Zoology: Man and Animal

class 4 man and animal Oct 27, 2022
Waldorf Education Grade 5 Man and Animal Zoology

“What a piece of work is man!

How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving,
How express and admirable. In action how like an Angel. In apprehension how like a God!
The beauty of the world, the paragon of Animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
 -William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

I often turn to the Bard for inspiration and motivation and again he does not disappoint. During our class 4 year we study zoology for the first time. We call it “MAN AND ANIMAL”. As Waldorf teachers, we have a tendency to say, ”This is my favorite main lesson”. I am often called out by children that I have many favorite main lessons. This again is one of them!

The main lesson so beautifully addresses what makes us human. We speak of our Feeling, our Thinking, and our Will. We look at the physical attributes of us as humans: head, trunk and limbs (HEAD, HEART AND HANDS) The animal kingdom is vast and diverse and you could get lost in the classification and intellectualization of these creatures. We endeavor to create a study of our relationship and similarities to animals.

The animals are also divided into Head, Trunk and Limb animals. It is so fascinating to understand their habitats, diets and life cycle. The children are made aware of the sensitive and, at times, savage nature of the animal kingdom. The study of animals is so diverse and varied. We study the octopus, deer, eagle, field mouse, and even the mighty elephant.

This main lesson creates the opportunity to immerse ourselves creatively in the world of animals. Children are given the opportunity to sketch, paint and often mold the animal that they are studying. The children hear beautiful stories about the different animals and their environment. These stories are often personified with names but all the facts regarding the animal are given. We are often shown the ways in which man and animal interact: eg, the blind guide dog or the Asian elephant that works for man.

I have had wonderful opportunities to share my experiences with the children of Seasons of Seven and also to learn from them. In South Africa, we have encounters with animals on a daily basis. The children are aware of the monkeys that are in my garden or in my kitchen every day. I have shared moments with African elephants in Knysna, visits to the crocodile sanctuary, the tortoises that roam free near the home of my father-in-law and of course our resident snakes. I live very near the sea so we have moments where I see dolphins dance in the waves and the whales splashing and thrashing on the African horizon.

The Man and Animal study enables the child to make a thorough connection with the animal kingdom through the stories and discussions. It is with wonder that I too hear about black bears, mountain lions, raccoons, deer, and coyotes. 

The Man and Animal main lesson has challenged my perception of the animal kingdom and I long for more adventure and closer, gentle encounters with these creatures.

My hope and dream are that the same feelings are evoked within the children.    

~By Gerhard Siepker

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