Human and Animal block 3rd and 4th grade- November

In the fourth grade curriculum, “Nature Studies” from the earlier grades, transitions into the “Natural Sciences”. With our first Human and Animal block, our class explored what it means to be human and looked at our relationships with the living beings and environments that surround us. Our study really began and ended with the human form. We started by discussing the shape and functions of the three main sections of our bodies: head, trunk, and limbs. Once we discovered that function follows form, we began to move outward and compare these aspects of our bodies to those of various animals. Through this comparison, we found that we share much with many different animals, and that these similarities provide us with a wide diversity of physical abilities.

The Three Parts of the Human Being

The Three Parts of the Human Being

The Human Body as the Sun, Moon and Stars

The Human Body as the Sun, Moon and Stars

While maintaining this sense of connection to animals, we also discussed what sets humans apart from other animals. Our unique ability to walk upright gives us the use of our hands to do many incredible things. The students were asked to reflect on what we use our hands for, and the power that this gives us. As third and fourth graders, the students are becoming very curious about their role in the world. We discussed the responsibility we all have to use our hands to do good work, and how exciting the possibilities are. With the creative power of their minds and the dexterity and skill of their hands, they can do anything! This wondrous realization will continue to help assuage the hints of jealousy they feel as we discuss some of the impressive abilities of other animals.

A Reflection on the Senses

The Five Senses

During these discussions of other species, and the artistic process that followed as we drew each unique animal form into our main lesson book, the value of incorporating the arts really struck me. We all carry around images of animals in our heads, as well as impressions of who they are and how they behave. For the fourth graders, many of whom have had the Waldorf experience since kindergarten, these images were developed out of fairytales and fables. Those rich stories fed their imaginations and helped them form an initial emotional connection to animal characters. Paired with outdoor play, nature studies on school hikes, and general outdoor exploration, they began to form their own understandings of animals while maintaining awe towards the power of nature’s mystery and wonder. As a teacher, I wanted to maintain this deep, imaginative relationship each child has to the animal kingdom while moving towards a more analytical understanding of biology. Fortunately, this question is answered by the rich artistic component of our curriculum.

Wet on Dry Watercolor- Eagle

Wet on Dry Watercolor- Eagle

Just as in a science lesson, drawing an animal form must be anchored in close observation of your object of study. What I found while leading my class from a vivid mental picture of an animal in its natural habitat to a real-life drawing on paper, is that the drawing process pulled out more nuanced questions and details about the animal’s nature than I ever could have included in a lecture. Best of all, they were generated by the students’ own imaginations! As one carefully shapes a muscular leg of a lion with crayon, one cannot help but wonder at its power and strength. The shape immediately pulls your imagination out of the classroom and into the savannah. Similarly, you cannot draw a dreamy cow’s beautiful eye without pondering what that cow must think about as it chews its cud all day. To draw an animal or human form accurately is to study their whole being with your whole being: hands, head, and heart.

The Cow

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The Lion

The Lion

In three short weeks, we dove into animal behavior and physiology on a deeper level than I could have imagined. Along with drawing, we used song and verse to develop our understanding of the behavior of contrasting animals even further. When used together, music, drawing and poetry serve to breathe warmth into the sciences and ensure the students carry an imaginative, artistic, and emotional understanding of animals with them as they continue biology in later grades.

Gifts from Animals

Gifts from Animals