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Elementary Curriculum

At Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, Elementary School encompasses Grades 1 through 5. During these fundamental years, the child’s intellectual curiosity is met with an imaginative, artistic, and stimulating curriculum that grows and expands each year as the child develops and matures

Curriculum Overview

Our Elementary program is founded in strong relationships. In all five years of the program, students remain with one teacher, whose loving guidance helps students create strong relationships with adults, peers, and themselves. This relationship shifts over time as the students become more independent. Beginning in first grade, a class community is created under the guidance of a loving authority. Each year, the students move toward independence as they become empowered as agents of change.


The curriculum approaches learning as a process that evolves over time, rather than as a means to an end. Education is an opportunity to remove hindrances so that a student's own talents can be nurtured. Each year, the content of the curriculum mirrors the students' inner life so they can be guided through their challenges and triumphs. The diversity of the curriculum empowers students to build an acceptance of a variety of viewpoints, religions, cultures, and lifestyles.


In elementary and middle school, students work with a two-hour main lesson block for their core instruction. Blocks rotate every three to four weeks, allowing students to immerse themselves in a topic and explore it in depth. The rest of the day builds upon the academic subjects in the main lesson. Many are taught by specialty teachers: Spanish, Russian, Games/Physical Education, Eurythmy, Handwork, Woodwork, Art, Music, and artistic activities such as watercolor painting, form drawing, beeswax modeling, and clay sculpting.

Imagination is fostered through storytelling and artistic exploration. Students listen to stories, creating their own inner pictures. Through artistic expression, students develop an inward appreciation for beauty that reaches beyond academia. This foundation in imagination strengthens students' abilities in independent thinking, drawing conclusions, and comprehending the world around them. 

Our lessons are designed to alternate between activities that are physically active and those that are inwardly thoughtful. Students are outdoors multiple times a day. Movement education teaches children how to move the body with intention and respect. Fine motor skills are developed through artistic endeavors, instruments, and handwork.


Our goal is to develop a child who is self-determined and prepared to take responsibility for their world.


Elementary School Program

Program for grades 1–5

Curriculum by Grade

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First Grade:
One Whole Class


First grade is a time of awakening to many wonders. This year is a bridge from early childhood programs to formal academics, which are introduced through storytelling, games, movement, and art. Folk and fairy tales from around the world replicate the dreamy feeling of early childhood as students awaken to a new interest in learning. Their imaginations and curiosity are fostered to lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The students and teacher work together to form a socially cohesive group.


Lesson Blocks

Main lesson blocks alternate between reading and math. Reading and writing are introduced through stories and pictures, awakening students to the feeling connected with each letter and sound. Through instruction based in imagination, movement, and creativity, students are wholly immersed in the joy of reading. 


In mathematics, students actively engage with the quality of numbers. Once numbers are familiar, students are challenged to manipulate and search for relationships among them. The four arithmetic operations are brought to life with human-like personalities and qualities. 


Handwork, the Arts, Movement, and Foreign Languages

In handwork, students learn to knit. They engage artistically in painting, form drawing, and modeling with clay and beeswax. They work musically by playing the interval and pentatonic flute and singing. Students perform a class play. Students engage in movement through Games and Eurythmy. They also take two foreign languages: Spanish and Russian.

Second Grade:
From Form to Solid Foundation


Second grade retains early childhood innocence while children test boundaries and become aware of the duality in human nature. Fables portray the struggles of tricky behaviors and offer consequences to actions. Stories of courageous people provide balance to the self-serving characters of fables. Students experience examples of people who have overcome great obstacles and sacrificed for the greater good.


Lesson Blocks

Main lesson blocks alternate between reading and math. Reading instruction is deepened with phonics rules that arise out of stories. Grammar is introduced with liveliness and humor by acting out stories in which students can experience the contrast between doing words (verbs), naming words (nouns), and describing words (adjectives). 


In mathematics, students carry out more complicated operations with the four mathematical processes, such as regrouping. Imaginative stories still form the basis of these problems. Through rhythmic counting, accompanied by accented clapping and movement of the whole body, they learn to skip count as they bring multiplication patterns into their bodies.


Handwork, the Arts, Movement, and Foreign Languages

In handwork, students deepen their knitting skills and build on what they know, learning to follow patterns. As in first grade, students engage artistically in painting, form drawing, modeling from clay and beeswax. They work musically by playing the pentatonic flute and singing. Students perform a class play. Students engage in movement through Games and Eurythmy. Students continue taking two foreign languages: Spanish and Russian.


Third Grade:
Becoming a Steward of the Earth — Awakening to Self and Surroundings


Third grade brings a greater independence and curiosity from children about their role in the world. Children begin to realize their separateness from their surroundings and can feel loneliness and self-doubt. Creation stories from cultures around the world, including Hebrew and Indigenous cultures, offer a mirror to the development of self-awareness. Children leave the “paradise” of early childhood and encounter good and evil. 


In order to support students through this burgeoning self-awareness, they are given practical solutions by studying farming, cooking, and building shelters. These experiences foster self-reliance and confidence.


Lesson Blocks

Main lesson blocks expand beyond reading and math to include practical studies such as farming, fibers and shelters. The interrelationships of animal, mineral, plant, and human life are explored through the role of the farmer. Planting and harvesting vegetables, preparing foods, and experiencing the cycles of nature all bring a sense of wonder and delight. Stories of Indigenous peoples are told as students study shelters, emphasizing different times and climates and giving students an understanding of humans’ creativity in using tools and materials. 


Handwork, the Arts, Movement, and Foreign Languages

In handwork, students create practical projects including crochet and weaving. As in first and second grades, students engage in various forms of painting, drawing, and modeling. They work musically by beginning to play a string instrument, as well as by playing diatonic flute and singing. Students perform a class play. Students engage in movement through Games and Eurythmy.  Students also take two foreign languages: Spanish and Russian.

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Fourth Grade:
Celebrating the Earth — Hearing the Voices of our Elders, Reclaiming the Sacred


Fourth grade brings a new level of emotional self-awareness. Children become more independent and recognize the separation between themselves and the surrounding world. Reflecting this development, their reasoning becomes more objective. In many ways, this is a turning point, forming basic attitudes that will be carried through life.


Lesson Blocks

The fourth grade curriculum supports the new level of children's maturity. Stories from Norse, Celtic, and Finnish mythologies impart a knowledge of the gifts and risks of free will. Students study the human being as mirrored in the animal kingdom. They paint, sketch, dramatize, and write descriptions of animals in an imaginative and artistic introduction to the study of nature and science. History is combined with geography to give a sense of the interrelated nature of space, time, culture, and the individual.

By fourth grade, students possess the solid academic skills needed to participate in more complex and independent projects. Composition, grammar, and reading build language arts skills. In mathematics, students begin to conceptualize and manipulate fractions.


Handwork, the Arts, Movement, and Foreign Languages

In form drawing (a subject unique to Waldorf schools), students draw weaving designs, symbols, and decorative motifs. Practical and decorative sewing skills are taught in handwork classes. Students also receive continued instruction in music, games, and foreign language.


Fifth Grade:
The Golden Age — Feet Upon the Ground, Gaze Toward the Heavens


Fifth grade marks a balancing point between childhood and adolescence. Children find a time of harmony and grace and become comfortable with themselves and their relationship with the world. 


Students are immersed in Ancient Civilizations as a first formal study of history. Each civilization allows the students to deepen their own awareness of their inner strengths. 


Lesson Blocks

Social Studies blocks may include Mesopotamia, India, Persia, Egypt, China, and Greece. History is an education of the students' feelings rather than of their memory for facts and figures, requiring inner mobility to enter sympathetically into these ancient states so different from their own.

A study of North American geography considers the Earth’s physical features and human life in each region, including human uses of natural resources, industry, and produce. In science, students explore botany. Mathematics blocks include decimals, fractions, and freehand geometry.


Handwork, the Arts, Movement, and Foreign Languages

Students engage artistically in painting and modeling from clay.  They work musically by playing a string instrument and recorder and by singing. Students perform a class play. In handwork, students culminate their knitting skills by creating complex pieces. Woodworking instruction begins with students creating race cars. Students engage in movement through Games and Eurythmy. Students also take two foreign languages: Spanish and Russian.


Special Events and Class Trips

Students train for an interscholastic Greek Pentathlon, where grace, beauty, form, and sportsmanship are lauded alongside individual achievements in speed and accuracy.

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