arts & Special Subjects
At MWS, the arts and special subjects are an essential part of a well-rounded education, bringing experiential and artistic dimension to the Main Lesson block for deeper academic understanding. Through the arts, students gain creativity in thinking, an awareness of feeling and an appreciation for beauty in the world. In the early grades, the arts are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the day with the class teacher. As students grow older and develop their skills and capabilities, special subject teachers bring more advanced instruction to the class. All MWS students participate in each one of these subjects throughout their grades education.
Working Together in Harmony
From the very first day of 1st grade, the class sings together in Main Lesson. Formal chorus classes begin in fourth grade, culminating in a middle school grade chorus that performs at events and school assemblies. Our diverse instrumental music program begins with recorders in the early grades, later adding in the alto, tenor and bass recorders to create a full recorder ensemble. Fourth graders learn to play the violin and in fifth grade, students choose an instrument to play throughout the middle school grades in the MWS orchestra or band.
Deepening Academic Understanding
MWS students benefit from the complete integration of visual arts into core subject areas, where academic inquiry and artistic expression go hand-in-hand. Much of the artistic subject matter comes from Main Lesson studies, such as illustrating myths in the early grades, painting local landscapes in fourth grade geography and drawing a tomato plant in fifth grade botany. Middle school students learn Renaissance portraiture and perspective drawing techniques that support their understanding of geometry.
Drawing, painting and modeling begin in the early grades with simple materials like crayon, watercolor and beeswax. As students’ artistic skills and perceptive capacities grow more precise, the materials they work with enhance that precision and students complete compelling works in charcoal, pencil, oil pastel, batik, acrylic paint and clay.
Rising Beyond Oneself
Every year, each grade performs a play, bringing to life a story from one of their Main Lesson blocks. The second grade might depict Aesop’s Fables, the fourth grade could inhabit the vivid characters from Norse Mythology and the sixth grade may plumb the depths of the hunger for power in the Caesars of the Roman Empire. Students build empathy and self-awareness as they step out of themselves to explore another’s point of view.
They also foster teamwork within the social fabric of the class as they rise to the challenge of putting on a theatrical production. Throughout the year, students have a variety of performance opportunities including sharing assemblies with other classes, music concerts, circus arts showcases and the May Day festival, which features folk dancing and music by each class.
practical arts & handwork
Engaging Head, Heart & Hands
Over the course of eight years, every student learns to knit, sew and work with wood and metal. These activities not only teach practical skills, but support sensory integration, powers of concentration and the unfolding of each student as a well-balanced, self-confident individual. Projects grow in complexity, from knitted animals and hats in the early grades to three-legged stools and self-designed sewing patterns in middle school. MWS students work with professional-grade tools and experience the aesthetic pleasure of high-quality, all-natural materials.
Activity for Life
Beyond daily movement activities in Main Lesson and outdoor recess, each grade has two movement classes per week. Throughout the grades, students learn eurythmy, a movement art unique to Waldorf education, as well as tumbling and circus arts, which increase in complexity over the years. The early grades focus on both individual and group movement activities and non-competitive games. Fourth grade introduces team competition with classic games like Four Square, Kickball and Capture the Flag. In 5th grade, students hone the individual skills of the Greek Olympics and in middle school, they learn the rules and skills of sports like basketball, softball and hockey. Our movement program takes full advantage of what the Keene community has to offer: students play sports on the full-sized field of Carpenter Park, hike around Robin Hood Park, skate at Keene Ice and even have a swimming and gymnastics block at the YMCA.
Thinking with Flexibility
MWS students study French throughout the grades. Beginning with stories, songs and games in the early grades, students absorb the musicality and feeling of the language. Meaning is acquired steadily as students become more conversational in fourth and fifth grade, progressing to grammar, reading and writing in the middle school grades. A highlight of seventh grade is the trip to Quebec, where students get to test their conversational skills firsthand!