Geography & Social Studies


The Santa Cruz Waldorf School has a rich, comprehensive and developmentally appropriate geography curriculum. The Waldorf approach to education allows for multi-disciplinary teaching, bringing art, history, language arts, geography, geology, movement and the sciences together to provide a rich and deeply rewarding learning experience to students in all grade levels. Field trips are a favorite tool that teachers use in all grades to allow students to experience many physical and cultural geographical lessons, and are often mentioned as a favorite component of the education.

Geography at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School is a study of the ‘gifts of the earth’ in various regions. It includes the study of the land, waterways, and climate, as well as the study of the people who inhabit the land, their customs and how the environment affects their daily lives. In this way the study of geography includes aspects of social studies, anthropology, and history.

In the early grades, the scope of the geography and social studies curriculum is focused on the local surroundings of the child. In third grade the children focus their studies on the practical aspects of daily life and basic survival. In this way they begin to learn about and understand how the environment directly affects the lives, customs, culture, and choices of people living in different types of situations. They are also exposed to various cultures and different points of view. In the fourth grade, the study of local and California geography begins with map-making.  Maps drawn in pencil and sculpted from clay help the students to engage with their surroundings.

Following the principal of beginning at home and expanding outward, the upper elementary grades begin with a focus on North America in fifth grade. Sixth grade generally focuses on Central and South America and maps become a central component of the geography curriculum. Geography reports allow students to deepen their relationship with specific areas of the world and to share their information during class presentation.  Our Spanish teachers and other native speakers often help to provide first-person narratives from Latin America.

The study of the Age of Exploration affords many opportunities to delve into the geography of Africa, Europe and Asia in seventh grade. Commerce and transportation between places are also studied as this reveals the geographical features as well. Even the cultural and religious life of the countries is part of this overarching picture of life on earth. As ever, in teaching geography, contrasts such as tropical and polar, desert and alpine or forest lead to a deeper feeling for the subjects.

By eighth grade the students have formed an integrated view of the world and its peoples. Meteorology and oceanography, too, may be woven into this picture. This final block of geography often deals in part with little known and exotic places, stimulating a sense of wonder for the diversity of life on our planet.