The Handwork teacher

I am a mother to two beautiful girls and I teach Handwork and Fine Arts in our local waldorf charter school in Arizona.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Waldorf Handwork Curriculum

Handwork curriculum

The first grader will work on training their fingertips and fine motor skills. A simple tool used for supporting proper communication between both sides of the brain. The children will learn to knit not by understanding the technical details on how to knit but through muscle memory. The children sit in a circle and learn short songs and verses to support their Handwork. The feeling of sitting in a circle and quietly listening to their teacher mimics circle time in the Kinder classes, which in turn brings about a sense of reverence for what we are doing. The gift of natural fibers and tools awaken the child’s tactile sense and stimulates mental development. Studies have shown that a first grader who knits will be stronger in both Math and reading.

The second grader brings Knitting to the next level with more complex projects and use of different colors to support their inner feeling of joy and satisfaction in their work. The last part of the year is dedicated to crochet where the child works with a tool that supports their dominant side of the brain. The crochet hook mimics the pencil grip, which supports cursive handwriting and building the proper muscle memory for successful handwriting skills.

The third grader seeks to be useful in their daily lives as they enter a new stage in their development. The Handwork curriculum is built to support their new inner need for challenge and awakening. The farming curriculum is tied into the Handwork where we plant dye yarn, hand spin fleece,and crochet useful projects that can be used in their daily lives.

In the fourth grade, the child will learn basic geometric principals and find satisfaction in understanding what beauty is, along with how to form a concept and bring it to completion. This year is dedicated to fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination brought in with embroidery and cross stitch. The cross stitch is another tool for supporting strong communication of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The fourth grader is encouraged to slow down and pay more attention to detail instead of speeding up and moving at the faster rate that our society is pushing for. A feeling of peace and great satisfaction is felt in the fourth grade child when they are able to relax into their needle work.

The fifth grader is brought back to knitting with complex patterns and knitting in a round with double pointed needles. Once the child understands the basic principles of reading a pattern and 3 dimensional designs, they can take that to much greater levels and make complex socks, mittens and hats. The act of having to focus on a project for extended periods of time helps the child understand that life is more a process verses a simple instant message. The fifth grader works with choosing wool yarn from both subtle plant dyed colors to bright synthetic colored yarn. Both are beautiful but the fifth grader has a much greater sense of color awareness and a need to want to make something truly beautiful.

The sixth grader feels one of the most far-reaching benefits of the Handwork class in its social aspect. The class chooses an endangered animal that lives together in a group and with that animal in mind, they make a gusseted stuffed animal. The atmosphere in class is filled with conversation of their work, their lives and what the next project will be. Throughout the class the joy of using your hands works right alongside with the joy of talking to their friends. Respect, appropriate conversation topics and listening skills are fostered. The sixth grader has developed their sewing skills to the level where we can now make complex figures with Marionette, table puppets and even dolls that mimic the 12 year old in body proportion.

The seventh grader dives right into the age old art of wet felting. Living in the desert brings out a certain joy and mystery when water is brought into our work. Wet felting with lavender soap and warm water is both soothing and transitions easily into needle felting where the child dry sculpts forms out of wool. The seventh grade Handwork curriculum is very calming and at the same time challenging. Looking at the human form, the child must sculpt a person with wool roving and later add clothes to match their character. Later the seventh grader will felt slippers, hats or mittens, a skill that was used in the renaissance period and which is something that they can both relate to and enjoy doing.

The Eighth grader has reached the Industrial revolution and with that the Handwork curriculum provides the sewing machine and an understanding of how to work with simple mechanics. The Eighth grader has come to a point in their learning where sewing clothes or household items like quilted pillows and using patterns may appear almost second nature. Creative senses are ignited with design and color choices. The eighth grader works at a speed that is controlled by a step by step process. They come to understand that if one step is missed the final outcome will not work. Critical thinking and pattern making brings about an active involvement in their curriculum, need for individuality and freedom.

The Ninth grader works in artistic blocks throughout the year. The Handwork curriculum is split into two blocks where we focus on two age old crafts of spinning and basket weaving. In this year, the young adult is introduced to the basics of these two craft and in tenth grade, will master the skills to the best of their abilities.


Angela Mobley said...

Have you come across any studies that support handwork through the grades? What first grade study are you referring to? Would you mind emailing me references? I could definitely use a boost to my resources....

ArchetypalTheatre said...

Hi! I am enjoying reading your blog and learning about Waldorf education in general. I have been doing my own spinning, dying, felting, knitting etc on my own as part of my work as an artist and now that I have a daughter, I feel drawn to sharing those skills. I was wondering if you would take the time to answer a question for me: what kind of formal training is expected of a handwork teacher? There is an opening I was considering applying for at my local Waldorf school for this coming year. Blessings!