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Handwork and Practical Arts

Practical arts, handwork, and crafts are an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. Decades before brain research could confirm it, Rudolf Steiner recognized that brain function was founded on body function. Learning these skills in the early grades leads to motor skills that later metamorphose into lively thinking and enhanced intellectual development.

Coordination, patience, perseverance, and imagination are developed through practical work. The creation of beautiful handmade objects, increasingly rare in a utilitarian society, also feeds the child’s sense of accomplishment and aesthetics, and the use and movement of hands and limbs offer an important counterpoint to intellectual pursuits.

First graders learn to knit and create small projects such as scarves or small animal forms. Second through fifth graders learn to crochet, cross-stitch, and knit with four needles. In sixth grade each student creates and hand-stitches a stuffed cloth doll or animal. Seventh and eighth graders knit sweaters and sew garments, by hand and then by machine. The practicality of handwork projects infuses the children’s everyday world with meaning and offers an opportunity for them to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of the work of others.

The grade school curriculum also includes activities such as building, woodworking, and gardening, which give the children an understanding of how things come into being and a respect for the creations of others.
 

If you've had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship--or learn a software program you've never touched. It's not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can't do. Why couldn't you? Why couldn't anybody?

-Peter Nitze, Waldorf and Harvard graduate, and director of an aerospace company

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