Adventures in the Plant Kingdom

class 5 Feb 28, 2023
Waldorf Education Grade 5 Plant Kingdom

The year of Class 5 brings many adventures within its curriculum, and while stories from Ancient Civilizations capture our imagination, the main lesson block often called ‘Botany’, immerses both students and their teachers and parents in experiences that are both lively and beautiful. While the work and the observations keep us so very close to the earth and our senses immersed in the observations and explorations, as we create beautiful pieces of art and writing, we find that both students and their teachers feel an expansive sense of wonder, too. 

We follow a path very different from the standardized botanical classification of plants and we venture out into nature to encounter,

  • The infant-like yet full of wisdom nature of mushrooms,
  • The vibrant yet often hard-to-grasp nature of algae, mosses, and lichen,
  • The mysterious curls of the ferns,
  • The playful nature of conifer trees, vining plants, simple yet fragrantly blooming plants reaching towards the sun,
  • Plants with large and vividly colored flower heads, fruiting plants, trees, and shrubs, 

We encounter them in nature and see them within the places and communities they thrive in, realizing that no single plant is an island to itself, but rather a member of a vibrant, large, multidimensional community of living beings. We observe their relationship to each other as well as their relationship to insects, and later animals, and human life, too. 

The tiny seeds quickened in the darkness of the soil sprout and stretch giving life to stalks, leaves, stems … reaching ever more towards the sun and ever deeper into the earth … many succeed in bringing vibrant blooms, juicy fruits, and new seeds every year into the world. 

This main lesson block comes to life in the outdoor experiences as children ask and answer in their own ways, “What do I see about this plant? Who does it like to grow nearby? What does it strive to bring to life? Which insects and animals do I see around or on it? How does it look? What is the shape of the plant? What is particularly noticeable? At what time of the year does the plant grow and in which way? Is it exposed to light and wind? How warm is it? What does the earth look like? How does it smell? How does the plant feel to the touch?” The lessons transform the outdoor experiences through artistic explorations as the children paint, draw, and sculpt inspired by what they are seeing and exploring through both, outdoor observations and teachers’ narratives, descriptions, and stories from experience. 

The reason for taking this approach instead of the one made up of definitions and classification charts is beautifully summarized in Steiners’ description of the effect that teaching led by dispensing of plain definitions would have, When we are still very small children, our limbs must grow. We must not encase the hand in an iron glove because it would not be able to grow. If we teach children by giving them concepts and definitions, the child is always supposed to define. The worst thing we can teach a child is definitions, sharply defined concepts because they do not grow.” (R. Steiner)

During the year of Class 5, students find that they experience their presence as separate from their surroundings – they find themselves observing the phenomena in the world instead of feeling at one with it. When we lead the children through the main lesson block dedicated to the Plant Kingdom in a way that helps them see and feel the plants and their parts in relationship to the elements, the environment, and other life forms, we bring to them living images that can grow and sprout into endless inspirations, questions, and understandings for many years to come. Concepts and definitions that arise from such living images and experiences are not only better remembered but are also understood in a very lively way. 

This year, the first days of April bring our Class 5 to this block. It will be such a great joy to feel the wonder of these weeks and to witness the beauty that will flow through all of the creative work students will be doing. 

May blessings of Plant Kingdom abound for all. 

~By Ms. Daniela

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