Grade 4 · Lifestyle · Waldorf Education

Owl Paintings by 10-Year-Old Waldorf Students

Why We Study Animals

This year we are studying Zoology; we study animals by comparing each creature directly to the human being. Why?

The human being is balanced; we have a desirable combination of an intellectual brain (head),  well-developed organ systems (trunk), and highly specialized hands and feet (limbs) that allow us to paint, build, dance, and create quite unlike any other creature on earth! This idea of the “Threefold Human Being” also relates to Waldorf’s philosophy on “the education of the whole child:” educating  the child’s thinking (that is the head),  their feeling (the heart/trunk part), and their willing (what they do with their hands). Balancing these three can help us become happy, dynamic individuals.

When comparing each animal to the Threefold Human Being, every creature seems to be dominant in either head, trunk, or limbs. The cuttlefish, for example, is considered a ‘head’ animal. It has no proper trunk as all its organs are in fact contained in the head. Cuttlefish belong to the molluscan class “Cephalopoda,” which translates literally to “head-foot.” See? No trunk!

Fish, on the other hand are trunk animals, as they do not have pronounced limbs; their heads are like an extension of their trunk: no neck, just many rows of tiny bones that can be likened to the human rib cage. Thus, in all we study, we value each animal for their uniqueness, but also in their significant contrast to the human being. Through exploring the ‘one-sidedness’ of animals (in their own perfect, natural way), we can better appreciate the freedom of what it means to be human. 

Class 4/5 Owl Paintings—The Study of Man & Animal 

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