marks an important learning transition out of  mythology into history. Through study of the ancient Greeks, students develop an appreciation for the balance between skill and beauty, art and science, earthly life and spirituality. Studying the biography of Alexander the Great marks a substantial shift from mythology to documented history. The students enter the world of human leaders, historical campaigns and real world events.

In mathematics, decimal notation used in the four operations is introduced while students continue with fractions, multi-digit problem solving and word problems. They also learn freehand geometry to gain a sense of the structure of space and delineated form. Studying botany nurtures the fifth grader’s dawning acceptance of the beauty of the world as they balance scientific observation with aesthetic appreciation.

The year ends with the biography of Alexander the Great—a compelling story of a human leader engaged in an epic quest of self-determination.

In studying North American geography, students examine how and why people live and work in specific regions. Students select one of the 50 states to profile in a research paper and verbal presentation on the state’s history. They discuss how soil, landscape and location influences cultures. Their exploration of Native American history includes the people’s practical, cultural and spiritual relationship to the land.

In weekly gym class, students practice the five events of a Greek Pentathlon: discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump and running. In the spring the class participates in an all day Pentathlon festival and competition with other regional Waldorf schools. This is the culmination of the student’s physical individualism before they enter, in sixth grade, the new dynamics of team-based sports.


The seasons and environmental climate are studied in the 5th grade curriculum's German Block.




- Botany
- Decimals
- Freehand Geometry

- Greek Mythology
- Independent Writing
- Reading Vocabulary and Grammar

- Ancient Civilizations, including India, Persia, 
  Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece
- North American Geography
- Native American Cultures

- Painting and Drawing
- Sculptural Modeling

- Four Needle Knitting

- Students have the option to switch from
  strings to a wind or brass instrument
- Students have the option to continue in
  orchestra or switch to beginning band
- Recorder and singing
- Music literacy
- Students participate in combined chorus


- Individual physical development in Pentathlon:
  discus, javelin, long jump, wrestling, running
- Eurythmy for balance, poise, alertness and
  synchronous movement

- Alternating 6-week blocks of German and 
  Spanish provide cultural exposure, develop
  memory, language, translative thinking and
  vocabulary skills

- Pentathlon: three days in Hartland, Wisconsin
  with students from other Waldorf schools; all
  presenting their physical accomplishments in
  a classic Greek sporting event with rituals
  focused on principles of Beauty & Truth.

- 5th grade play: typically based on one of the
  myths presented in the study of ancient
  cultures. Past plays have included: Theseus
& the Minotaur, The Light of Isis and Osiris,
  and The Fall of Troy.

- Choral singing at Christkindlmarket: students
  singing traditional and seasonal songs in
  German at this annual neighborhood festival
  and community event

- Oriental Institute or Field Museum: visit to a
  museum dedicated to the study of the
  Ancient Near East allows students to
  witness firsthand the culture and art of 
  ancient civilizations



  • Author Topic Statements and write rough drafts; present and incorporate revisions to book reports and a research paper
  • Organize and Study take home math sheets and prepare for weekly spelling tests
  • Complex Memorization of their lines and actions for parts in the 5th grade play
  • Develop Mastery in practice of music for string instruments (Violin, Viola, Cello or Bass) and in physical events for Pentathlon
  • Model Academic Responsibility including punctuality with deadlines