"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?"
Waldorf and Harvard graduate, and Director of an aerospace company
As human beings, we use our hands regularly in our daily lives. Handwork as an integrated part of an educational program, however, is taught almost exclusively in Waldorf schools. Here the Handwork curriculum is broad and includes, but is not limited to, skills such as knitting, crocheting, hand sewing, embroidery, felting, paper crafts, pattern design, and machine sewing.
Many of the benefits of the Handwork program are obvious: hand-eye coordination; basic math skills such as counting, the four math processes, and basic geometry; the ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion; and the ability to focus on a project for an extended period of time. There are also more subtle rewards that complement these obvious benefits. Students must prepare and care for materials. Many of the created items have a practical use—a case for a flute, a pencil holder, a hat, or a pair of socks. Throughout the process, respect is fostered. Creativity is encouraged through design and color choice. One of the most far-reaching benefits of Handwork class is the social aspect. While there are times when quiet is needed, such as when you are learning a new stitch, most of the time the atmosphere in the classroom is social and conversational, not unlike a quilting bee. Students learn to speak politely to one another. They may have to wait until one student finishes his or her story before they can share their own. Appropriate and quiet voices are used.
At Waldorf School of Orange County, the handwork curriculum has its basis in child development and Waldorf pedagogy.
These hallmarks form a solid foundation for the Handwork curriculum. Students are empowered and strengthened by what they can make and do. Additional information on the Handwork curriculum can be found in Rudolph Steiner's Handwork Indications, which was compiled by Hedwig Hauk.