The Bay School’s combined grades model is unique in Waldorf education. There is much to celebrate about the combined grades model, which has been an important part of the school’s historic sustainability and unique ethos.
Combined-grade classrooms allow Bay School classes to reach healthy social sizes of 18-24 students, allowing opportunities to develop sensitivity to group work, varieties of friendships, and an appreciation for a differentiation of tasks and expectations based on each student’s unique learning journey.
Classes feel like a family of siblings of various ages, strengths, and challenges that contribute to a rich social mix. This demands alertness in the teacher, movement against complacency in curriculum, and flexibility in block design. Older students can mentor younger classmates, and the younger students help the older classmates to stay fresh and curious.
Class Teachers adjust the traditional Waldorf main lesson block schedule of delivery to meet both ages within their class. As each mixed grade class has its own character, there is no universal formula that all teachers use in creating the year’s plan, but every Bay School teacher consciously works to meet both age groups within their class and plans the block scope and sequence accordingly.
Our first grade stands as a singular grade, the bridge between Kindergarten and the grades. The following year, the second and third grades combine, and will be together for the rest of their journey through 8th grade. Along the way, they will have two class teachers, one in the lower grades and one in the upper grades. Over the years, the model has become increasingly fine-tuned, and children and parents alike rest easy in the many benefits we cultivate and reap from learning in a multiage environment. Indeed, the Bay School is recognized within the community of Waldorf schools as an expert in this area, and we often receive requests for guidance from other schools with combined grade classes.