Fifth Grade Curriculum

Developmental picture of the student

Fifth grade is often referred to as the “golden year” because students at this age are enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. A sense of self-consciousness has emerged, yet they remain confident and harmonious with their surroundings. They develop an ordered sense of space and time, and hold a deeper understanding of personal responsibility and the ethics of right and wrong.

How the curriculum meets the 5th grader

The students learn the history of ancient civilizations including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. These histories of human deeds and strivings present the child with a broad picture of the diverse experience of humanity. They study the mythologies and religions of these cultures and discuss their philosophies of creation, life and death. Working with early forms of writing, geometry and architecture, the fifth graders experience, in part, the roots of modern culture. Through these classical stories, students develop inner imagination and empathy with an ancient world that is different from their own.

Fifth grade also marks an important learning transition from mythology to history. Through study of the ancient Greeks, students develop an appreciation for the balance between skill and beauty, art and science, physical existence and the world of ideas. An exploration of Native American history includes the study of the Mayan, Inca, Aztec, Hopi and Hau de no sau nee cultures. The students learn about historical figures and events, and the techniques of historical research. Studying the biographies of key historical figures, such as The Buddha, King Ashoka, Socrates and Alexander of Macedon marks a substantial shift from mythology to documented history. 

In mathematics, decimal notation used in the four operations is introduced while students continue with fractions, multi-digit problem solving and word problems. They also learn freehand geometry to gain a sense of the structure of space and delineated form. Studying botany nurtures the fifth grader’s dawning acceptance of the beauty of the world as they balance scientific observation with aesthetic appreciation.

In studying North American geography, students examine how and why people live and work in specific regions. Students select one of the major bioregions to profile in a research paper and verbal presentation on the region's history. They discuss how soil, landscape, and weather influence cultures. 

In movement class, students practice the five events of a Greek Pentathlon: discus, javelin, wrestling, long jump and running. In the spring the class participates in an all day Pentathlon festival and competition with other regional Waldorf schools. This is the culmination of the student’s physical individualism before they enter, in sixth grade, the new dynamics of team-based sports.