Every grade in the City Garden School curriculum is inspired by a literary/historical/cultural theme. Saints and fables are the stories of the second grade, fairy tales are found in the first grade, and Norse myths and Beowulf will be found in the fourth grade. In third grade, the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures draw together the cultural and metaphorical history of Western humanity and the biographies of real people, weaving together the mythic and historical cultures into one fabric that is age-appropriate and timely for the students’ stage of development.

One of my many favorite things about my job is that the Waldorf method of education offers teachers a truly unique opportunity to artistically weave stories and experiences into our lessons that speak deeply to the children. We aim to support the development of the whole child; head, heart, and hands. When planning lessons, we seek to bring them an educational experience that meets them where they are. And as we settle back into our rhythm after winter break and another round of Hebrew Scriptures, I have been extra conscientious of this while choosing which stories to tell.

During our last Hebrew Scriptures unit, we spent three full weeks telling and re-telling the story of Creation through watercolor paintings and short writing summaries. When Grade 3 last heard about Adam and Eve, things were going great in the Garden of Eden–really great! There was no evil, no sadness, no pain–and there was no death. A true idyllic paradise. So you can understand what a jarring crash it was when the snake tricked Eve, and subsequently Adam, into disobeying the one command that Elohim had set for them; do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The class was shocked, almost stunned, when Elohim banished them from the Garden, sending them out into the world. There they must work by the sweat of their brows and their own hard labor to obtain food and shelter, and now they must know and experience the full duality of the world, both good and evil. And though Adam and Eve do eventually begin to make their way, it is emotionally and physically demanding, and they feel deep sadness for all they have lost.

As we’ve talked about already this year, this casting out of paradise emulates the third grader’s experience of the in-between state where they currently exist; no longer little but certainly not yet big. They voraciously seek to know and understand everything; they, too, have “had their eyes opened,” and they do not always like what they see! The class seems to feel a certain sense of comradery with Adam and Eve–authority figures can be so unfair, huh? The class is thoroughly engrossed in the tale, anxiously wondering what will happen next!

Moving through the next few weeks, I expect the class will continue to empathize deeply with the experiences of the people in these stories. There will be some strong feelings for sure! As a result, I have been holding the class somewhat more firmly than I have previously; I am asking them for more focus and more stamina–we still have a lot to cover this year, after all. (As more than one student has pointed out…”I am making them work by the sweat of their brows!”–ha!) Indeed, I am… because I know they are all more than capable of it. (And I assure you, these energetic kiddos still get plenty of movement and freedom in their school day–because their teacher totally needs it too!)

To bring it back to Adam and Eve, there is certainly nothing bad about the knowledge of good and evil. But because Elohim said don’t do this, and they did; well, they disobeyed him and thus endured the consequences. This is the natural way of the world, after all. And even though they are no longer in Paradise–whether that is the Garden of Eden or the simpler days of early childhood–the world is still a good place to be, with much to love and appreciate. We have the power to shape and build our own experiences within it, and we all must try to learn to take the bitter with the sweet.

Despite their mildly humorous and occasional grumbles about the additional work, they often surprise themselves at how fun and satisfying it is to work hard for something. And while not all learning activities may be super duper fun or their absolute favorite thing, it is still worth doing. And yes, sometimes school is hard! But those hard-earned lessons often have the biggest sense of accomplishment, don’t they?

I very much look forward to guiding the class through these last months of winter, when there is often a powerful surge in learning!

Other awesome activities that grade 3 has engaged in this school year at City Garden School are baking bread, science experiments, and Día de Los Muertos cultural activities.