The Grade 3 curriculum builds on the natural curiosity of a child at this age. Questions of the origins of things are delved into in a variety of ways. From reading the tales of the Old Testament to building a small barn, third graders at Hawthorne Valley approach their learning from perspectives as varied as their interests. The curriculum lends itself toward action, be it the practical skill of farming, the weighing and measuring of objects, or the active process of grammatical word selection.
MAIN LESSON SUBJECTS
ART, HANDWORK, AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
- On Children by Kahlil Gibran
This poem speaks to the third graders’ development — the children are on the brink of the nine-year change, when they begin to question authority, goodness, religion and almost everything in their worlds! It is a lovely way to see this time in a child’s life and we work, through our curriculum, to support the child in this time of growth and maturation.
The students learn about the many different kinds of houses created by the indigenous people of America. They concentrate on Native American structures. Students work in small groups creating models of a Native American village of the western plains. These models are then connected and displayed. For their winter-break assignment, students are asked to create individual housing models at home. They also work in small groups, creating a model of a modern wooden structure. The main-lesson books are filled with many written passages and drawings copied from the blackboard.
The third graders delve into the earth in the farming block. The writing and book work are timed so that the block can end with the trip to the farm. Both on paper and with their hands, the children discover the “beginnings” of the food that eventually reaches our tables. Students may witness the birth of a calf; they crush grain and use the flour to make food for the whole class. They learn how to make maple syrup, going though all the steps in the process, and they use the syrup on pancakes made by their classmates. The children learn how difficult it is to work the land, and they come away with a greater understanding of the food we eat.
The students engage in daily recitations and speech work. They use the Old Testament portion of the Bible as a text to prepare some work in Hebrew. This work, while not presented as historically factual, provides a window into literature of a specific era.
They learn numerous poems and speech exercises from a variety of sources. The class play contains a large amount of choral work that all of the students need to commit to memory. The children hear many stories, including Farmer Boy, Little House in the Big Woods, and Charlotte’s Web. Students are asked to read aloud, and are also encouraged to read quietly in their own books, which are chosen according to their particular reading levels and interests.
The students begin their journey into the world of grammar with a delicate and beautiful introduction to identifying the parts of speech. Nouns become “picture words” and verbs are “doing words.” The students create sentences that are written on the board and copied into their main lesson books. There is joy in the classroom when students volunteer to perform some of the “doing words” and a guessing game ensues. They begin to see how a series of sentences can be grouped and connected to form a paragraph. They create and play games, write sentences, and come to a clear understanding that many words sound the same but have very different meanings.
German and Spanish
The students learn many verses, poems, songs, rounds, and games. They engage in one-on-one conversation about themselves, answering in complete sentences. They also answer questions about others, working with different personal pronouns and verb endings. The students practice the alphabet through a clapping game. The stories provided work with vocabulary and listening comprehension. Grammar, such as nouns, plural usage, verbs, and articles, are brought to the children’s attention through word games that demand active participation. The rules of grammar are explored but not yet memorized intellectually. The children work in a foreign-language book, creating seasonal pictures, or pictures relating to verses and songs that they have learned.
Throughout the year the class continues to work with all four processes: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They continue to work regularly with the times tables and the complexity of problems advances within each of the processes. Some of this work is enhanced by the introduction of the abacus in the spring. Each student constructs his/her own abacus, and they regularly practice “reading” the numbers from the new tool. The class is introduced to long division and practices multiplying large numbers. They use practical applications of these skills as much as possible.
Weights and Measures
In the study of measurement, the students come to know our world much better by “doing” mathematics. There is often great delight as the students make measuring tools and hear stories of fictitious kings and queens who learn to measure things using parts of the body: horses are measured in “hands”; the distance from elbow to fingertip becomes the “cubit”; the “feet” of a servant become an accurate but slow method to measure a building’s length; and three feet become a “yard.” Having new tools, they move about the classroom measuring each other and themselves: the doors, the blackboard, the room itself, and eventually the hallway, the music room, and the basketball court are all possibilities for the children’s newfound skills to quantify.
Having been engaged in knitting and crocheting for the past two years, the third graders learn to handle one of the sharpest tools, the sewing needle. Greater self-awareness and awareness of the world around them are part of the development of this age. What is a good length of thread to use? How are scissors to be handled responsibly? How are needles threaded and knots tied? Once these questions are answered, hand sewing can begin. Great care is called for and judgment is exercised when spacing the stitches evenly. Hand/eye coordination is strengthened as various decorative stitches are explored and practiced. The variety of projects completed by the third graders helps them gain greater awareness of the versatility, resourcefulness, and intelligence of the human hand.
The third graders, with their feet more firmly planted on the ground, become the junior farmers of our valley. They begin to use the tools of the garden: hoe, fork, and shovel. They prepare the soil, plant grain, saw wood, and tap maple trees. They bring some of our produce into the kitchen to make soups and other edibles for others and themselves. They wash and card sheeps’ wool and turn this into felted pouches.
The class makes the transition from the pentatonic flutes of the first two grades to the new and more difficult C-flutes. They work with the flutes on a regular basis and perform a beautiful piece in the spring assembly. The students are introduced to reading music through an story related to the third-grade curriculum. Using elements from the story, they create a drawing that shows a wire fence that reveals several insects and animals, each representing notes on the treble clef. By the end of the year, many students have a basic understanding of how to read music. Throughout the year they also sing on a regular basis. Some students in the class begin private lessons with orchestral instruments.
The third graders learn to understand and move spatial forms in connection with poetry, stories, and music. More complex forms, including the spiral, triangle, square, and lemniscate (figure eight) are moved to spoken language and music. One of the classical eurythmy forms, the “Curve of Cassini” (the transformation of an oval first into a peanut form, then into lemniscates, and finally into two small circles), is a good example of their work this year. One of the major focuses of the eurythmy classes is to bring the healthy breathing of contraction and expansion through movement. Also, the movements for different sounds are further developed, and the children enjoy learning how to “spell” their names in eurythmy. The lessons include rhythm exercises, concentration exercises, harmonizing and calming slow walking, mirror forms, and other exercises for dexterity, flexibility, and coordination.
The third graders play many tag games. They begin to build more complicated rules into games, and fair play is stressed. By spring, they transition from playing Star, House, Moon to Kickball, Steal the Bacon, and foursquare. These games usually incorporate discussions about team play.
Faculty Perspective: Time on the Farm
The third graders delve into the Earth in our farming block. Our writing and bookwork is timed so that we could end the block with the trip to Hawthorne Valley Farm. Both on paper and with our hands, the class discovers the "beginnings" of the food that eventually reaches our table. Students witness a newborn calf and grind grain and use the flour to make food for the group.
They learn how to make maple syrup and complete all the preparatory work needed for the process to begin. Then they make pancakes and tasted the delicious fruits of their labor and learning. The children learn how difficult it is to work the land and come away with a greater understanding of the food that we eat.