In third grade, the children awoke to the realities of the world around them in a generalized and dreamy way. The archetypal tasks of farming and house-building, and the activities of measuring and weighing, helped them find their way to the earth. Now, in fourth grade, they are here, and it is time for them to orient themselves in space and time. They begin geography, starting in their own classroom and carefully make maps of their room, then of the school, then of their route to school, gradually branching out to their town, county, and state. They delight in stories of local places, the mountain ranges, deserts, great valleys, and the coastal regions. The crops, minerals, and water resources become alive in them; a part of their inner space.
Between the ninth and tenth years of age, children are awakening to a new independence in their feelings about themselves and the world. This time is in many ways a turning point, when basic attitudes are found that will be carried through life. Accordingly, in the fourth grade the children study the human being as mirrored in the animal kingdom.
The common thread is to gain an insight into the human being and gain a love and responsibility for the animal kingdom. With the new awareness of this age, the children paint, sketch, dramatize, and write simple descriptions of the animals in their main lesson books. Thus, the child’s introduction to the study of nature and science is imaginative and artistic. Also, in the realm of feeling are the stories of the fourth grade: the Norse Myths (or perhaps the Celtic or Finnish myths). The mighty characters of Thor, Odin, the Giants, and the cunning Loki move through Middle Earth to the last battle of Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, the end and the beginning of all things. The stories speak particularly well to the growing nine to ten year old as they pass out of early childhood into a middle childhood that is often as conflicted as the weather of the northern lands. Fourth grade is indeed a year of extremes, from a creation story born of ice and fire to the comparison of a mouse and a cow. The children are asked to travel between these extremes and find the balancing points in each subject.
In form drawing, a subject distinct to Waldorf schools, the children may accompany their work with Norse Mythology by drawing freehand the weaving designs, symbols and decorative motifs of the Norse people or the Celts.
Composition, grammar, and reading fill many busy hours. In math, fractions are introduced. Whole number math is reviewed with more complicated problems than previously. Handwork (cross-stitching), music, painting, drawing, games, gardening, Spanish, and form drawing keep the fourth graders very busy.