We talk about 8th grade at Madrona School as a culmination of the grade school journey. Even in Waldorf schools that offer high school, 8th grade marks the end of what has likely been a multi-year relationship between a teacher and his/her class, as well as between the students, some of whom have been together for many years. In our 8th grade this year, there are students who've been classmates since preschool, and others who've joined as recently as last year. Regardless, it feels like a family.
Our students are eagerly looking ahead to high school and the next step, but they are also nostaglic and may be beginning to reflect on their school journeys (wave a kindergarten bread bun in front of them for a sentimental demonstration, for example). They enjoy the freedom of their basement classroom, set a bit apart from the rest of the school, with its separate entrance and access to an outdoor eating area. They remain connected to the life of the school though, through work with younger grades, morning recess, and a weekly rhythm of choir and strings with the other middle schoolers.
The 8th grade class is engaged in main lesson blocks with their class teacher, Mr. Nottage. They began their year with revolutions -- studying the American and French revolutions, and moving into the foundations and order of our American government that resulted from these historical events. Typically this is a lesson block brought in 8th grade Waldorf classrooms, and teachers emphasize that this study recognizes what is going on internally for an 8th grader as they work through the rich and often radical changes happening as they grow into young adults.
The class moved into physiology mid-October, examining the skeletal system, and combining science and art, studying the order and beauty that literally carries us around. Organic chemistry and the geometry of solids will also be studied this fall, and after the winter break the class will study hydraulics and aerodynamics, economic geography and civil and labor rights. The curriculum draws on the students' burgeoning capacities for critical thinking, and their ever-increasing sophistication with writing and other forms of communication. The dinner table discussions get ever more interesting, especially as they move into an understanding of current events.
In other class periods, language arts offers more opportunity for self-expression in creative writing, as well as a sampling of biography. Math builds on what has come before, and supports othe theme of transformation, with the class recently exploring number bases beyond base 10, for example. Other specialty classes include handwork (sewing on machines), games, middle school choir and strings ensemble.
Watch for more from our 8th grade as the year develops. Long-term independent projects offer each student a chance to explore something they are interested in and they work with a mentor over several months. The projects end with presentations to the school community (set for April 13th), and you will all be invited, as these students demonstrate a Waldorf education's preparation beyond academics -- with emphasis on self-expression and self-possession. Then, two weeks later, the class play celebrates eight years of creating drama together. Finally, in early June, the week-long class trip offers a final field trip of sorts, this one highlighting the journey and growth of the class as a community. Graduation marks their public celebration of this journey, and you will be invited to come help us send off this amazing group of young people. It's going to be a great year!
--originally published in our October 17 newsletter