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. The children’s strong connection to the land is further built through on farm experiences and geography work.
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 continuing grammar work including work with verb tenses, and increasingly complex spelling and vocabulary work. 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 with whom to correspond. The essays for their main-lesson books provide an opportunity to begin to enhance their composition skills.
Math work focuses on fractions. This work 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. 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.
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 learning about 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 Adirondacks. They end the geography work by studying the boroughs and harbor of New York City 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.
German and Spanish
The fourth-grade students recite verses, work on speech exercises, 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.
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.
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. The class begins to meet as an orchestra. They work on proper playing positions, playing together, and listening to each other.
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. To support spatial orientation, students move 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, 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.