Pentathlon: a Waldorf rite of passage
For all Waldorf students, spring is a very special time, even more so for our Grade 5 as they prepare for the annual Waldorf Pentathlon! During the 3-day gathering, more than 115 fifth-graders from Waldorf Schools throughout the Southeast compete in five different events: running, discus, javelin, long jump, and wrestling. Our school is honored to serve as host city for the 2015 event, taking place at Camp Twin Lakes in April.
Francisco Moreno, our Movement Teacher, who spent the year working with and preparing the students, explains the significance of the Pentathlon. “In the Waldorf philosophy, this event is a ceremony – and the children are not necessarily aware of this – of saying goodbye to the baby years and honoring the coming of the teenage years.”
The event is the perfect culmination of their studies of ancient civilizations, and more specifically, ancient Greece. In that context, the students compete in the Pentathlon not as schools but as Greek city-states. Participants are divided among Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. “The forming of each city-state allows them to leave their protective cocoon or circle of home,” adds Mr. Moreno, “and be in a place where they bring something new, the unique gift of themselves to each group.”
Like most Waldorf traditions, each event carries a significant metaphor for life. For example, the jumping event represents life moving forward, while wrestling mirrors the need to face and overcome life’s challenges.
The Pentathlon culminates with an awards ceremony on the final day, when the judges present each child with a medal, wreath and an acknowledgement of that student’s highest moment – some unique way that they contributed to their city-state or the event overall. The children leave the event happy, confident and better equipped to thrive in their teen years.
~by Price Jones
This article was written for the Spring 2015 issue of the Garden Breeze newsletter for the Waldorf School of Atlanta. For more information about our school, please visit us at http://www.waldorfatlanta.org .