Physical movement is an essential element of Waldorf education, whether it’s marching to count out numbers, practicing the art of Eurythmy, or engaging in games and other athletic activities. The way a child moves their physical body in space gives a window into their inner workings and serves as a guide as to how it is best to serve them in their developmental stage. Movement classes are designed to give each child the opportunity to inhabit their bodies with a grace and confidence that will carry into their adult professional and personal lives.
From the earliest grades on, outdoor activity and games play an important daily role in children’s lives. Movement activities are developmentally coherent with main lesson material; for example, in the fifth grade, when students study Greek and Roman history, they also participate in an Olympiad. These early activities help build a solid foundation in balance, dexterity, coordination, strength, and spatial body awareness that continues to serve the child in the upper grades.
As children enter middle school, active and refined movement continues to be a vital part of the curriculum. Sixth graders are given the opportunity to explore their capabilities through a large array of exercises and games. They begin to develop a relationship with strength training as well as delving more deeply into competitive play. The year culminates with the Medieval Games, replete with tug-of-war, archery and more.
Seventh and Eighth graders are, more deeply shaping the body that they will wear into adulthood. They are challenged and supported in pushing the edges of their endurance and ability to have a full experience of their muscular, connective and skeletal systems. The important aspects of competitive and cooperative play are kept alive in stride with individually training to compete in the annual track meet in such events as the discus, the javelin and short and long distance running.
Eurythmy is an expressive movement art unique to Waldorf education that incorporates dance, music, and poetry. Students develop a repertoire of moves and rhythms as they move through the grades, with performances guided by live music or spoken texts (poems, plays, stories).
The pedagogical Eurythmy curriculum closely follows the ongoing development of the child. It engenders understanding of the lawfulness of geometry, a sense of timing and precision, love for the beauty of language and music, reverence, flexibility, and social awareness. It is ever inspiring to see a group of young people moving in harmony with each other, sensitive to the dynamic of the whole as well as their own striving. Their shared intention seems to carry them along, leaving little space for personality clashes or self-doubt.
To move harmoniously with a group is a concrete practice in healthy social interaction! Waldorf graduates who have experienced this movement have commented that the soul is moved in Eurythmy along with the physical body, that they have a greater ability to engage with others harmoniously and even that they play sports better because of their Eurythmy experience.
Read more on our blog, Eurythmy Explained.