As a part of our practical arts programming, handwork instruction begins in first grade and continues through high school. Handwork includes studying artisanal skills in felting, crocheting, knitting, sewing, basketry, weaving, dyeing and bookbinding. These skills are taught to aid students' dexterity, focus, motor-coordination and integrative capacities. Many studies have shown that such kinesthetic learning amplifies cognitive skills: so the patterning and complex systems engaged in crocheting, weaving and knitting also aids in the conception of mathematical patterns and systems operations in higher order mathematics. Similarily handwork experimentation with materials and transformative processes like dyeing and saturating solutions, the burnishing and enamelling of copper, and similar chemical processes connect the students to scientific exploration and enhance their undersanding of the physical properties and chemical underpinnings of our world.
Why do we teach this subject here?
Handwork is an important component of the Waldorf curriculum for several reasons. Not only is it
important for the students to learn many different skills with their hands, but neuroscientific research
also points to the more wide-reaching significance of handwork in child development. For example,
since the 1970s linguists have found that fine finger movements stimulate our speech centers, while
more recent research has shown that differentiated hand movements build and encourage cognitive
growth (E. Seward, The Creative Hand). Mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, particularly in
the hand, may also strengthen the physical foundations of thinking by stimulating synapse formation
and cell development in the brain (E. Schwartz, Handwork and Intellectual Development).
How/What is done in this subject this year to meet my child’s development?
By doing handwork, the children not only develop fine motor and practical skills, but also acquire a fine
sense for color combinations, form and beauty. They practice patience, perseverance, gratitude and joy
as they carry out a project that transforms raw material into a finished project. Their senses of touch
and smell are enlivened by contact with natural materials such as wool, cotton and silk in the form of
yarn and fabric. Handwork students also learn to attain a balance between socializing and working
during the lesson.
What will my child achieve in this subject by the end of the school year
In second grade the children keep their fingers very busy. They come back after the long summer break ready to work. They will quickly remember how to cast on, after hearing our little casting on verse. After knitting some rows, they will learn how to purl. They use this new technique to purl and knit a soft rainbow ball. Many of the children will have time to make a second ball. After that, they will be ready to start knitting their gnomes. Everyone gets excited about this project and likes seeing the gnomes take shape. By the end of the school year we will have a big family of beautiful gnomes to show for our work! Some children also have fun creating small accessories for their gnomes. We will end the year with a nice gnome party in the handwork room.
By the end of the year your child will have:
• Mastered knitting and learned how to purl.
• Appropriately alternated knit and purl stitches to make small projects.
• Started and finished small projects on her/his own. The main projects are knitting a rainbow ball
and a gnome.
What are things that we can do at home to help support this work?
Take an interest in your child’s work.