Lower School children are inspired deeply by their feelings and by the beauty of the world around them. They respond powerfully to the tools and methods used in Waldorf Education, which engages their feelings through music, art, movement, and drama, and enlivens learning through in-depth study of a topic using an experiential, hands-on approach.
Imagination plays an important role in the early grades, helping the child to develop an inner experience of the subject matter. Social, emotional, and practical skills are emphasized, as well as academic skills.
Each day in the EWS Lower School begins with a Main Lesson of 2 hours, during which the class teacher presents the day's lesson artistically, descriptively, and dramatically and leads the children in activities relating to the subject. After a brief snack time and recess, the 40-minute long Special Subject classes begin: Handwork, Music, Spanish, Physical Education, and in the Middle School, Language Arts, Math, Chorus, and Practical Arts. The children create their own “textbooks”, or Main Lesson books, which are beautiful, artistic, academic representations of what they have learned.
Lower School Schedule
- Grades 1-5 start at 8:30am
- Grades 6-8 start at 8:15am
- All grades end at 3:15pm
The early Years
Infusing Academics with Wonder and Reverence
The children come to first grade full of curiosity and are met by their teacher who fosters the skills necessary to learn, to work, and to play in an atmosphere of warmth and reverence. Many subjects are introduced, and even if the child is already familiar with the content, the wonder and beauty that the teacher brings hold the students’ attention as they start on their academic path. The students hear folk and fairy tales that will lead to letters and simple writing. Nature stories introduce the qualities of the numbers. From knitting and modeling with beeswax, to the daily movement and eurythmy, to finger games and verses, to singing and reciting poetry, the children actively engage in their learning process. Playing the recorder, performing simple chores, celebrating the festivals and participating in cooperative games are also part of the first grader’s experience. In addition, EWS first graders begin learning Spanish through immersion into songs, stories, verses, and games, developing a sense for a foreign language and culture, as well as a lifelong love of learning languages.
Taking three days to learn a single letter may seem long but it is the depth of that learning that allows the child to move forward with confidence.
Coming to first grade means a student will have the opportunity to look out into the world and begin to develop his or her discernment capabilities. The first lesson taught is the drawing of straight lines and curved lines. This simple task, performed with intention and care, lays the foundation of how the students are asked to approach their work. From that day forward, a teacher may refer back to this first lesson, even in eighth grade. Each year builds on the ones before and a class teacher carries not only the present but the past and future of the elementary grades.
Active Thinking, Keen Discerning
The curriculum and experiences in the second grade year build on the foundation of first grade, transitioning the students from the experience of one and the whole to duality and comparison. The children enter into second grade with an established relationship with their class teacher. This sets the stage for an easy start, and the class is ready to get to work from the first day of school. The scope of the second grade curriculum juxtaposes fables with legends drawn from diverse cultures. The stories further develop the students’ writing and reading skills. Descriptions of the animals in the fable precede the story, which is told without moralizing. The students gain a deep intuitive grasp of human moral lessons brought through the characterizations of the various animals. At the same time, the highest moral striving of humanity is portrayed through legends of individuals and their accomplishments. On one hand, the stories of noble deeds and self sacrifice cultivate a sense of wonder and admiration for human striving; on the other hand, the animals, with more self-serving antics, often mirror the children’s lower self. This polarity is seen so clearly in the second grader; in hearing these ancient stories, the child is able better discern him or herself in sometimes a humorous or other times a deeply meaningful manner.
Coming to second grade gives the student the opportunity to gain the tools and skills for active thinking and working. The Language Arts lessons include parts of speech, more writing, and oral recitation. The four operations of Math are continued using memorization, practice, and more challenging problems. Place value and adding and subtracting with carrying and borrowing are introduced. For the child, this second grade year is a working year and a social year, as the child learns how to be a part of a class, while exploring his or her independent nature.
Working Hard to Achieve Goals
Third grade reflects the students’ transition from a paradise-like experience to living firmly on the earth. As the child grows more aware of the world, concerns, questions, and fears may arise. The third grade curriculum helps the children work through uncertainty by engaging them in practical activities that help them connect to living on the earth. Teachers utilize cooking, farming, simple woodworking, and other useful activities to build confidence and skills in the third grade student.
The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden mirrors the children’s coming down to earth, and through the stories of the Old Testament, the students learn about the suffering and joys of life. Greater work is expected from the children, from composition writing to spelling tests, knowing how to measure and use money, learning cursive writing and the names of the punctuation marks. The third grader experiences hard work and the confidence it brings.