There is a burning flame deep inside the sixth grader. Much is stirring. Feet firmly planted on the earth now, the sixth grader is very intentional as he steps out into the world before him. His physical body is hardening and begins to take swift steps towards puberty. As they are increasingly aware of the physical changes of their bodies, it is a ripe time to learn about the physical body of the earth they stand so firmly on. In fifth grade the study of botany brought their gaze to the ground, and now in sixth grade the study of geology will take them to the deepest depths of the earth, to another inner burning flame.

They will also gaze upward to the heavens to discover the earth’s relationship to the other bodies of the solar system in their study of astronomy. Here they are between the firm earth below their feet encasing treasures untold and the sparkling heavens that induce a sense of awe from above. Building on their natural interest in the laws of nature and the physical world, this year introduces the study of physics. Optics and acoustics are observed through concrete experimentation and observation. Theoretical discussions may follow at an introductory level only, waiting until high school to more deeply explore theories.

Continuing to discover the wider world, the sixth grader studies the changing map of Europe from a historical perspective. Where the ancient civilizations ended in fifth grade, the curriculum now transitions from ancient history to modern history following the decline of Greece and the rise and fall of Rome. Just as the sixth grader dominates their own physical body, the Romans more than any other ancient civilization dominated their physical world. Their determination and ability to set out on conquests matches the ability of the sixth grader. Divide and conquer is a strong theme at this age. The many accomplishments of the Romans in their cities, roads, aqueducts, as well as their conquests of the Western world gift the students with a historical example of how excess can lead to destruction. The fall of Rome is quite sobering. Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here the sixth grader has left behind childhood as he has known it and is beginning a new journey into the life of discovering himself.

Here Caesar is crossing the Rubicon, passing the point of no return.

Bringing a balance to the concrete study of laws pertaining to both physics and social order, the study of medieval times brings the heart of the sixth grader to acts of chivalry, as in many Waldorf schools there is a ceremonial knighthood to partake in.

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