The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 5

Notes and Lesson Plans

updated December 24, 2018

This page has helpful links and LOADS of free resources to help you plan your fifth grade year. Enjoy!

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Botany I & II
for Class 5

Pinterest - Renee Schwartz
My curated collection of visuals! Browse sample main lesson book pages, watercolor paintings, chalkboard drawings, etc. for Botany.

There is a lot of content to cover in Botany, so this is can be done as one block or two. If you prefer one block, I would suggest only using my first block's notes (below). If you prefer two blocks, you can use the Thomas Elpel materials to go into more detail. This second Botany block can be done in 5th grade or 6th. Please do note that these resources are for teaching Botany in North America.

FREE eBooks at the Online Waldorf Library
Excellent resource! Published Waldorf curriculum books provided here in PDF format for you to download, keep, and read... for free!

Sample Lessons and Free Curriculum

Other Helpful Links

Books to Buy

A lot of options here, but I strongly recommend going with Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac's Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children, plus Thomas Elpel's excellent plant identification resources: Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, Shanleya's Quest, and the Patterns in Plants Card Game.

for block I

for block II

Donna Simmons's original Botany block suggests that you purchase her book, plus Eric Fairman's Path of Discovery volume 5: Grade 5, Keepers of Life, and The Living World of Plants: A Book for Children and Students of Nature by Grohmann, although she notes that this book may seem strange to some since he is an anthroposophical botanist.

She also provides a sample four week schedule for this main lesson block -- and mentions some additional resources -- as follows:

    Week 1 - What is a Plant?
      Day One - General introduction to plants - similarities and differences; relationship to light (sunflowers); need for moisture; draw a plant; Steiner's poem (plant and butterfly); Grohmann pp.8-10 and 104-111; soak beans in preparation for observing and drawing their growth

      Day Two - Choose 'tree friend' to observe and write about; watercolor painting of a flower; plants and the environment; write up 'Plants'; simple overview of photosynthesis - draw picture; poem 'Kind Hearts'

      Day Three - Talk about plants, animals, and people; read aloud The Corn Spirit (Keepers of Life, pp.3-4); write about 'tree friend'; independent reading (my son read the section on 'Prairies and Wetlands' from Nature Smart by Stan Tekiela); observe bean and draw (keep it moist!)

      Day Four - Seeds - Talk about seeds; collect 10 different kinds of seed - don't forget spores on mushrooms and ferns; talk about rhizomes (irises) and bulbs (tulips, garlic) - then label, glue on card, put in folder; correct child's piece on his tree; draw 'Parts of a Plant'; independent reading (suggestion: One Day in the Alpine Tundra by Jean Craighead George)

      Day Five - How Plants Grow - finish any work left over; observe new growth on trees and bushes; talk about annuals, biennials, and perennials; look at tree rings - talk about and draw; take a week walk - observe how dandelions grow in different environments; observe bean and draw

    Week 2 - Seven Plant Families

      Day One - Talk about what you did last week; draw bean; draw 'tree friend'; independent reading from Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands by Elizabeth P. Lawlor and Pat Archer on wetland mammals

      Day Two - Present seven plant families; read Grohmann pp.34-62; copy list and illustrate; talk about this

      Day Three - Fungi, Lichens, and Algae - make spore prints; make clay mushrooms; take a walk and look for lichens and mushrooms in the woods; independent reading: Nature Smart section on mushrooms; copy 'Fungi' and 'Lichens'

      Day Four - Bryophytes and Ferns - look at pictures in books; make a sunprint with ferns; make a terrarium; independent reading: Discover Nature Close to Home chapter on lichens

      Day Five - Finish up anything left over; draw bean; copy 'Mosses' and 'Ferns and Horsetails'

    Week 3 - Trees

      Day One - Review what you did last week; Conifers - Observe different conifers (How are they the same, how different?); collect 5 different kinds of conifer needles; draw a conifer; collect pine cones and examine different patterns. (Look at Conifer Excursion in Keepers of Life

      Day Two - Finish up from yesterday; copy 'Conifers'; independent reading: Discover Nature Close to Home "The Pine Family"

      Day Three - Other trees (angiosperms) - Make different bark rubbings, including from 'tree friend'; collect leaves; look at silhouettes and bark - take a field guide and identify as many kinds of trees as possible; read from any books about trees

      Day Four - Copy "Trees" by Coleridge; independent reading: Nature Smart "Woodlands"; put leaves into flower press; arrange bark rubbings and any sketches or notes from this week's observations into folder

      Day Five - Trip to botanical gardens (you might want to combine some of the above with this trip)

    Week 4 - Focus on flowering plants: vegetables, herbs, wild and cultivated plants
    (read the relevant sections from Grohmann)

      Day One - Review last week - Monocots and Dicots - Talk about and give examples; talk about grasses - collect different examples of grasses in seed; talk about wild and cultivated plants; talk about all the kinds of plants which have been cultivated and which your family uses; independent reading: One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest by Jean Craighead George. Written assignment to research: 'How Plants Reproduce'

      Day Two - Flower families - talk about cruciferae, umbelliferae, compositae, and rosaceae as four of the important kinds of flower families; find examples and draw

      Day Three - What is a Flower? - Grohmann pp.11-18 and p.63 on; parts of a flower - talk about and draw - cut sunflower head in half (down the middle) and examine; independent reading: Discover... Wetlands "Butterflies"

      Day Four - How do flowers reproduce? - Oral report drawn from written assignment about this; draw; look at bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects

      Day Five - Copy over 'How Plants Reproduce' - Finish everything up; get folder in order; correct any work; look through the Kingfisher science book at section on 'The Plant Kingdom'; have a plant scavenger hunt

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

Read Aloud

A perfect read-aloud for this block is The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.


Lovely poems to memorize, or to add to the MLB, are "Trees" by Sara Coleridge, p.135 OR "Plants" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, p.138, both of The Waldorf Book of Poetry.

List of Stories - Block I

Story #1 - Honey

Story #2 - The Plant Kingdom

Story #3 - Photosynthesis

    sample chalkboard drawing of the Sun

    sample chalkboard drawing for Photosynthesis
    and another one

    Day 1 (introduce):
    I have a favorite lesson for this already:
    Dancing the Relationship Between Photosynthesis and Respiration (PDF)

    here (word-for-word) is how I adapted it to a smaller homeschool group, and our science experiments for Photosynthesis: Hands-On Photosynthesis Lesson blog post

    start soaking the dried pinto beans for observation and dissection
    we thoroughly wet several paper towels, laid 20 pinto beans on them, folded them in half, and put them in a quart Ziploc bag and wrote the start date on the bag with a Sharpie

    Day 2 (review from yesterday, extend, summarize, add to MLB):
    check on some of the stickers from the experiment, leave others in place

    You can also make a design (or write your name) on a grassy lawn by cutting large shapes out of cardboard, placing them on the grass, and weighting them down with stones. Leave undisturbed for a few days and then lift them up. Your design should be "written" in yellow. Don't leave the shapes on for too long, though, or you'll kill the grass!

Story #4 - The Circle of Life and the Clambake (Wampanoag - Eastern Woodland)
Algae, Ocean, Seashore, Freshwater, Estuary, Uses of Algae, Plants as Source of Energy for Life on Earth, Photosynthesis, Energy Flow, Interrelationships, Ecological Principles, Acid Rain, Stewardship of Aquatic Environments

    sample MLB page for Algae
    and another one

    Day 1 (introduce):
    Keepers of Life: story (pp. 57-58), independent reading (pp. 58-66), and the
    17 comprehension questions (p. 66) which form the basis of her MLB bullet points/summary

    Day 2 (review from yesterday, extend, summarize, add to MLB):
    Drawing from the Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
    "The Algae" is on pp.102-103 of Algae, Fungi, Lichen, Ferns, Chapter 12
    figure 12.1 - Bull Kelp, Fucus (also called "Rockweed")

    look at Chlamydomonas slide under a microscope
    from our set of 25 prepared microscope slides

    "Flagellum Flail" on p.73

    We probably would have done "Alluring Algae" except that we didn't need to. By sheer luck and outrageously good timing, we had just spent two weeks setting up an aquarium, collecting pond water and plant life and tadpoles, and watching the drama of an ecosystem unfold in our living room. We only expected to find the tadpole-frog metamorphosis interesting but actually all that was going on in our tank -- plant and animal -- was fascinating!

    Dennis Klocek gives suggestions for crayon, watercolor paint, construction paper collage, and modeling beeswax. I had Becca use golden modeling beeswax to make a Rockweed before drawing it in her MLB.

    An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed

Story #5 - Fallen Earth's Stars (Cheyenne - Plains)
Fungi (Including Mushrooms) and Their Relatives, Lichens, Soil and Nutrient Cycling, The Soil Community, Recycling and Stewardship of Used Resources

Story #6 - Koluskap and Malsom (Passamaquoddy - Eastern Woodland)
Mosses, Ferns, and Related Plants; Wetlands; Bogs and Carnivorous Plants; Evolution and Adaptation of Land Plants; Wetland Values and Stewardship; Fossil Fuels; Energy Conservation; Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

    sample chalkboard drawing for Ferns

    sample chalkboard drawing for Mosses

    sample MLB page for Mosses
    and one which focuses specifically on the life cycle of the moss

    cool moss art project!

    Janik Coat's Rhymoceros has a fun illustration for "Mossy" showing Moss Reproduction

    Day 1 (introduce):
    Keepers of Life: story (pp. 91-93), independent reading (pp. 93-103), and the
    17 comprehension questions (p. 103) which form the basis of her bullet points/summary

    Day 2 (review from yesterday, extend, summarize, add to MLB):
    Drawing from the Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
    "The Ferns" are on pp.106-108 of Algae, Fungi, Lichen, Ferns, Chapter 12
    figure 12.3 - Fern (Fern Prothallium, Fern Prothallium with Green Shoot, Fern Seedling, Rhizome, Old Leaf Stalks, Frond, Root Bud, Root) and Horsetail (Root, Vegetative Stalk, Rhizome, Spore Capsule)

    nature walk to collect ferns - make fern sun prints
    if you don't have ferns near you, you can find them at any florist... even at the grocery store

    transfer bean sprouts to a jar set up like this one so that you can continue to observe them growing

    Botany is a really good subject for bringing in special guests: grandparents, neighbors, etc. with knowledge of Horticulture. Becca finished this block with her grandmother -- my mom -- who came to visit us for a week. What a special treat for the both of them!

    We also visited a small new botanical garden near us: the lovely Mandala Gardens in Marion IL.

Story #7 - Why Some Trees are Always Green (Cherokee - Southeast)
Conifers and Related Plants; Coniferous Forests; Trees and Tree Anatomy; Conifer Seeds, Cones, and Needles; Forest Ecology and Community; Ecological Succession; Forest Stewardship; Solitude and Silence; Fibonacci Sequence

    Drawing from the Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
    "The Cone Bearing Trees" are on pp.113-116 of Higher Plants, Chapter 13
    figure 13.3 - bud whorl (vegetative), branch whorl, spiral placement, scale, sheath, needle, "candle" of new growth, pollen producing cone (mole), first year immature female cone, second year mature cone (female), winged seeds
    figure 13.4 - how to draw the pine tree

    look at pine leaf slide under a microscope
    from our set of 25 prepared microscope slides

    12 x 12 inch Ginkgo Leaf Stencil

Story #8 - The Bitterroot (Salish - Plateau) & Indian Summer (Penobscot - Eastern Woodland)
Flowering Plants and Flowers, Deciduous Forest, Pollination, Seeds, Seed Dispersal, Natural Selection, Twigs, Leaves, Buds, Bark, Branching, Plant Dormancy, Observation, Sensory Awareness, Forest Stewardship

    Leaf Chart - $30.00
    Nienhuis Montessori

    Drawing from the Book of Nature by Dennis Klocek
    The Leaf, Chapter 11
    figure 11.1 - Willow (also includes terminology: pinnate, lanceolate, cordate)
    figure 11.2 - Mallow, Nettle
    figure 11.3 - White Oak, Vetch, Clover, Cranesbill, Carrot

    Higher Plants, Chapter 13
    figure 13.1 - Bean (bean cotyledon, eye, radicle, plumule), Pussy Willow (eye, leaf axil, leaf, pith, cambium, outer bark)
    figure 13.2 - Plum (eye, leaf, petal, calyx, pollen, fruit, embryo, pistil)
    figure 13.5 - Principles of Tree Growth
    figure 13.6 - Branches (lateral bud, leader, terminal bud, dormant basal bud)

Story #9 - The First Basket (Mandan - Plains)
Prairies and Other Grasslands, Grasses, Grassland Stewardship, Grassland Restoration

    Summer Prairie Wildflowers and Grasses of Illinois -- we have this coloring poster in its HUGE version, which Becca colored and then folded up and put in her MLB

    this is also where she did a summary of monocots and dicots and added her drawings of her bean as it sprouted and grew (for this, I also recommend Morning Glories by Sylvia Johnson -- it has wonderful photographs of a morning glory growing step-by-step)

    if you want to sprout a monocot so that you can observe them side-by-side, I recommend corn

    look at corn stem (2) and corn root tip slides under a microscope
    from our set of 25 prepared microscope slides

    look at a grain of rice. can you tell if it is a monocot or dicot? (it's a monocot)

    *NEW* Root Systems of Prairie Plants poster ($30)

Story #10 - The Woman Who Lives in the Earth (Chugach Inuit - Arctic) & Waw Giwulk: The Center of the Basket (O'odham - Southwest)
Plant Survival and Adaptations and Interrelationships, Deserts and Desert Plants, Plants of Arctic Tundra and Alpine Environments, Plant Interrelationships and Communities, Cacti, Plant Galls

Story #11 - How Fox Brought the Forests from the Sky (Snoqualmie - Pacific Northwest) & The People of Maize (Lacandon Maya - Middle America)
Temperate and Tropical Rainforests, Rainforest Communities, Values of Rainforests and Rainforest Plants, Thanksgiving for Gifts of the Rainforests, Rainforest Stewardship, Rainforest Peoples

Story #12 - Waynabozho and the Wild Rice (Anishinabe - Eastern Woodland)
Endangered and Threatened Plants, Extinction, Value of Species, Biodiversity, Threats to Species Survival, Ozone Depletion, Needs vs. Wants, Recovery of Endangered Species, Habitat Conservation, Species Stewardship, Native North American Stewardship of Species, Listening to Others

We do not need to highlight Medicinal Herbs in this block because the children in our homeschool co-op have a Medicinal Herbs class every week with the master herbalist at Dayempur Farm. However, one great resource for this is the cooperative board game Wildcraft... my kids love it!

Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game

I also recommend the excellent books The Healing Power of Herbs: Medicinal Herbs for Common Ailments by Tina Sams, The Herbal Medicine Cookbook: Everyday Recipes to Boost Your Health by Susan Hess and Tina Sams, and the Herbs with Rosalee website (

List of Stories - Block II

Story #1 - Introduction

    "Nature as Wallpaper"
    "Story Time"
    "The Rain of Time"
    "Soup Bubbles"
    "The Great Tree"

Story #2 - Finding Mint Island (Mint Family)

Story #3 - The Parsley Guardian (Parsley Family)

Story #4 - The Secret Combination to Mustard Island (Mustard Family)

Story #5 - The Pea Islands (Pea Family)

Story #6 - The Island Map (Monocots vs. Dicots)

Story #7 - Navigating the Lily Cluster (Lily Family)

Story #8 - The Grass Islands (Grass Family)

Story #9 - Islands of Fruits and Roses (Rose Family, Plum & Apple)

Story #10 - The Aster Archipelago (Aster or Sunflower Family) and Conclusion

Patterns in Plants Follow-Up Quiz
created by Thomas J. Elpel

There are other botanical families, if you want to continue to explore past the end of Shanleya's Quest. Some of these are the Borage Family, the Heath Family, and the Ginseng Family.

Another interesting option is for the teacher to take the online course Learning the Language of Healing Plants, a 12 session webinar series presented by the Physicians' Association of Anthroposophic Medicine (PAAM).

The Year One videos include Yarrow and Dandelion, Peppermint and Daisy, Birch and Primula, Pulsatilla and Fragaria, and Chelidonium and Chamomile. Videos are available separately without one having to take the entire course. They are approximately an hour long and are $15.00 apiece.

The Year Two videos will explore Plantain, Horsetail, St. John's Wort, Elder, Lime (Linden), Thistle, Coneflower (Echinacea), Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Rose, Gentian, Arnica and Calendula (Arnica and Calendula will be looked at as a pair). The Year Three video list has not yet been provided.

The textbook for "Learning the Language of Healing Plants" is Healing Plants: Herbal Remedies from Traditional to Anthroposophical Medicine by Markus Sommer. The Agriculture Course (available free online at the Rudolf Steiner Archive) is also recommended as additional reading.

If you didn't purchase the Leaf Chart from Nienhuis Montessori for the first Botany block, you might want to get it now ($30.00).

Another excellent way to spend your 6th grade school year doing Botany is to take up the work in New Eyes for Plants: A Workbook for Observing and Drawing Plants. Simply use this book as the curriculum for your drawing lessons. Margaret Colquhoun has written an amazing book which blends Science and Art and takes you through the cycle of one year. Very highly recommended!

My Blog Posts from Teaching This Topic as a Main Lesson

My Blog Posts from Exploring This Topic in Science Club

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