Filled with questions and realizations, Grade 4 students are as intricate and as complex as the maps they seek to create in their Geography curriculum. Working towards wholeness the students see small parts come together in their cross-stitching, drawing, and fraction work.
Fourth graders at Hawthorne Valley have a strong connection to the land while tending to the needs of their own cow at Hawthorne Valley Farm. They become champions for their cow, much like the heroes of their studies. Exploring the deeds of the great ones the students grow from reading about individuals to emulate and respect, to becoming them.
MAIN LESSON SUBJECTS
ART, HANDWORK, AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
Local & NYS History & Geography
In grade four, the children delve into local and New York State geography. The blocks weave together cultural and economic threads with the physical geography that supported them. They begin the year with the pre-Hudson Mahicans, a tribe that lived in Columbia County, and their annual migrations from the lowlands along the Hudson to the highlands of Harlemville and similar areas.
They move on to the changes that the Dutch and other European settlers brought about, and focus on the topographic features that support the livelihoods and industries that sprang up around Columbia County. The students make different kinds of maps to familiarize them with their immediate surroundings. Finally, they learn about the Iroquois Confederacy in the heart of the state. They map the entire state in clay and on paper, and practice using coordinates to find towns, rivers, and lakes on NYS road maps.
They turn their attention to the founding of Hudson as a whaling port; make their way upstream to the Mohawk; study the Erie Canal; and learn about the Barton garnet mines in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack studies bring in some nature studies as the class explores Heart Lake, where the children can canoe, learn about the life cycles of newts and beavers, and study map and compass skills while hiking Mt. Jo. They end the geography work by studying the boroughs and harbor of New York City, its water supply, and its subway system. In addition, the children each choose an aspect of the state’s geography or history to write a report about.
The Human Being and the Animal World
A new focus in fourth grade is the study of the human being and the animals. Students look at the human being in terms of our head, torso, and limbs or, in terms of systems, our nerve/sense system, our rhythmic system of heart and lungs, and our metabolic, muscular system. They then turn their attention toward such animals as the octopus, the lion, the mouse, the cow, the elephant, the eel, the salmon, and the eagle. The children write a report on an animal of their choice.
Adopting and Tending a Farm Cow
Fourth graders spend time walking the land surrounding the school. They visit the animals on the farm and track those in the forest to glimpse the valley through their eyes. In the spring they help with some smaller farm chores and look at the wild plants of the forest as they are emerging. Some plants may be familiar and tasty (like the wild carrots, leeks, and chives), while others are new discoveries. Over the course of the year they gain a sense of the valley and its inhabitants. For three months in the winter the students are brought to the barn, where they each tend “their cow.” Currying the same cow and doing a few chores in the barn brings the students closer to the farm and the cows.
A major theme of the year is the Norse myths. These stories meet the children in their multiplicity: old, simple, loving gods, gods who revel in conflict, gods with strength, with beauty, with goodness, with cunning, selfish and selfless gods. Woven into these language arts blocks is deepened work with the parts of speech and punctuation. As with all of our blocks, they also serve as vehicles for exercises in writing, drawing, painting, and the planning and production of a play.
Composition and letter writing is part of the fourth graders’ work, and they often have a pen pal from another part of the country with whom to correspond. The essays for their main-lesson books provide an opportunity to begin to enhance their composition skills.
Spanish and German
The fourth-grade students begin their foreign language classes reciting verses, speech exercises, and poems, and singing. Frequently, simple dialogue in the target language takes place. They read and solve riddles. Familiar poetry helps the students to enter the world of reading and writing. They begin by reading their own writing, and soon move on to reading from a reader designed for the fourth grader. The students always hear and work with the story and vocabulary before encountering the written word. The students are introduced in a more formal way to grammar. They work with nouns, verbs, articles, and pronouns. The books they create include verses, vocabulary, and grammar explanations. When time and weather permits, they may also enjoy games outside.
Math work focuses on fractions. This work always progresses from a tactile representation (clay, paper, food, etc.) to the pictorial and numeric. Individuals traverse this progression at different speeds, some ready to move almost immediately to the numeric and others needing the support of pictures throughout the year. A step-wise approach is taken from understanding the meanings of numerator and denominator, adding and subtracting fractions with the same denominators, mixed and improper fractions, finding common denominators, and adding and subtracting fractions with different denominators. In our subsequent work with multiplying and dividing fractions, students stay focused on what multiplying and dividing fractions means and on picturing each process, more than on the rote procedures of (in division) inverting and multiplying. Toward the end of the year, long division is added in order to divide by multiple digit divisors, while retaining short division for simpler questions.
The fourth graders learn to cross-stitch and cover the entire surface of the project they design. At this stage of development, children experience the separation between themselves and the world more consciously. At the same time, their individuality emerges more strongly, and the cross-stitched projects offer the opportunity to express their emerging creativity and intellectual growth. Symmetry is strongly worked with and builds upon the form-drawing experience of previous years. The children discover great lawfulness as well as freedom within the symmetrical patterns they explore.
Music is offered twice a week all year. The students sing echo songs, folk songs, classical songs, and rounds. They work with music reading and sight-singing. The children continue to deepen their understanding of scales, intervals, and arpeggios, and are introduced to bass clef. They also work on developing recorder skills, and practice sight-reading and improvisation on their instruments. In the second half of the year, the class begins to meet as an orchestra once a week. They work on proper playing positions, playing together, and listening to each other. The little orchestra plays a number of rounds.
The students continue to refine their watercolor skills and paint many of the subjects they are studying – animals are often great favorites. As they move through the year, their ability to create clear forms in this difficult medium is refined. They also work in other media and create a variety of art projects throughout the year.
In eurythmy, we try to express through movement what we experience in speech and music. The inner movement, lawfulness, wisdom, characteristics, and beauty of spoken language and music can be approached and appreciated through eurythmy. More complex spatial forms including the five-pointed star, six-pointed star (double triangles), triangle, square, and lemniscates (figure eights) are moved to spoken language and music. And, to support spatial orientation, for the first time they move forms while facing the front of the room rather than in a circle. The fourth graders listen to, identify, and learn to express the major and minor qualities of music in movement. They work on alliterations, contraction and expansion, rhythm exercises, concentration exercises, and other exercises for dexterity, flexibility, and coordination.
The children experience a variety of activities that further develop their balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. They play group games such as kickball, capture the flag, Gods and Giants, and soccer, and practice throwing, catching, kicking, and running. Playing these team games, the students learn to work cooperatively while finding their own strengths and improving their skills.