The Waldorf Curriculum: Grade Seven

Block Rotations and Course Descriptions

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As he or she progresses through Grades One through Eight, the Waldorf class teacher must determine not only what will be taught, but also how and when. The “block rotation” presented here, as well as the descriptions of the subjects to be taught and the week-by-week approach to this teaching, will hopefully inspire class teachers to develop their own modus operandi for this challenging task.

Note: Elements of Grade Seven, a CD-ROM with many images of student work from this grade, as well as a class play, may be purchased at the millennialchild.com Online CD Catalog.

NEW! For a dynamic view of the interrelated subjects of the Seventh Grade Curriculum click here.

Seventh
Grade Main Lesson Block Rotation
Eugene Schwartz, class teacher

September 4 – September 27    Perspective Drawing
      
September 30 – October 11    Late Medieval History
      
October 15 – November 1    Mathematics
      
November 4 – November 22    Grammar
      
November 25 – December 20    Physiology
      
January 6 – January 17    Geography & Age of Exploration
      
January 21 – February 14    Work on Class Play
      
February 24 – March 21    Physics
      
March 24 – April 16    Renaissance History
      
April 28 – May 16    Chemistry
      
May19 – May 23 (Tentative)    Class Trip
      
May 27 – June 13    Mathematics
•         Our Class Play school performances will be on the evenings of February 13th and 14th.
•         We will go on curriculum-related day trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
 

SEVENTH GRADE MAIN LESSON BLOCKS

Perspective Drawing (3 Weeks)

            The historical period known as the Renaissance forms the leitmotif for our work in Seventh Grade, so it is appropriate that we begin with the study of the basic laws of perspective drawing, which were first formulated in 1413, at the dawn of the Renaissance.  As they slowly master the technicalities of vanishing points, converging lines, interpolation and extrapolation the students will gain the ability to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional sheet of paper.  Each student will complete a “Perspective Drawing” portfolio containing a progression of simple to more complicated exercises, all stressing artistic composition as well as mathematical accuracy.  Among the especially technically demanding drawings will be those of pillars, staircases, cityscapes and interiors spaces.  We will also work with freehand perspective drawing which will be of great help as we try to recreate some of the works of the Renaissance masters whom we will study later this year.
            
             Week One: Basic techniques of perspective drawing; extrapolation and interpolation; the horizon and the vanishing point.
             Week Two: Working with one, two and three vanishing points; creating “three-dimensional” objects in exterior space.
             Week Three: Creating an “interior” space; stairways in perspective; circles and arches.

History (7 weeks)

             Our first History block will deal with the late Middle Ages.  Through the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, we will enter a world in which a new stage in human consciousness was arising in the midst of the still wild lands of Europe.  In Eleanor’s lifetime, kings began to assert power on a national level; the religious fervor that swept Europe led to both the Crusades and the construction of the first Gothic cathedrals; the life of the city arose, supplanting both castle and monastery as the new cultural center; the life of arts, crafts and trades took on increasing importance.   Studying Eleanor’s biography will lead us to look at life on the medieval battlefield and in the castle, and to learn something of the superhuman efforts that went into the construction of a cathedral.
             The life of Joan of Arc will lead us in a different direction.  Here we will witness “heavenly aims” that seek realization on the level of earthly war, and the remarkable faith and courage of an unlettered peasant girl who made kings tremble and the Church quake with fear.  In Joan’s time, the “Age of Chivalry” begun by Eleanor was already in decline; gunpowder replaced the crossbow as “the ultimate Weapon” and political machinations could undo the victories won on the battlefield.
             In connection with this block we will visit the largest cathedral in the world, that of St. John the Divine, in New York City.  Still under construction after more than a century, St. John’s will afford us a view into the patient and persistent efforts that go into the development of such a grand edifice.
             Our Spring History block will take us to Italy (medieval Italy, that is).  From St. Francis to Dante, to Giotto, we will watch the unfolding of new impulses in religion and art which were in turn vitalized by the burgeoning life of commerce and the capital it created.  The subsequent study of the lives of Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo in the context of their times will provide a full picture of this important period in history.  With remarkable consistency, one genius leads to another, one discovery or invention becomes the foundation for the next, and the world expands in a way never conceived by medieval culture.
             Through original compositions and renderings of paintings and sculptures by Renaissance masters, the seventh graders will establish their link to the beauty of this age of artistic flowering.

 Part One
             Week One: Scenes of life in the late Middle Ages; the feudal system and life in a castle.  The troubadours and minnesingers.  The cathedral builders.
             Week Two: The life and times of Eleanor of Aquitaine; Eleanor and Louis of France; Eleanor and Henry of England; Eleanor and Richard the Lion Heart.
             Week Three: Joan of Arc.  Nobles and their kings.  England and France.  The Church and secular rule.  Joan’s struggles and triumphs; her betrayal and death.
             Week Four: The travels of Marco Polo.  The dawning of the Renaissance;  Dante and Giotto.  The rise of the mercantile class.  The accumulation of capital and the beautification of Italian city-states;  the Church as the patron of the arts.

 Part Two:
             Week One: The life of Leonardo da Vinci.  His wanderings and explorations  The beginnings of natural science.  The Last Supper.
             Week Two: The Medicis and the flowering of Florence.  The life of Michelangelo.
             Week Three: Pope Julius and the rebuilding of Rome.  The life of Raphael.  The twilight of the Renaissance.

Mathematics (4 weeks, as well as 2 or 3 run-throughs a week)

             We will begin the year with a general review, stressing the numerous formulae that we have learned in the past two years, e.g., area, perimeter, circumference, interest rates, etc.  This will serve as a preparation for algebra.
             Algebra itself will begin with the challenging study of positive and negative numbers, integers which demand both imagination and wakefulness for their manipulation.  From here we will move into the laws of balance that underlie problems with equations.  Mastery of equations will help us solve numerical and word problems involving comparisons, time/distance, ratio and proportion, etc.  Work with exponents will also be introduced and then developed further when we take up quadratic equations in grade eight.

            Week One:    Positive and negative numbers.  Exponents; powers and roots.
            Week Two:    Linear equations.  Using formulae as equations.
            Week Three:  Word problems and mathematical games using algebra.
            Week Four:   Geometry; relationships of angles; the Pythagorean Theorem.

Creative Writing and English Grammar (3 weeks)

             Up until now, the writing done by our class has essentially been an imaginative re-telling of content covered in the classroom.  Now, as creative forces unfold in their physical bodies, the possibility of creative activity awakens in the youngsters’ souls as well, and so we take out first foray into “creative writing.”  Through prose and poetry that we compose ourselves, we will look at three states of soul, expressed as “Wish”, “Wonder” and “Surprise.”  We will also draw upon an anthology of poems and aphorisms that I have compiled for the class to see how other writers have expressed these feelings.

             Week One:    Grammar review; parts of speech; punctuation, phrases, usage and style.
             Week Two:    Writing exercises using “which wonder and surprise” as their basis.
             Week Three:  More writing exercises.

Physiology (3 weeks)

             It was the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci who courageously trespassed against the Church’s ban on exhuming human corpses, so great was his need to understand all phenomena in the world, including the human organism.  Unlike Leonardo, the Seventh Graders will set out to study the living human body, and do so from the vantage point of “health and hygiene.”
             Our study of human physiology will concentrate on the human digestive system, and on our respiratory and circulatory systems.  We will also study two sense organs — the eye and the ear — to see how the functions of digestion and respiration are carried on “in miniature”.  We will focus not only on nomenclature but also on the dynamic interplay of organs and functions throughout the body.  We will, on occasion, describe the embryological development of an organ, or compare its form to its equivalent organ in the animal world.
             We will discuss such matters as nutrition, daily rhythms, and the nature of illness.

            Week One:    The digestive system.  The major digestive organs and their role in catabolism and anabolism.  The rhythms of digestion.  Nourishment and Nutrition.  Stimulants and poison.  Eating disorders.
            Week Two:    The circulation of the blood.  The heart and the lungs.  Feelings in human beings and animals.  Rhythms in our life.  
            Week Three:  The eye and the ear.  The effect of sights and sounds on our digestion, circulation and breathing.  The arts, the media and our senses.

 
Geography: The Age of Exploration (3 weeks)
             The continent of South America will be our focus, and we will approach it from the perspective of  both cultural and physical geography.  In this anniversary year of Columbus’ crossing of the Atlantic we will take up the “Age of Exploration,” especially in relation to those European explorers who impacted upon Central and South American continents.  We will study the indigenous peoples such as the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs, who reached such a high place of civilization in the “pre-Colombian” era, and witness the startling changes brought about by their European conquerors.  We will also study the outstanding physical features of South America, from the Andes to the Rainforest, and the rich though fragile ecosphere that is so much in the news today.

            Week One:    Cartography; Longitude, latitude and other navigational aids.  Prince Henry the Navigator and Columbus, a study in contrasts.  Magellan and the circumnavigation of the globe.
             Week Two:    Geographical features and resources of South America.  Indigenous peoples of South and Central America.
             Week Three:  The Andes and the Rainforest.  Geography and ecology.

Physics (4 weeks)
            In this physics block we will concentrate on the study of Mechanics, and learn about the “simple machines” that underlie all labor-saving devices; the lever, the inclined plane, and the wheel, especially in its application as the pulley.  We will learn how to compare the degree of exertion needed to lift or transport heavy weights unassisted and the reduction of effort brought about when we utilize the simple machines.  We will gradually learn to apply our newly-learned algebra to discover the laws that underlie the science of mechanics.  Equations will help us determine the length of a lever needed to life a certain weight, or how much more labor is saved by using two pulleys instead of one.  This particular physics block should embody a lively balance of playful inventiveness and mathematical rigor.  As in last year’s physics block, we hope to conclude with a Demonstration Morning” to which parents and friends will be invited.

             Week One:    The lever and the inclined plane.  The “law of the lever” and its algebraic expression.  Levers and inclined planes in everyday life.  The screw as a form of the inclined plane.
             Week Two:    The wheel and the pulley.  Construction of systems of pulleys and the labor they save.  The “cost” of saving labor.  The wheel and pulley in everyday life.
             Week Three:  Other topics: reflection and refraction; warmth. 

Chemistry (3 weeks)
             Chemistry is taught in the seventh grade not only as a laboratory science, but as a means of extending the students moral vision to encompass the earth and all of humanity.  With this in mind, we will begin with the study of combustion; the interplay of flame and smoke, and the transformation of matter through fire.  We will observe the way in which a number of substances burn, and through a demonstration using a bell jar and water, we will learn on the connection between combustion and human breathing.
             The study of salts, and their relationship to the balance of acids and bases will come next.  Using limestone (calcium carbonate) as an example, we will trace its formation and dissolution in nature, and then observe its properties in the laboratory.  Limestone’s reactions to heat, water , acids and various reagents will be carefully observed and discussed.
            Our last subject will be the study of the properties of water, the “universal solvent”, which will lead us to consider the importance of clean and “living” water for the entire earth.  The students are now of an age in which they have passionate feelings about a number of issues, with concern for the environment high on the list.  It is important for them to realize that scientific knowledge will be of the greatest help in corroborating their strong opinions!
 

 
 

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