Welcome to 5th Grade Handwork!
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. Similarly handwork experimentation with materials and transformative processes like dyeing and saturating solutions, the burnishing and enameling of copper,
Dear 5th Grade Parents:
Recent neurological research tends to confirm that mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hand, may stimulate cellular development in the brain, and so strengthen the physical foundation of thinking. The work done over the past seventy-five years in hundreds of Waldorf schools worldwide, in which first graders learn to knit before they learn to write or manipulate numbers, has also proven successful in this regard. The learning disabilities specialist Jean A. Ayres states that “Praxis, or the ability to program a motor act, shows a close relation to reading skills, even though reading would appear to be only distantly related to goal-directed movement of the body.” Citing the research of Strauss and Werner, she notes that “Children with finger agnosia [awkwardness and lack of control] made more errors on a test of arithmetical ability than did children without finger agnosia.”
When describing some of the qualities that were essential in a Waldorf school, Steiner stressed an active interest in working with one’s hands:
What matters is that [the Waldorf school’s] teaching should not become mere theoretical knowledge, or a world outlook based on certain ideas, but it should become a way of life, involving the entire human being. Waldorf Education is meant to be pragmatic. . .
Whoever has to deal with theoretical work ought to stand in practical life even more firmly than people who happen to be tailors, cobblers or engineers. In my opinion, any passing on of theoretical knowledge is acceptable only if the person concerned is also well versed in all practical matters of life, for otherwise his ideas will remain alienated from life…5
Extract from “The Role of Handwork in the Waldorf Curriculum” by Eugene Schwartz
Knitting a pair of socks is the perfect project for 5th graders.
The first part of the sock (the top part), reinforces what the students learned back in 1st and 2nd grade but in a more challenging manner requiring the dexterity of holding four knitting needles at once.
The second part of the sock they work upon, the turning of the heel, involve mathematical progression and extra concentration. It also mirrors the inner state of the children; they too are at a “turning point”, standing at the threshold of teenage-hood.
The final progression, to the toes and completion of the sock expands their forces of will while strengthening their social skills.