by Annaleena Hoffmann
Handwork lessons are one of Kimberton Waldorf School’s distinctive curriculum features. The creative design of workpieces has always been seen as constitutive, even when the first Waldorf School was established. Handwork teachers are chosen with this foundation in mind; they should be artists and educators in the growth of manual dexterity and aesthetic expression. Handwork lessons teach not only the development of fine motor skills, concentration, and willpower – all of which are important and desirable side effects of learning– but also teach the children the joys of creating projects for themselves and having an aesthetic experience with handwork.
During the first 9 years of school, the children sew, embroider, knit, crochet, braid, knot, wash and comb raw wool, spin it into yarn, dye wool, weave, and dye, process leather, knit socks and hats, and much more. Handwork classes allow for internal differentiation, making it simple to modify the criteria for different activities so that any child may participate and be encouraged in their growth. At first, the children are unaware of how instructive the handwork sessions are in terms of aesthetics and sensory experience. However, they quickly realize that they accomplish things in class that they can utilize. “What do you want to make, and what do you need?” I ask the students, and this is how flute cases, shoulder bags, hats, socks, Eurythmy slipper nets, hand puppets, and a variety of other items are made. It is because of this creative nature that children like handwork classes.
The students are empowered in their creations and have the ability to then pass those creations on as gifts to their family members and friends–or keep them for themselves as tokens of their creative and manual capabilities. Hand-knitted or crocheted hats are worn proudly throughout the year and frequently not taken off even in the warm weather! Relatives and friends compliment the students on the visible proof of what they’ve learned and worked for. In the end, everyone holds their final piece in their hands, which was created in a variety of artistic processes. In handwork, children learn to persevere, appreciate the process, learn how art and function can coexist, and gain confidence in themselves through a sense of accomplishment. This not only supports and enriches their entire educational experience but offers them capacities they will utilize for a lifetime.