Preparing for the Pentathlon

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All across North America during fifth grade students prepare and train to complete in the Pentathlon. This annual celebration of fifth grade grace, skill, and determination, is a beautiful piece of the curriculum in Waldorf schools around the world. We owe gratitude to Miss Edit, our Games and Movement teacher, for developing this rewarding tradition and collaborating with fifth grade teachers to bring this piece of Greek history to life.

A Pentathlon by definition is an event that comprises five athletic components. Most Waldorf Pentathlons include: the long jump; the javelin throw; the discus throw; wrestling; and a relay race.

As with all aspects of the Waldorf school curriculum, this event is designed to take advantage of the peak moment of a child’s development. At age 11 or 12, in the fifth grade, children experience the height of childhood. The study of the history of human beings on the earth turns clearly in grade five from story, legend, and mythology, to written history.

The study of Greece comes at the end of fifth grade’s Waldorf curriculum path of history. Starting in ancient India, the students learn of the Holy Rishis and Hinduism, the caste system of organizing society while learning of Manu, Vishnu, Rama, and Brahma, with closeness to the spiritual realities of earth. From India they go to Persia and the domestication of animals and the beginnings of organized agriculture while hearing of Zarathustra and Ahriman, the powers of light and darkness. On to Egypt the year travels and the Pharaohs, slavery, the building of the pyramids and empires, and the god Osiris and his wife, Isis.

At last the year’s history comes to Greece and the students learn not only of Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Demeter, Poseidon, Athena, Aphrodite, Leda, Orpheus, Eurydice, Hades, and Persephone, but also of the emergence of democracy, philosophy, poetry and theater. The wars between city-states and the wars with invaders who wished to dominate and rule Greece are studied as well as the battle of Marathon and the run that lives on to this day.

In the Greek culture beauty was held as all-important. The clarity of beautiful speech in oration; the making of daily objects –vases, cups, wall paintings; the human form in athletic competitions – all of these were of great import as the people of Greece judged excellence.

In Waldorf Pentathlons this characteristic of beautiful form is paramount. It is not how fast, how far or how superior your results are athletically, but how you look, behave, and perform while achieving excellent results.

The day itself is prepared with odes the children might write to their favorite goddess or god for help in the day’s competition.  A opening ceremony, much like the Olympics, with the lighting of a flame and the offering of poems and food launch the day. There is a mood of reverence for the importance of the day and of the admiration the students have learned that different gods and goddesses had for different heroes and different sports and arts of warfare.

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Message from Miss Edit:

5th grade has been excited to embark on the endeavor of training for the Pentathlon. So far, we began work with the javelin throw, discus throw, running and long-jump. The students have been extremely disciplined about the safety procedures involved with javelin and discus throwing and are making great progress towards mastering a beautiful and graceful form combined with strength. Hand wrestling games will begin as the weather turns colder and we spend more time indoors.

 

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Fifth Grade Math

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We just finished our first math block of fifth grade! This block was only two weeks long. This year we are going to have short math blocks and plenty of them. I noticed last year that when the math blocks went on for 4-6 weeks the class really showed signs of fatigue in regards to math. My hope is to build their confidence this year and keep their math skills sharp by practicing often and introducing new concepts in short bursts. The first block of the year is usually focused on review, but we were able to squeeze a few new concepts in as well! Be began by reviewing fraction concepts, the anatomy of a fraction, and how to add and subtract fractions with like denominators.

From there we reviewed changing improper fractions to mixed fractions and back the other way.

This week we discovered the equation for calculating the volume of a cube or rectangular prism. First the class build their own ‘boxes’ using card stock and square centimeter paper. Then we measured the liquid measure capacity of each box. From there we were able to discover that for each of their boxes, length x width x height = the volume of the box be they cubes or rectangular prisms.

 

 

0.jpgToday we reviewed all these concepts in groups and paddles to show their answers. We have had daily math skills periods four days a week since we began school, but beginning next week, during that period Miss Smith will begin

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working with small groups on specific skills to boost our students. Some students may also pop through our shared door to Miss Ostfeld’s room if she has a group also working on that skill.

One area of math that I see our class still struggling with is basic multiplication and division fact fluency. We spent the first weeks of school practicing ‘fast facts’ sheet to increase automaticity, but this skill really needs to be supported by lots of at home practice. I will be sending home an email this week with tips for practicing at home. This is our last year to work hard to solidify these skills and lay the foundation for future success with factions, decimals, percents, and onward and upward.

Happy Day of Courage

Today COS celebrate its 5th annual Day of Courage. Our class was the very first class to put on a Day of Courage play five years ago. It is amazing to see how our little school has grown since then and to see how many children are enriched and inspired each day.

This year the celebration continued with a play where the whole school takes part. We came together in the morning and formed an enormous ring on the field. Each class spoke their part or sang a song to complete the story. We also participated in ‘games of courage.’ Miss Edit, our games and movement teacher chose games to fit each grade level and our specialist teachers and substitutes helped set up and direct each game. We built human pyramids and walked an obstacle course blindfolded and led by a friend.

After the festivities outside, we went in, wrapped up our Botany block, and feasted on dragon bread and apple cider. Monday we start our first math block of the year.

First Full Week of Fifth Grade

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Dear Fifth Grade Families,

We have just completed our first full week of fifth grade and I think we all had a blast. The year is starting out with Botany study. So far we have explored the structure of flowering plants and the structure of flowers. We have dissected flowers, drawn them, and modeled them in beeswax. Their work has been exceptionally impressive! We have been reading two books in class thus far: The Living World of Plants by Dr. Gerbert Ghihmann and Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins.

Today we explored the life cycle of butterflies and plants in comparison as well as collected flower specimens from our property to press in the clScreen Shot 2018-09-14 at 3.04.32 PM.pngassroom flower press. Next week, the class will continue on their botanist path by studying seeds. We will collect seeds from our beautiful campus and explore how seeds are dispersed. After that we will continue studying pollinations and pollinators.

We’re back!

This week we completed our first overnight trip away from Circle of Seasons. Last year, we had a campout on the school grounds, but this year we were fortunate enough to take a trip to the Pocono Environmental Education Center located in Dingmans Ferry, PA in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather and the kids and adults had a great time.

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The food provided by PEEC was terrific and kids went back for seconds and thirds for most meals. We were able to enjoy our meals in a beautiful cafeteria with floor to ceiling windows surrounded by the forest. A ‘swamper’ was assigned for each meal and they were responsible for setting the tables and cleaning up after each meal. The bunks were clean and comfortable and the educational experiences fit so nicely with our zoology study this year. I believe the canoeing on PEEC’s front pond was the favorite activity along with the night hike that took place on Wednesday evening between 8:30-9:30pm without flashlights! It was a wonderful experience and everyone went home a little more sun-kissed, a little tired, and a lot more independent.

A Yearly Spring Tradition

For three years now, we have been very lucky to have a parent join our class to teach us about the Ukrainian art of pysanky. Kalyna Procyk along with three other family volunteers came last week to help us with project. Pysanka, Ukrainian Easter eggs, are decorated with traditional Ukrainian fold designs using a wax resist method. This year Kalyna brought with her some plans for decorating the eggs using these traditional designs. A few tried their hand at these plans and a few let their creative capacities run wild.

Author Visit and Show What You Know

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As usual, we had another busy week. We began the annual Pennsylvania System School Assessment on Tuesday. Monday we talked about what our testing schedule would look like and had an extensive ‘morning meeting’ discussing what we could expect to see on the test and what the expectations would be. We also talked about Miss Sarah beginning to teach this new block on Local Geography and History. Miss Sarah began the block after our morning meeting by talking about state symbols. The class drew several in their main lesson books.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings were spent taking the assessment. I am very proud of the focus, effort, and perseverance the class showed in their test taking. We always talk about assessments being a way to ‘show what you know.’ I have to say that overall the class had a very positive attitude about the assessment and, of course, I am proud of them as long as they do their best.

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On Wednesday afternoon, we were incredibly lucky to have Parent Circle organize a visit from author, Adam Gidwitz, author of books such as A Tale Dark and Grimm, In A Glass Grimmly, The Grimm Conclusion, The Inquisitor’s Tale, and now The Unicorn Rescue Society. He was a terrific speaker and had the kids eating out of his hand; he is a former school teacher. The kids were especially excited to meet him, because we read blog articles written by him about his writing the entire week before his visit and practiced text dependent analysis writing based on his articles. ( TDA is the type of writing the fourth graders had on the PSSA this year.)

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Reviewing a Writing Rubric and assessing an essay written by another student.

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Reading an article written by Adam Gidwitz and finding evidence to support the prompt they are writing about. 

download.jpgThursday, we were back to testing and were busy with orchestra in the afternoon. Today, Miss Sarah took the lead in the classroom bringing state representative Ryan E. Mackenzie to visit the class to talk about what he does for our state and what his job is like. We also learned that Mr. Mackenzie went to high school with both Mrs. Ostfeld and Miss Jill!

Next week, we will start out the week with the Math sections of the PSSA and Miss Sarah will continue to expand on our local history and geography block.