In addition to the core academic subjects (see specific grade descriptions) taught by class teacher, we offer a rich array of other subjects, taught by qualified specialists.
Specialty subjects are chosen for their ability to cultivate the various human capacities they address, as well as for their relevance to the time and place in which our students live. The curriculum within each subject offers developmentally appropriate challenges and opportunities for growth.
Eurythmy is the art of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. Eurythmy contributes to harmonize the developmental process of the children through the grades by engaging the whole being of the child. It integrates bodily movement with the inner life and helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of beauty. The children become more coordinated, more alert, more at ease with themselves, leaving them feeling strong, capable and invigorated.
We work with the essentials of language and of music through poetry, stories and instrumental music. The artistic work deepens the children’s appreciation of literature and music on an experiential level. We work with geometrical forms and their transitions in three dimensional space. An inner sense of orientation is cultivated through these exercises. Rod exercises teach the children dexterity, and help lead them toward a healthy posture. Eurythmy is also a social activity, as the children have to concentrate on their own movement while developing the capacity to sense the movements of the group as a whole. Thus, Eurythmy works on many different levels in the child’s development.
Waldorf students come to see drawing as another form of expression, as they illustrate what they have written in their main lesson books. Right from first grade, they are guided in their drawing, learning new techniques, experimenting with different media, and slowly becoming more skillful, observant, and objective artists with each year. Alongside drawing, watercolor painting is introduced. Students develop a strong sense of color and learn to create form through the color. Students also learn to sculpt, first in beeswax and then in clay. By eighth grade students have a firm foundation in pencil, charcoal and pastel drawing, watercolor painting, and clay modeling, and they have come to perceive their surroundings in a more conscious way.
Throughout the grades the students learn two foreign languages: Spanish and Mandarin. Our foreign language classes, which are taught by native speakers who have been trained in the Waldorf method, immerse students in the language. The focus is, foremost, on the importance of creating an environment which will foster the student’s love of the language. Learning a foreign language is not only practical in today’s global society, but it strengthens students’ ability to listen, offers them flexibility in their thinking, and instills an appreciation for other cultures. Grades 1 to 3 focus on building a basis of vocabulary and oral communication through poetry, song, games, and story. Grades 4 to 6 focus on raising all that has been learned to consciousness, including writing down what has been established orally in the earlier grades. In grades 7 and 8 the students develop their vocabulary through conversation and reading assignments. Classroom study is enriched by annual festivals and field trips relating to the Hispanic and Chinese cultures abroad and here in New York City.
We offer a developmentally based physical education program with the aims of developing confidence and presence in one’s own body, spatial awareness, coordination, strength, grace, and sportsmanship. In the course of grades 1-8, the children become skilled at running, jumping, throwing, catching, skipping, and balancing. Traditional non-competitive circle and line games are themes of the early grades. The children learn how to play with each other rather than against each other. In fifth grade students spend the year training for the Greek Pentathalon, in connection with their studies of ancient cultures. In sixth grade traditional sports are introduced, and middle school students have the opportunity to compete with other local independent schools.
Music is an integral part of a child’s experience at the Brooklyn Waldorf School. Children sing songs from a variety of traditions and cultures, beginning with simple singing games in the early grades to polyphony in the upper grades choir. Children begin by playing the Choroi flute and choose a string instrument in the fourth grade. Grades seven and eight play together in the school orchestra. Starting in the third grade, children begin to learn the fundamentals of notation and solfege, with history and theory woven in the later grades.
In handwork class, the students learn to make practical objects, using natural fibers and plant dyes, that unite both beauty and function. First grade learns to knit and second grade to crochet. In third grade the students learn to spin and weave, and in fourth grade they learn complex cross stitch and embroidery. The level of complexity increases right up through eighth grade, when students learn to use a machine to design and make clothes. In fourth grade the students also begin woodwork. They learn to use gouges, saws, chisels, rasps, and many other woodworking tools to sculpt and build with wood. In the practical arts, many skills develop simultaneously and reinforce other subjects as well. The concentration and persistence that this work demands is rewarded by the pride in making something from start to finish all by hand. Students develop an awareness of design principles and learn to give form to their creativity. Recent brain research has found that the interrelationship of the hand and eye allows more neurological pathways to function. One could say that teaching handwork and woodwork to the young is training ground for thinking.