"The more we take into account... that intellect develops from the movements of the limbs, from dexterity and skills, the better it will be..." (R. Steiner)
This motto stands above not only the craft curriculum, but the curriculum generally. Learning through doing and learning through making are twin aspects of the same fundamental attitude to education that permeates the Waldorf curriculum... Making is a creative process that develops skills and competence by engaging with ideas and materials. Knowledge and understanding acquired through "learning by doing" allows young people to enjoy a sense of achievement which will sustain a life-long interest in the made world.
The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum edited by Kevin Avison and Martin Rawson
First Grade Handwork
The joy of working with our hands permeates the entire first grade handwork curriculum. Working with a "from the whole to the parts" mindset, we begin by learning about the animals the provide the wool for our projects. From raw wool to combed top, we explore this gift with all of our senses. Then, after a little woodworking to make our own knitting needles, we use our full attention to knitting. Stories and songs surround us as we knit toys and useful, beautiful items. It seems like just fun to us, but we are building the dexterity needed for writing, practicing our math skills, sharpening our eye movements for reading and building brain connections.
Second Grade Handwork
Second grade students learn or continue to master knitting skills. Purl stitches, casting on and binding off, and learning to make beautiful color choices are all things we work on in second grade. In second grade, we begin some simple sewing projects to increase our finger dexterity.
Third Grade Handwork
As students approach third grade, hand dominance (either right or left) is usually noticed. Hand dominance is important for strong writing skills and is one of the ways the body specializes itself to do certain tasks well. For this reason we introduce crochet to the students. Crochet still uses both hands but has a stronger movement in the dominant hand. Plus it is great fun! Now we can make not just a flat knitted fabric but a shaped crochet fabric that can be made into hats!
Fourth Grade Handwork
Fourth grade handwork is all about crossing the mid-line of the body and strings. Mid-line work actually permeates the entire fourth grade curriculum: it can be found in knotted form drawings, games classes, and class warm up activities. Among other things, crossing the mid-line supports mathematical skills that the children are learning at this time. Fourth graders love patterns and codes, embodied in our primary medium; cross stitch. Embroidery gives us an opportunity to focus on very fine
motor skills, working with a sharp needle and learning a cross stitch technique that incorporates crossing the mid-line with each stitch. In addition our project is made in four quadrants to support the concept of fractions taught this year. Macrame and knots are fun to learn this year, too. Fourth grade projects are a delightful balance of form and freedom. Through use of symmetry and simple color choices, the children create truly beautiful designs that are always unique, reflecting something of the nature of the artist.
Fifth Grade Handwork
Firth grade students revisit knitting first taught in the student’s first year but from a circular perspective. A yearlong project is the way we greet the maturity of 5th grade students—through knitting in the round with four needles. This isn't an easy project nor a quick one, but it does end in a project students are excited to wear.
Sixth Grade Handwork
In sixth grade we look at human and animal form. The class adopts an endangered or protected herd animal and then form a gusseted stuffed animal, making their own pattern. Studying a protected species project channels their goodwill toward the betterment of themselves and society. A glow-in-the-dark constellation needle book supports cross-curricular studies of the universe. The social aspect of 6th graders is embraced. 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. Like the precise geometric work done in math, handwork focuses even more on precise, detailed work this year.
Seventh Grade Handwork
As students are experiencing great changes in their bodies, they’ll learn to use them in all sorts of new ways through the handcraft curriculum. Whereas in prior years, students have mostly used soft textiles to create, this year in addition to mastery of needle crafts through a true renaissance project: researching, writing, making and performing a complex puppetry show. They’ll also explore felting, paper mache and leather work. These handcrafts fully engage the body. Instead of sitting, in 7th grade most students will stand up and lean into their work. This assists the transition in their bodies and helps address the awkwardness of growing so quickly by developing the tactile sense while learning planning, perseverance and pride in their handwork. Handwork becomes a double period in 7th grade to allow students to really fall into their work.
Eight Grade Handwork
A capstone year at Mountain Sage Community School, our 8th graders take on projects worthy of their skill and that tie in exactly with their main lesson studies. As they learn about the industrial revolution they will get their first sewing machine experience and be amazed at how quickly they can now sew after several years of hand-sewn projects. Learning to read a sewing pattern and make their own pajamas is their major task of the year. Wet-felted slippers to match your pajamas are a fun part of this class since we felt them directly onto our own feet. Leather work, with all its required exactness and strength complements the softer side of this year's projects.
Middle School Woodworking Exploration
We start by exploring the inside of a tree with our middle school woodworking class. Using rasps, knives, and gouges we make spinning tops, wooden spoons and bowls and dove tail boxes over a three year program. Sixth graders complete a construction unit. Students learn to identify different types of wood and trees. Science, technology, engineering, art and math are all used to solve real world problems in this class. Double-period woodworking classes meets the middle school student with challenging, long-term projects that builds on the form drawing and modeling projects begun in the student's first year of school.
Home School Handwork Enrichment
With a home-like closeness, our mixed-age handwork students in grades one to five meet together each week to work on developmentally appropriate projects, each working diligently but at their own speed. Students fully participate during Natural Dye Week in the fall, textile artists-in-residence programs and other school-wide collaborative handwork events. Math, science, nature-education, language, story-telling, problem solving and poetry are imbued throughout the lessons as a natural extension of the work being completed. Beginning with knitting students may progress to crochet, quilting, embroidery, cross-stitch, natural dyeing of textiles, knot-tying, wet-felting, weaving, spinning, seasonal crafts and festival preparations and other beautiful and useful arts.
From as far as the stars to here where I stand, I come to use my right and left hand.....
Mountain Sage Community School is a K-8 tuition free, charter public school inspired by Waldorf education and sustainable living.
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