The Thinking Stage: Part 1 (Class 5 and 6) aka The Bridge Years

Welcome back for another round of Eurythmy! I would like to start off by talking a little about the bridge years. These years bring with it a lot of growth… along with confusion and uncertainty for the children as well as frustration for the teacher. However, if you come prepared with a few tools in your belt, things can be much easier. The years of about Grade 5 to Grade 8 are called the Bridge Years because they aren’t exactly in the Thinking Stage but they are beyond the Feeling Stage. They exist somewhere in between.

Fifth Grade: So this year, the children have finally figured out where they belong. They know what their many feelings mean and how to express them. The children are sure of themselves. They feel grounded and know where they fit in the world! They can show these many confident expressions through balanced, resolute steps. In fifth grade, the children begin to use their whole body for eurythmy. It has been a long journey from finger plays and clapping hands in kindergarten to form walking and gestures with steps in the fifth grade. These steps should be firm, strong, and earthy, yet loose and fluid. We should turn to the curriculum for creative ideas for eurythmy. For example, we study the people of Persia who were known for agriculture and cattle raising. What better way to express the concept of these people than with secure, grounded steps? And then we study the Egyptians with their precision and calculated measuring. We can express these people with perfectly symmetrical forms like the pentagram or hexagram. The Harmonious Eight is a symmetrical form where we can use firm yet flowing steps. This form is symmetrical yet movable. (I would explain how to do this exercise but it is very long. It is easy to follow and loads of fun. You can refer to the book Leaving Room for the Angels by Reg Down on pg 150. You can find his book at waldorflibrary.org for free!) Have fun and enjoy this age. Because next year you will experience many changes that bring another round of uncertain emotions!

Sixth Grade: I hope you enjoyed the fifth grade year. The children were so sure of themselves and just happy to exist! This year, their bodies are starting to change. This will bring an abundance of emotions brought on by hormones and self-doubt. All of a sudden, they don’t know themselves. Once more, they are on a voyage to rediscover where they fit in. And like before, we can use eurythmy to help them do this. And yet again, we turn to the curriculum to help us with ideas. Geometry is a big theme of sixth grade. Form walking is the best way to express these geometric shapes. We can walk the circle. We can shrink it, enlarge it, then reverse and move in the opposite direction, all while walking the circle. “We can also walk lemniscates, spirals, and diamonds, shrinking one side of the shape and then bringing it back. Geometrical shapes give purpose and meaning. It is important for the sixth grader to be reminded where he comes from by very concretely and unconventionally learning how to pray. We can express this in eurythmy by connecting with the sound of the musical scale or octave. The musical scale ascends upward, bringing us closer to God, and then descends downward, bringing those blessing down from above. So when we use moveable geometric shapes for form walking and gestures and sounds of the musical scale, we attempt to combine thinking, feeling, and willing, which is what we are trying to accomplish during the bridge years.” – Reg Down. I have included the pitch and scale exercise here:

1. First we play a scale and ask the children to show us what they heard with their hands. They will ALWAYS raise and lower their hands to show the sound. Next, ask them if they can come up with a gesture that shows what we just heard. The children usually show the correct gesture, but if not, ask questions that encourage them to give the correct gesture. It is always better if they can come up with it on their own. (The gesture is made by standing straight and tall and as the scale ascends, the arms are raised up from the side, elbows straight, to reach high above the head. Then as the scale descends, the arms are lowered back down.)

2. Next we teach the individual tone gestures by assigning each tone a specific height. (C scale so notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C)

3. When the children know the gestures well, we can pass the tones around the circle from child to child, each child holding their tone until the scale is complete.

4. The next step is choosing 8 children and lining them up one behind the other. Each child again has their own note which they hold until the scale is complete. When familiar with the exercise the children can execute the scale with great speed and precision.

  • The children who are not doing the exercise stand directly in front of the eight doing the scale. From this vantage point the tones unfold in a beautiful manner. Point out to the students that a picture arises within them when they watch the scale unfolding from this vantage point. Often they give the answer themselves: “It’s like a growing plant!” There is something wonderfully plant-like to the scale when it unfolds in this way, and the children often make a point of standing in front to admire its beauty.

5. Once the children completely understand these gestures, chose a geometric form and assign certain points in the shape where you will change tone gestures when the child reaches that point.

6. Next, chose a text (verse or poem) that can be recited while walking the form and gesturing the scale. Thus completing the exercise and combing thinking, feeling, and willing. This should be done over a number of weeks. We want to make sure they internalize each step before moving on.
(This exercise was built upon from the scale exercise in Leaving Room for the Angels by Reg Down. Some of this wording was taken directly from the book on page 181.)

So this is just a tiny portion of what is experienced in Fifth and Sixth Grade. My desire is that this gives a little clarity and insight into their minds and feelings. Welcome to the Bridge Years! Just remember that there may be times when they cannot accomplish an exercise or task that they were once perfectly capable of doing. This is a part of the ever-changing child! Don’t worry, they will once again, be able to connect to themselves and be physically and emotionally grounded. Until then, take things lightly, remember to laugh… humor is key in eurythmy!

(UP NEXT: The Thinking Stage: Part 2 (Class 7 and 8) a continuation of The Bridge Years. Awkwardness at its max and how we can push through it!)

 

-Image from Waldorf Homeschoolers

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