Special Subjects - Expanding the Student’s Scope
In Waldorf education the primary classroom teacher holds a strong bond with the students whom they may educate for a substantial number of years. But it is really a team of teachers that mentor each student in the rich diversity of the curriculum. The special subjects teachers support many different aspects of the child's development. Thus besides the main lessons⎯or morning blocks⎯with the primary teacher, students also study with a variety of specialists in rotating topics. Each special subjects teacher is a recognized and adept expert in their field. They bring years of experience and customized training to their topics and specifically teach the curriculum to meet and support the students developmental progress. Here are some of the integral special subjects offerings:
Gym classes provide structured activities in 3rd through 12th grade for students to improve balance, agility, strength, coordination and to hone the development of manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and other integrated learning skills. Physical development in gym is interwoven with social dynamics, communications skills and organizational thinking. Students of all ages and development levels are introduced to a wide variety of movement activities that include circus arts, team sports, track & field, dance, archery, imaginative games, weight training and more. Through these activities students learn to follow rules, understand teamwork and cooperation, enjoy camaraderie, face challenges and strive to reach their own potential through personal breakthroughs and coordinated effort.
Students are taught both Spanish & German in alternating blocks as part of the standard World Languages curriculum that starts in first grade and continues through the end of middle school. High school students then choose either German or Spanish as a language for further dedicated study. Chicago Waldorf School offers a strong language exchange program that provides High School students the option of hosting and staying with a Waldorf student from a European or Latin American country and attending their Waldorf school as a means of cultural and social immersion in the student’s chosen study of language and its originating cultures.
As a part of our pedagogical arts programming, handwork instruction begins in first grade and continues through high school. Handwork includes learning manual skills in felting, crocheting, knitting, sewing, basketry, weaving, dyeing and bookbinding. These skills are taught to aid students' dexterity, focus, motor-coordination and integrative capacities. Many studies have shown that such kinesthetic learning amplifies cognitive skills: so the patterning and complex systems engaged in crocheting, weaving and knitting also aids in the conception of mathematical patterns and systems operations in higher order mathematics. Similarily handwork experimentation with materials and transformative processes like dyeing and saturating solutions, the burnishing and enamelling of copper, and similar chemical processes connect the students to scientific exploration and enhance their undersanding of the physical properties and chemical underpinnings of our world.
Eurythmy is a performing art that engages aspects of dance, music, poetry, speech and kinesthetic expression. A feature unique to Waldorf education, the beautiful, spiritual and emotional art of eurythmy introduces students to the frameworks underlying speech and music through movement. The study of Eurythmy develops concentration, spatial orientation and dexterity and engages students in the study of enhanced rhythms of speech and music as experienced and interpreted through the whole body.
Music lessons are taught by both the main class teachers and by special subjects music teachers. Singing is an integral component of all classroom activity in the Early Childhood and Grades curriculum. Additionally, first graders begin instrumental music instruction in pentatonic flute and lyre. Third graders begin string instruction with a choice of violin, viola, cello or bass. Students in grades five and up sing in choral groups and participate in either band or orchestra. High school students participate in chorus as well as selecting a music elective. Their choices include string ensemble, jazz band, percussion, guitar and vocal ensemble. All year round, in numerous opportunities, Waldorf students perform instrumental, orchestral, and choral compositions in public performances, school assemblies, musical plays and special community events.
Studio Arts (Fine Arts and Applied Crafts)
Specialized art blocks (3-4 week periods of study) provide opportunities for students to explore a wide range of traditional art forms and media. Students learn Modeling and Sculpture with beeswax figures in the early grades followed by stone sculpture and ceramics in the High School. Students begin Painting with wet-on-wet watercolor in the 1st grade; this practice is usually taught by class teachers until High School, at which point students take lessons in veil painting, portraiture and landscape painting with oils. Drawing is a core skill for students illustrating their main lesson books. In High School the students continue this discipline with studies in black and white drawing, block printing and drawing the human form. Woodworking often begins in 5th grade and continues into the High School. Metalworking is taught in grades 9-12 including form building in beaten copper and enameling.