The learning of world cultures and languages is woven through a child’s education at Boulder Valley Waldorf School. Throughout the elementary and middle school curricula, students are introduced to the study of ancient cultures around the world. Students also have the unique opportunity to develop flexibility of speech, an ear for contrasting languages and an appreciation of diverse cultures through the learning of Spanish from first through eighth grade.
During the Middle School years, world language slowly becomes a skills class that requires consistency, practice and analytical thinking for success. During these years, the students learn how to consciously apply rules of grammar, syntax and daily oral expression. They create personal notebooks of vocabulary lists and grammar rules, in addition to lesson books in which they write and illustrate cultural material. Feeding the children’s active interest in these cultures, students memorize ballads, work with dramatic stories, sing songs from specific regions, and learn about cultural traditions and customs.
From 1st through 3rd grades, the experience of the world languages is completely oral. Through traditional and action songs, dances, verses, rhymes, games, pantomime, drama and short stories the children receive a whole language experience. Simple stories told in the foreign language offer multiple practice opportunities such as acting out scenes, playing question/answer games, and retelling/ comprehension practice. Games reinforce vocabulary acquisition. The children feel, act and live into the language, connecting with every aspect in an unconscious, playful and lively way.
4th and 5th grades are a time of transition towards our Middle School program. Writing and reading are now added to the oral learning of the language. Initially this is done through writing familiar material and then reading it. By fifth grade reading skills are being expanded to be able to read new, simple stories directly. Stories told in the foreign language continue to offer multiple practice opportunities and are expanded upon through exercises such as short dictations, creation of vocabulary lists, discovery of grammar rules, and writing summaries.
Arts-Integrated Language Classes at Boulder Valley Waldorf. In addition to the two world languages as subject classes, some BVWS Class Teachers bring elements of their own mother tongue, Italian or German, which may be integrated into main lesson blocks.
P.E. & Games Class at Boulder Valley Waldorf. Many of the games and activities in P.E. are collaborative, requiring students to work together. Students have daily opportunities to be outside in nature as BVWS shares 35 acres with an organic farm.
Eurythmy, Games, P.E., Recess
PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Middle school students have developed a foundation for experiencing the joy of play and the habit of competing with themselves as they seek to improve their personal best. In 6th grade the students are now ready to test their skills on an individual basis, but not necessarily wanting others to give attention to the results. As they enter adolescence, P.E. classes are an opportunity for the children to grow more coordinated with their change in physique. In 7th grade, the students come into their own, demonstrating increased strength, flexibility, and endurance. They are ready to focus on their skill development through more rigorous training. Students complete drills to improve their skills and longer runs to improve endurance. In team sports, 7th and 8th graders oversee the action and gain perspective on the game situations, using strategy to improve their game. 8th grade can be a time of struggle between being ready for high school and still being middle schoolers, so PE class is a combination of both sports and games as the children explore their new found strength.
Developmental Movement and Games at BVWS
In the early grades, movement classes include games that have no winners and losers, only experiences. In the huddle the children have a chance to share their favorite escape from a tag or congratulate a classmate for giving them an excellent chase. Through play the students learn social conduct such as following the rules. They become aware of their bodies in space and develop foundations of movement.
Physical Education classes allow the children the opportunity, through games and activities, to challenge themselves and explore their abilities. They also experience the feeling of cooperation and the consequences of teamwork through games.
Musical & Performance Arts
Instrumental Music, Vocal Arts & Drama
The study of music engages both sides of the brain as it develops focus, discipline, collaboration, communication, creative expression, and physical co-ordination. Music, a vital contributor to the child’s development, is an acoustical science, mathematical, a study of history, a foreign language and, above all, an art that expresses the spiritual and emotional qualities of being human! Music supports the festival life of Boulder Valley Waldorf School, and all assemblies during the school year are infused with musical offerings. Two all-music concerts are presented per year, one during the Winter Holiday season, and one towards the end of the school year. The students are always eager to showcase their well-rounded, developing musical skills.
5th grade & into Middle School
Starting in 5th grade and throughout middle school, vocal music – choir – is also approached as its own subject. Now, the work is much more direct and conscious than the simple learning through repetition that usually takes place in the classrooms. This instruction emphasizes good, healthy vocal production, careful attention to ensemble and listening, and accurate sight singing. In the younger grades tone, pitch, and general musicianship were emphasized. Now in middle school the emphasis is on four-part singing, emphasizing choral tone, blend, and ensemble sensitivity. Choral music has a central place in our curriculum because it develops social awareness and sensitivity subtly and implicitly. It encourages the students to be cooperative and collaborative toward an aesthetic end, and builds confidence through regular performances. Finally, choral music allows our students to be more culturally literate, as the choral repertoire we study spans masterworks of Western music through the ages, as well as traditional vocal music from many cultural backgrounds.
Early childhood & elementary
Vocal music is used throughout the Waldorf curriculum here. In the Early Childhood and the early grades programs, vocal music is used by teachers to help organize the day: songs indicate the beginning and end of the school day, when it is time to transition to specific activities, the beginning of lunch time, shoe changing time, cleanup time, and so on. For the youngest children, the teacher intentionally sings the same song in the same way over many days and in time the children naturally join in. Throughout the grades songs also help students learn and retain facts such as multiplication tables, states and capitals, vocabulary in a foreign language, or the anatomy of the skeleton. Songs help students experience the turning of the year more profoundly with seasonal or festival songs. Overall, it is typical for singing to be ongoing in a Waldorf Grade School classroom throughout the school day.
5th grade & into Middle School
In 5th-8th grades mixed instrumental ensembles become a part of the curriculum, as does middle school choir. In choir the children are exposed to 2- and 3-part singing of music from all periods and styles. Students continue to play recorders and sing with their classroom teachers through 8th grade. Children have the option to continue with their strings instrument and join orchestra or switch to orchestral band and learn a new woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument in 5th grade. Through careful, incremental instruction and continual expectations of growth and improvement, the teachers are able to draw out and develop the students’ self-discipline through the work of ongoing instrumental music practice and rehearsal.
Instrumental music instruction is an important part of the curriculum for all students at BVWS. Learning an instrument requires focus, discipline, and perseverance; we nurture these qualities in our students. Instruction begins in first grade with the teaching of simple instruments such as the pentatonic flute. The pentatonic scale produces a supportive experience of perpetual harmony because there is no tension or conflict within the scale; thus, a harmonious sense of well-being is engendered.
In 3rd grade the students cultivate the ear in a living way through the forming of each tone and they take up a stringed instrument: either violin, viola, or cello. In 3rd grade the diatonic recorder is introduced, and with it the interval of the third, which adds color to the harmonic environment. At this point a special working collaboration between home and school is encouraged, to help the child establish a consistent rhythm for practicing. In 4th grade, strings, recorders, and class singing incorporate rounds and chordal harmony. These musical forms are metaphors for the child’s experience of individuality within a group. Introduction to written music is also undertaken at this time.
Dramatic & Performing Arts
Class plays, musical concerts, and festival offerings continue into the middle school years. With more instrumental music experience in these years, the band or orchestra may accompany a younger grades’ presentation at a festival with live music. Dramatic and performing arts are embedded into the Language Arts curriculum, with regular in-class performances and presentations. Classes practice dramatic reading as they prepare for their class plays. A yearly Curriculum Assembly in the spring provides an opportunity for each grade to perform a showcase of what they have learned throughout the year.
Dramatic and performing arts are embedded into the Language Arts curriculum. Class plays are performed each year, deepening in challenge and complexity as the students move through the grades. Musical performances happen on a small scale throughout the year, with student offerings common at festivals and events. An elementary class may sing a song, recite a poem, or play a piece on the recorder. A yearly Curriculum Assembly in the spring provides an opportunity for each grade to perform a showcase of what they have learned throughout the year.
Musical Classes and Performances at Boulder Valley Waldorf. Students begin playing a stringed instrument in 3rd Grade. Opportunities to join Choir and Orchestra or Band begin in 5th Grade. Students have regular performances at school festivals as well as formal concerts.
“Rhythm and melody enter into the soul of the well-instructed youth and produce there a certain mental harmony hardly obtainable in any other way.” —Plato, The Republic
In middle school, students create a three dimensional objects in handwork and woodworking. Studies have shown that using materials that can be physically manipulated can improve mathematical learning at all levels of study. Students learn advanced math by drawing pictures, playing with beach balls—and knitting.
Handwork & Woodworking
A key to the education of adolescents is to provide activities which encourage perseverance. Engaged in handwork, students can push through painful introspection, let go of their own stuck intentions, and begin to recognize what each medium has to present from within itself. The students have to go through a metamorphosis of their own intentions and allow themselves to work in partnership with the material, be it stone or wood (or metal or other). The practical arts provide the opportunity for the student to carve, model, and forge – to transform materials through the force of their will and to enliven them with the power of their own spirit.
Middle School Woodworking: From a piece of suitably cylindrical wood, rasps are used to form the ‘top’. When satisfied with the form of the top, the students begin to rasp into the lower part of cylinder to form the bottom of the egg, using the convex side of the rasp. More careful rasping ensues followed by the use of the file. The piece is frequently moved in the vise to keep its cross section as round and symmetrical as possible. Gradually the egg shape emerges and finally it is cut off from its narrow stem. Then comes many sessions of sanding until the student has his or her archetypal egg shining in hand! A spoon is the next project: the bowl is carved out first, while the student has a good hold on the stock. Then the handle is roughed in. After that the bowl of the spoon is smoothed using scrapers and sandpaper. Work has to be performed efficiently, especially at the beginning because the wood becomes very difficult to work as it dries out. When the spoon is finished, food safe oil is applied. The process they use consists of working the inside first, as with the spoon ‘bowl’. Carving gouges are used until the inside has the concave shape needed. Ridges and troughs produced by the gouges are then removed, using a scraper. Smoothing is completed by using finer and finer sandpaper.
Middle School Handwork: Students create a three dimensional hand sewn animal from a two dimensional drawing, capturing the gesture of an animal. Conceptualize all the different surfaces of the animal • Draft the pattern pieces, using circumference and diameter math concepts. In 7th grade, students create a 12” soft sculpted doll and its clothing, choosing oneself or a person worthy of admiration, to model the dolls eyes, hair and skin colors, and to design and sew the costume. Then in 8th grade, students construct a garment using a sewing machine
early childhood & elementary
Fine & Visual Arts
Drawing, Painting, Clay
Beginning in first grade, and continued through middle school, visual arts and painting are an integral part of main lesson; weaving together core academics and creating.
By Middle School, the students’ work is impressively refined. Line drawing skills are honed to produce impeccable perspective drawings that also illustrate the mathematics behind the work. Form drawing integrates with studies of anatomy, bones and organs carefully mapped.The materials used by students are less forgiving, requiring forethought and precision in the projects’ execution. Students develop techniques of working with colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels as well as charcoal drawing and sketching. Accurate expression of exact observation rather than dissection is the goal of our activities in all disciplines from drawing and painting to descriptive writing and diagramming. Demonstrate techniques of using contour, perspective and shadows. In middle school, students successfully copy a complete drawing of a master work.
Middle School Drawing Work Samples. Students develop techniques of working with colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels as well as charcoal drawing and sketching. Accurate expression of exact observation rather than dissection is the goal of our activities in all disciplines from drawing and painting to descriptive writing and diagramming. Demonstrate techniques of using contour, perspective and shadows. In middle school, students successfully copy a complete drawing of a master work.