By Class 3, when the children are 8-9 years old, the differences in ability and inclination or talent are evident to teacher and pupils alike. Up to this point the class has learned everything together: whole-class teaching & whole-class learning. Now there is more differentiation. The children make allowances for each other and appreciate each other’s strengths. They often try to support those who are having difficulty.
At this age the children begin to question the teacher’s authority. Whereas previously they loved their teachers in an unquestioning way, now they admire them for their abilities. This becomes evident by the questions they ask. Class 3 children are often happy to sit alone — a separation such as would previously have made them quite uncomfortable. They think about their world and ask questions about it whereas up to this age they almost always felt happy to just be part of it.
The stories told at this age are to give the children figures of authority: Abraham for example, an unfalteringly reliable figure at a time when their inner world is unsettled. They are trying to make sense of the world, to work things out for themselves. These stories address many moral questions that give the children an inner landscape to refer to in future life.
The children notice what is happening in the world around them and they need to be shown how they are a unique, individual part of it. Their rhythmical memory is strong and they can learn a great deal at this age if the lesson engages the child’s natural interest in the world and structures the content rhythmically. This curiosity about the world is reflected in the Steiner Waldorf curriculum for Class 3 with its onus on practical activities.
The practical activities awaken in the child a feeling for the inter-relatedness of all things. For example at Michael House we have gardens which Class 3 can cultivate and maintain. Last year Class 3 grew some wheat. When it was harvested they ground it then made some bread to eat. The vegetables and herbs went into a soup. There is usually a practical activity for every main lesson in Class 3.
Aims and Objectives
The child in Class 3 can now apply their newly acquired literacy and numeric skills to everything they do in class. Measurement, weighing, solving simple problems are exciting new areas for them which are useful. Keeping a written, and pictorial, record is essential. By involving the whole class in the experience of working together in building, farming and other projects, the Class teacher helps to transform the initial feeling of separateness from the physical world to a feeling of responsibility for it.
Highlights of Class 3
We have a main lesson on building and thereby the Class 3 child gets to know how availability of materials affects the outcome of a dwelling, a moment of wonder in the education of the child. The Class teacher will take the class to see a working watermill and/or windmill and a working farm. They may do some simple work e.g. weeding or digging which they do with great energy. For some children this is a first experience of touching soil and working it and it is a great revelation for them. On the farm the animals are always a joy to children of this age.