The annual Fifth Grade Pentathlon took place last week at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, VT, with our school joining six other Waldorf schools from across Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. This annual fifth grade tradition brings the students a chance to live into their curriculum, specifically Greek history, for two days.
As with all aspects of Waldorf curriculum, the event is designed to align with the students’ development. In fifth grade, as students are experiencing the height of childhood just before moving into middle school, the study of history evolves from story and legend into written history. The class begins the year studying ancient Mesopotamia, India and Egypt. Later in the year, they study ancient Greece and the emergence of democracy, theater, philosophy and poetry. At the pentathlon, the schools are mixed and each student spends two days as a “citizen” of one of the city states they learned about — Marathon, Athens, Sparta and Corinth — with students from the other schools. An interdisciplinary combination of phys ed and main lesson comes to life as they participate in five athletic events — sprint, javelin, long jump, discus and wrestling. Throughout the year, while our class was learning about the history, culture and values of Ancient Greece with Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Stewart was teaching them the finer points of each athletic discipline — all of which were considered to be useful in war or battle and part of military training in Ancient Greece. In the true spirit of the Greek Olympiad, all thoughts of conflict are put aside as the city states come together to celebrate through athletics. Technique, beauty and grace are the focus of the games with athletes striving for a well-rounded classical Greek ideal and judges taking note of how each athlete embodies these values.
All in all it was a beautiful, inspirational and fun two days near the shores of Lake Champlain — our own version of the Aegean Sea! The class looks forward to seeing their new friends in a year when they travel to Pine Hill Waldorf School in New Hampshire for the Medieval Games as part of their study of Ancient Rome!