History is not about names, dates and battles. History is about life!
The wisdom and timeless lessons of ancient civilizations are portrayed in the music, art, foods, medicine, landscapes, climate, beliefs and drama of the times. Biographies of both famous and common people combine with practical and artistic activities so that students may discover the human experience of each era on a meaningful, personal level.
Waldorf education relies on the oral tradition, a powerful, proven method of imparting important pedagogical substance that touches each student. Through these stories, emotions are engaged and rise into the cognitive sphere, becoming available content for future ideas and concepts. Clara Barton's struggle with extreme shyness, Marie Curie's insatiable passion for science, or Frederick Douglass's mistreatment as a slave all resonate differently in each child.
One of the goals in the social studies program is to encourage children to learn about practical things by doing. For example, in the third grade the children study farming and house building. They grow and harvest foods themselves. They examine how houses are built and then build a structure themselves as a class, or they build small-scale models of dwellings. They travel to a farm and work in groups doing farm chores. These are experiences they will never forget, experiences that anchor what they've learned in ways appropriate to their age.
In the fourth and fifth grades they are developmentally prepared to look objectively at their environment. The study of local geography and local history helps them recognize their place in the world around them. They start at home and school and then extend to the state of New Jersey. In the fifth grade they study North American geography and later, world geography.
The children combine studies of literature, history, and social studies as they study the myths, religions, and cultures of ancient peoples. This study also serves as a foundation for understanding their own culture and way of life. The usual historical progression in Waldorf schools follows:
Third Grade: Hebrew Scriptures, including aspects of Judaism; pioneer Life
Fourth Grade: Norse mythology / Native American Lenape life
Fifth Grade: Ancient Civilizations of India, Persia, Egypt and Greece, including the life of Buddha
Sixth Grade: Ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, Islam, the Crusades, the life of Muhammad, the life of Christ
Seventh Grade: The Renaissance and Reformation; The Age of Discovery; World and European history
Eighth Grade: The Age of Revolutions; individual responsibilities and duties