Before the Nine Year “change,” children live in sympathy with everything in the world, with parents and siblings, with loved teachers and friends, with Nature, its creatures and beauties. Now, as the children come to this age they “cross The Rubicon” between childhood and all that will come after. This is an extremely delicate transition. The child is no longer unconsciously carried in the stream of life that was given at birth, but awakens to his or her own separateness from every loved “other.” It is a time when the children need to meet the world in a new way, in a way that brings them the fullness of Earth’s potential for goodness and support. They need to know they can build upon the Earth, and rely on it to sustain them.
Third grade is a crucial turning point, the curriculum brings the children into their first experience of humanity’s struggle to find their place on the earth. In this vein, they learn stories of the Hebrew people: The Creation, The Great Flood and their long travail to create community. These stories are the backdrop of the year, but the richness of the Third Grade curriculum also includes other experiences that teach the children the earth is good, and that they can safely work upon it. It will provide the firm ground upon which they may build, and farm, and raise the animals that will sustain their life upon the earth. They learn about grains and fibers and they bake bread and work with wool. The children cultivate their own garden and grow a number of foods that are basic to life. In the end, they also harvest the the fruits of their labor, and bring these into the kitchen to be made into a meal. They gather fruits from the trees of our school garden to make compote and fruit spreads. They visit homesteads, where they learn about food production, beekeeping, animal culture and cooking. They visit building and construction sites and they learn about everything involved in building a home. They make their first maps and they begin to objectify the space in which they live and move.
Through these experiences, which are the “story” content of the Third Grade, the children learn that the Earth provides all that is needed for life. At the same time, they continue to develop their academic skills, as in the earlier grades, in the most delightful variety of learning experiences.