Waldorf excels at teaching the sciences in a way that most scientists only dream students will be taught—through an active process of experimenting and hypothesizing which ultimately leads to a discovery that's just as novel and exciting for the student as any original discovery is for the world-class scientist.
We would like our children not only to begin to understand the laws of nature, but to feel a personal connection to our natural world. When we begin our formal investigations in the fourth grade, the children will already be familiar with the natural world of seasons, plants, and animals. Waldorf students spend plenty of time outside. They regularly explore this world through walks and outdoor play. The discovery of scientific concepts is initiated by direct experience rather than by reading from a textbook.
The Waldorf School of Princeton promotes a strong scientific process that is grounded in finely honed observational abilities as well as a sense of responsibility to the world that we are studying. Throughout the grades, each aspect of natural science is explored in relation to the human being as participant and steward.
In the lower grades, nature study awakens children to an experience of their surroundings, often speaking to the children's emotional life in a healing way. We make an effort not to plunge children too directly into complex analyses as they are not ready to adopt an impersonal scientific attitude; thus, the science curriculum in grades one through three is composed of simple stories and gentle forays into nature.
Science topics are woven throughout the middle grades, deepened and refined each year as new material is introduced. The breadth of the sciences is comprehensively covered during this time, with main lesson blocks on physics, acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism, electricity, mechanics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology.
In the upper grades, the science curriculum is in step with the developing capacities of the children. Direct experiences of phenomena, objectively described, allow the students to arrive at conclusions and judgments by themselves, and in this way the sciences specifically help strengthen their mental abilities. Demonstrations are written up in a scientific format, emphasizing precision and clarity in both illustrations and text.
The science curriculum typically covers the following areas:
First and Second grade: Nature Exploration
Third grade: Farming, Clothing and Shelter
Fourth grade: Preliminary Physiology and Zoology—Human and Animal
Fifth grade: Botany
Sixth grade: Geology, Astronomy, Physics—Acoustics, Optics, Heat, Magnetism
Seventh grade: Physiology and Health, Mechanics, Electricity, Inorganic Chemistry
Eighth grade: Organic Chemistry, Physics, Muscular and Skeletal Anatomy
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