Can I Teach the Solar System in First Grade?

Question from Melissa: There has been recent discussion on several Waldorf pages pertaining to teaching younger children about the solar system or the night sky in general. It looks to me like the solar system is not taught until about 6th grade. Is there a specific reason for that? My girls are 6 1/2 and fascinated by the night sky. Are there any simple lessons or verses that can be taught for younger children?

Answer from Waldorf Teacher, Diane Power: Regarding astronomy, it is generally brought as a main lesson subject in 6th grade. The study is based on observations made with the unaided eye, linking myths and legends to the constellations, and observing the sun and moon. It also builds on skills using a compass and straight edge to depict the arcs and circles that describe the paths of the stars in different quadrants of the sky. In 7th, during the Age of Discovery & Astronomy, students learn about the lives of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo.

This does not mean that astronomy is ignored in the other grades. It is not the focus. In each grade the sun, moon and stars are part of the story of humanity. There is a great resource for verses – Rhythms, Rhymes, Games and Songs for the Lower School selected, arranged and edited by Christoph Jaffke. There are blessings, poems, finger plays and much more. At almost 7 years old, I would encourage them to watch where in the sky the sun rises in the morning and where it sets at night – watch this phenomena through the seasons. Watch the North Star and other planets visible in the sky. Note the changes in the moon. Do something special on New Moon and/or Full Moon days. My kids and I would always go out to watch the Full Moon rise over the horizon.

If your girls have questions, answer them, but don’t feel as if you need to give them a “lesson.” Let them drive the conversation so you can discover what they want to know. Ask them what they think. Remember, we are educating – allowing their thinking to develop, not necessarily feeding them with “facts” as if everything in the world has already been discovered. Allow them to feel the magic of the world unfold before them.

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