Fifth grade is referred to as the “golden year” because students at this age are enthusiastic about learning, eager for new challenges and capable of hard work and creativity. A sense of self-consciousness emerges, yet they remain confident and harmonious with their surroundings. They develop an ordered sense of space and time, and hold a deeper understanding of personal responsibility and the ethics of right and wrong.
The students learn the history of ancient civilizations including India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. These histories of human deeds and strivings present the child with a broad picture of the diverse experience of humanity. They study the mythologies and religions of these cultures and discuss their philosophies of creation, life and death. Working with early forms of writing, geometry and architecture, the fifth graders experience, in part, the roots of modern culture. Through these classical stories, students develop inner imagination and empathy with an ancient world that is different from their own.
Fifth grade also marks an important learning transition out of mythology into history. Through study of the ancient Greeks, students develop an appreciation for the balance between skill and beauty, art and science, earthly life and spirituality. The students enter the world of human leaders, historical campaigns and real world events.
In mathematics, decimal notation used in the four operations is introduced while students continue with fractions, multi-digit problem solving and word problems. They also learn freehand geometry to gain a sense of the structure of space and delineated form. As a continuation of their study of the living earth, the fifth graders begin a study of botany, the plant world, which nurtures their dawning acceptance of the beauty of the world as they balance scientific observation with aesthetic appreciation. After discovering some of the secrets of the plant life found in her own environment, the child’s attention is drawn to vegetation in other parts of the world. “Rather than dissect plants and analyze the parts, the science approach used in the lower school stresses the healthy activity of the senses: the children will learn most through what they can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. In our technological time, when our senses are deadened through their dependence on “ready-made” impressions gained through photographs, TV, microscopy, etc., we want to do everything possible to bring the children’s senses to life, and science is a stimulating means to this goal,” (Eugene Schwartz).
In studying North American geography, students examine how and why people live and work in specific regions. As the children’s horizons widen, the study of the geography of the United States presents wonderful possibilities. The configuration of the regions of our country and the people and economic conditions of each region are studied and contrasted. Elements of Native American life and U.S. history are woven into these lessons to help show the connection between the human being and the part of the earth they inhabit. As the children’s looks farther afield, they also take a giant step away from their teacher. As part of this new experience of independence, a research paper on one state is given. In-depth instruction on how to do research, outlines, bibliography, write letters, take notes, and write a report is given. Each child also learns the capital cities of the 50 states.
In addition to practice periods, specials include Spanish, four-needle knitting, and Games.