Fifth grade is referred to as the “golden year” because students at this age are especially enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. Even in the social realm, students display a harmony in interactions that will soon be transformed in the complexities of the adolescent years. This developmental stage is reflected in the curriculum as the students study ancient civilizations and the emergence of many of the great moral teachings of the world. This year’s study focuses particularly on ancient Greece and the cultural expressions of the balance of skill and beauty, art and science, earthly life and spirituality.
The transition from mythology to history takes place this year as the study begins to explore the impact of individuals, and the atmosphere in the classroom changes as the focus shifts more to individual academic work with growing emphasis on personal responsibility.
A highlight of the fifth-grade year is the Greek Pentathlon, a social event in which the students meet fifth-grade classes from neighboring Waldorf schools to compete in the classic Greek athletic events of discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump and running. This celebratory event is dedicated to athleticism and individual skill and effort, the culminating event in this golden year of human balance.
Main Learning Objectives
The Main Lesson study in fifth grade examines ancient civilizations, usually including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, with a special emphasis on Greece. Students learn of the mythologies from these cultures and discuss their philosophies regarding creation, life, death, and religion. Individual student writing expands to book reports, short independent essays, research papers, and longer dictations. Grammar, spelling, vocabulary development and research skills are emphasized in this year’s work, which continues to include recitation and dramatic presentations. The class presents a dramatic production of a Greek myth.
Continued practice with fractions, multi-digit problem solving and story problems continue. The class is introduced to decimal notation and works with decimals in the four arithmetic operations. Geometry is introduced and the students study the plane figures with free-hand drawing.
The fifth-grade curriculum introduces the students to the study of Botany, investigating plants and the relationship between beauty and function, enhancing awareness of the natural world and its relationship to the human being. Observation as a scientific method is used, and the students practice care and accuracy in noting what they observe.
North America is the focus of study in grade five, looking at the continent, its shape, and major features, and acknowledging, through biography, story, and song, the role of people in North America’s cultural history. Each student undertakes a research project and presentation on one state.
Moving from mythology to history in the study of ancient civilizations, students learn of early forms of writing, the birth of the alphabet, geometry, architecture, commerce, and other roots of modern culture.
As in the early grades, art permeates all lessons of the year. Children continue to develop their skills representing images from their lessons in graphic and three-dimensional form. Depending on the choices of the teacher, form drawing continues, either as an independent art form or merging with the mathematical work in geometry.
Students continue with story and verse to build vocabulary and power of expression in Spanish, moving deeper into the study of grammar and the structure of language.
Work with knitting, sewing and crocheting continues in this year. Students knit socks on four needles and sometimes continue with a second article of clothing. Woodwork classes begin, and the students are introduced to wood shaping with hand carving tools. Gardening in relation to the Botany block continues in the biodynamic farm, River Road Gardens, on the River Bend campus.
Students continue to sing and play together with their class teacher, with part and harmony singing developed through rounds and the introduction of harmonic parts. Students continue to study strings with a specialty teacher.
Cooperative games and overall fitness continue the focus of the work in movement turning to preparation for the Greek Pentathlon. Students practice with the discus, javelin, long jump, running and Greek wrestling, striving for grace and beauty in form, and skill in delivery.