Organic Gardening in the Waldorf 3rd Grade Curriculum

3rd grade garden at Sanderling Waldorf School

Jeffrey was really excited at school pick up this afternoon because his class harvested some organic goodies from their garden today!  He filled his basket with spinach, kale, butter lettuce, speckled lettuce, arugula, fennel and calendula flowers. He let me sample some of the spicy arugula and it was divine!  There’s nothing quite like fresh organic produce the same day it was picked. 🙂

My little “Farmer Boy” Jeffrey bean with his basket of organic produce
Organic leafy green goodness! Those 3rd graders are great gardeners!

Gardening is a big part of the 3rd grade curriculum in Waldorf schools around the world, and not necessarily for the reasons you might think. 3rd grade is a big year of transformation. It is during this stage of development when children start to view the world through a vastly different lens and begin to feel a deeper sense of being separate beings in the world. They are experiencing a very significant shift in consciousness where they are leaving behind the dreamy, magical realm of childhood and entering into a very different world, like Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, refers to this period as the “9 year change.” When they leave that carefree space of taking everything at face value and questioning nothing, it can be very jarring for many kids. It can be a time of loneliness and insecurity, and there can be many thoughts of mortality and emerging fears that weren’t there before, like fear of the dark or monsters under the bed. It’s during this time when many 9 year olds will start to feel very alone in the world and begin to question things that were once taken for granted. There can be tears—LOTS of tears—and moodiness, but it’s different for every kid.

Going back to the Adam and Eve metaphor, the 9 year change marks a “fall from grace” and the third grade Waldorf curriculum is designed to meet the children right where they are.  The curriculum gives the 9 year old (or in Jeffrey’s case, almost 9 year old) the gift of meeting the world that he has come to acknowledge with the tools he will need to live in his new home, the earth.

3rd graders learn about three essential, practical requirements for all of humankind—how we work with nature to provide ourselves with food, clothing, and shelter. So far Jeffrey and his classmates have created their garden which they care for each week, they’ve built a sukkah from bamboo, they’ve built their own one-legged wooden stools and they’ve done quite a bit of food preparation.

This is the sukkah built by Jeffrey’s 3rd grade class earlier this fall. It is a hut or temporary shelter from the Hebrew tradition.

These kinds of activities are just what is in order and turns this year of turmoil into a rewarding experience. The 3rd grader goes forth with gusto, tools in hand—literally, to conquer the world. By the end of the year the third grader has the confidence in their abilities to navigate their way through life with a true sense of knowing that, if need be, they could make it on their own.

 

Organic Buckwheat Pancake Making with Sanderling Waldorf 3rd Graders

This morning I volunteered to help Jeffrey’s 3rd grade class make organic buckwheat pancakes.  In Waldorf schools across the globe, much of the 3rd grade curriculum is centered around life skills and the practical, like cooking, gardening, even construction.

They are currently reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is where they got the idea to make their own buckwheat pancakes, complete with molasses just as Almanzo Wilder ate them in the story! (We also had organic maple syrup for the kids who didn’t care to try molasses.)

This was the recipe we used, and we broke up into small groups to make them:

I worked with some of the girls in Jeffrey’s class.

Jeffrey got to work with his friend who has been in class with him since the Waldorf nursery kindergarten days.

The kids made SO many pancakes!

Yesterday, the 3rd graders got to make homemade ice cream from scratch, and their teacher let it get good and frozen overnight. The kids make ice cream once ever month and they use it to celebrate the birthdays in class. This month there are 5 birthdays to celebrate! These lucky kiddos got to enjoy not only their own homemade pancakes, but their homemade ice cream as well!

These lucky kiddos have no idea how good they have it! 🙂 Two days from now, they will also get to celebrate Sanderling Waldorf School’s annual pie day, which always takes place on the Friday before Thanksgiving break. The school will gather together at the start of 4th period and say their class blessings, sharing heartfelt gratitude with one another, and then we will all get to have delicious homemade pies. And then we will dismiss for Thanksgiving break! This has been a fantastic school week indeed!