Grade 9

The powerful subjectivity and emerging critical intelligence of the young adolescent encounter an underlying theme of polarities woven through the Waldorf curriculum for Ninth Grade. The academic lessons of English, mathematics, science, and history as well as the content of the arts blocks echo the same developmentally appropriate gesture of the dramatic tension between opposites.

The Ninth Grade begins with a rigorous course in geometry that objectifies the poles of “right” and “wrong” both in the precision of the drawing required and the exactitude of mathematical thinking. Geometrical logic defies opinion with its clarity and axiomatic progression. The ideal clarity of geometrical forms allows no slip of the pen. Poles of point and plane, center and periphery, and the mathematical harmonies of form in nature and art lead to experiences of the beauty and power of clear thinking.

A strong example of how academic discipline may be enhanced by the subliminal developmental theme of polarities is the Tragedy and Comedy Main Lesson block. The extremes of fundamental emotions of laughing and crying that resonate with such personal intensity in adolescence are objectified by the universal human experiences expressed artistically in Tragedy and Comedy. A second literature block is based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Reading comprehension, literary analysis, and sheer delight in language accompany vocabulary building on the basis of this masterpiece. The dramatic tension of dualities – light and darkness, Man and Nature, pagan and Christian, good and evil, death and resurrection – resonate with the inner search of adolescence for identity and meaning. The underlying thread of opposites is also woven through the History curriculum for the Ninth Grade. In the Modern History block, students study the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one. The dynamic dialectics of fascism-democracy, order-freedom, nationalism-brotherhood, materialism-idealism, and communism-capitalism engage and exercise the students’ historical imagination as they struggle for their own inner balance. Having developed a sense of historic perspective, they examine the causes, events and consequences of the world wars in the 20th century.

The Ninth Grade Fine and Practical Arts curriculum mirrors this focus on polarities and investigates the coming together of opposing forces. These themes are reinforced through Black and White drawing, Blacksmithing, and Spinning and Weaving. 


Tragedy & Comedy

The block begins with a look at the two fundamental human emotions of laughing and crying and how they relate to tragedy and comedy. After studying the origins of Drama, the class reads Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Next, the class shifts its focus toward drama in ancient Rome, then studying the four temperaments and how they influenced drama, especially comedy. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet end the block.

Moby Dick

In this course, students study Herman Melville’s classic American novel, Moby Dick. Vocabulary expansion is a major focus, as students collect lists of unfamiliar words to learn. Compositions may include Melville’s biography, descriptions of characters in the novel, an essay on Interdependence, and a creative writing piece based on themes in the reading. These assignments range from imagining a Masthead experience, to writing a “missing page” that, in order to sound as authentic as possible, employs Melvillian vocabulary, phrasing, and use of analogy.

English I

Throughout the year the class reads and analyzes a variety of literary works and students solidify their grammar skills.

They begin the year with intensive review of the summer reading. Summer Reading may include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Separate Peace by John Knowlesor, The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Throughout this unit, students work on vocabulary and usage, and improve their essay skills, expanding from the classic 5-paragraph essay to more complexly structured writing assignments.  They will also work on creative writing assignments from prompts and specific theme based assignments.


Euclidean Geometry

In this course, the students are introduced to Euclidean geometry with an emphasis on precise and accurate constructions of a variety of Euclidean proofs. Beginning with basic constructions for finding perpendiculars and bisectors, students are required to form their own sets of instructions. Each construction throughout the block is backed by its attendant proof and the students gain an appreciation of the rigor and sequential processes necessary for geometric proof. The purity of the geometry is reflected in each student’s striving to achieve precision and accuracy.

Probability and Statistics

Students in this course are instructed in the fundamental concepts of probability. We begin with a study of the fundamental counting principle, which leads to permutations, combinations, and, finally, probability. Throughout the block, students are informed about different games of chance and the means for discovering the mathematical methods that determine outcomes. The class also makes a brief study of statistics and methods of graphing.

Algebra I

The first part of the year is devoted to review and reinforcing some fundamental concepts such as handling fractions, percentages, ratios, word problems and basic algebra operations for solving linear equations with one unknown. Rules of operating with exponents and the addition and multiplication of polynomials are covered.

Topics covered include work in operations with polynomials and factoring monomials and polynomials with a focus on quadratic trinomials and difference of squares. Some operations with algebraic fractions are introduced. Operations with radicals and simplification of radical expressions are covered. Fractional exponents are introduced. Student evaluations are based on a number of factors including individual progress, effort, conduct in the classroom as well as homework and test scores.



In our study of chemistry, we explore the activity and relationships of substances. Throughout this exploration, we try to keep in mind: Where does this occur in Nature? Where does this occur in the human being? Where does this occur in technology? Our focus is Organic Chemistry– the substances and nutrients created by living systems and including carbon. We study the chemistry of plant development and photosynthesis, sugars and other carbohydrates, as well as lipids, proteins, alcohols, and esters. Through demonstrations and experiments we make observations and arrive at some basic conclusions.

The content of ninth grade chemistry is an introduction to organic chemistry and an experience of performing and designing experiments. We began with photosynthesis and studied the carbohydrates including sugars, alcohols, acids, aldehydes, ketones and esters. Students perform experiments in small lab groups and then begin to design experiments based on the techniques they have learned.

Human Biology and Comparative Anatomy

In this block, we consider the natural context of the human body and begin to explore the interaction between function (physiology) and form (anatomy). We study comparative anatomy of representative animals to deepen our understanding of human biology, and use drawing and modeling of structures and organs to artistically and physically experience nuances of form. In addition to reviewing the bones, we study muscles, the brain and nervous system, and other organ systems.


The 9th grade explores the fundamentals of thermodynamics beginning with an investigation into the nature of heat and how it may be measured and quantified. Heat transfer, its effects on materials (expansion and contraction), the principle of bimetal and liquid-in-glass thermometers.


In this block, we look at the processes of physical geology that shape and mold the earth. During the course of our study, we examine the changing picture of how and why the earth was formed, from antiquity to the present theory of Plate Tectonics. We study the biography of geologists and learn how their observations and insights evolved into our current understanding of the earth. We do some local fieldwork during our main lesson and examine some geological processes and phenomena in the vicinity of Hawthorne Valley. The students do independent research on various topics related to geology and present their research to the class.  The class culminates with a week-long geology field camp where the students do fieldwork, lab work, and geologic mapping.

Social Studies

History through Art

The History through Art block is an overview of the primary visual arts, mostly painting and sculpture, from pre-historic times to the Renaissance. Slide images are included in the presentations. The block book consists of drawings, text, and diagrams, with value is put on efforts made by the students towards aesthetic appearance, graphic design, and written content. This course serves as an introduction to art appreciation, while following cultural development through active observation of masterpieces and recognition of the critical transitions between historical periods. The block ends with a review test.

Modern History

This block explores 20th century history from an American point of view, with a focus on Europe. Topics include industrialization and the worker, immigration, the end of European aristocracy, WWI, the Depression, WWII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War, which we study through readings, photographs, film, and biography. Assignments include expository and creative writing, maps, and artistic work.

World Languages

A choice of Spanish or German is offered and students will continue with that language throughout high school. The goal of the language program is to go beyond basic reading and conversational skills to develop a living connection to the language of choice and related cultures. Emphasis is also placed on the development of foundational language skills so that students are prepared to deepen and expand their world language skills from an exchange or other immersion experience. Many students go on exchange during the course of grade 10 or grade 11.

Fine and Practical Arts

Music – Chorus

All high school students sing in our mixed chorus.  Singing technique, breathing, diction, musical awareness and a refined sense of listening are the main goals. The students take pride in fine performances. Our big events are the Messiah concert in the winter and the closing events each year where a capella and accompanied choral music is featured. We also perform at all-school assemblies.  In addition to the difficult Messiah choruses, the students sing classic choral music, jazz, and popular selections and music from around the world.


Speech and Music eurythmy is taught in the mid-day classes for grades 9-12, and the seniors also have an additional block of artistic eurythmy which may culminate in a performance.

Black and White Drawing

In this block, students start with a number of observational exercises that help them draw what they see, rather than what they think. They work on proportion, shading, direction of line, speed, and exact observation. Toward the end of the block, students work on one large still life with charcoal and white conté crayon on colored paper. That is the show piece of the block, and it pulls all the preliminary exercises into focus.

Spinning and Weaving

Spinning class begins with sorting and carding wool. Initially, spinning is accomplished on drop spindles, and later, wheels are employed. Some of the students ply two colors of yarn together on a spinning wheel. After the class has had an experience of preparing their own yarn, they begin basic weaving. The students plan and execute a strap or belt on an inkle loom using a warp-faced technique.


The blacksmithing work engages the student in the process of working iron under extreme conditions (high temperatures and short times). The state of the hot metal is not unlike clay, but it cannot be touched directly with the hand and must be worked using hammer and anvil as well as other tools. Effective forging requires that actions and sequences are thought through beforehand and then efficiently carried out while the metal is hot. It is a demanding process that is not tolerant of inattention or indecision. The students forge a particular piece in triplicate which becomes a test of their acquired forging skills.


The students learn the process of joining wood with dovetails. This is an exercise in great precision and accuracy. Students must measure carefully and master the cutting tools to make the proper cuts. This is the joinery that is the foundation of fine furniture building. Students may make a lid and, if there is time, they embellish it with carving.

Physical Education

Activities range from outdoor competitive games to indoor movement classes including dance and pilates.

Community Service

Students in grades 9 through 11 are required to do a minimum of 40 hours of community service. Typically students help out with Hawthorne Valley Association events, work for elderly and less able home owners, volunteer for non-profits, and do other non-paying activities that lend a service to those in need. Students who did not meet the 40 hour requirement have the summer to make up the hours required.