"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
To develop our studentís full human potential, we must educate their feeling and will with as much insight and care as we bring to the development of their thinking. Outer activity is engaged with our limbs. Behind the outer activity there is the inner activity of thoughts, feelings, desires and motives. When we learn a new capacity, such as riding a bicycle, we are challenged to make an inner effort. The more difficult the challenge, the more we feel the intensity of the inner effort.*
Will is the inner force behind the outer force of our limbs. From an early age children begin to express their will, by their insatiable desire to touch. It is through their hands that they begin to develop these faculties. Accomplishment and joy are the rewards achieved through the intelligence of each activity. *
The purposeful task performed with hand tools and wood parallel the intentional work and the responsible laborers of the outside world. Artistic work helps in awakening the feeling and heart forces; these give shape and personal character to the work at hand.
At Waldorf School of Orange County, students are first introduced to woodwork in grade 5. During this year, they are acquainted with various woodworking tools, the foremost of which is the very sharp carving knife. The first project involves carving a series of notches in a length of basswood. A flat piece of hardwood is then nailed to the top of the stick. Rubbing a dowel along the notches causes the stick to vibrate, which in turn causes the top piece to spin like a propeller. The next grade 5 project has the students build a weather vane in the shape of an airplane. Their senses are awakened to many experiences: their hands begin to develop strength; they notice exhaustion; the blood flow tints their cheeks; hand and eye coordination improves with the repetition of movement; and technique is developed.
In grade 6 the students carve a wooden spoon. A piece of wood is cut to a certain thickness, width and length. The proportion given to the wood becomes part of the spoonís ultimate form. In a subtle but significant way it contributes to the feel of the spoon, for example, whether it will feel stout or delicate. The student can decide the quality of proportion without having the final form of the spoon in their mind's eye.*
In grade 7 the adolescent student is looking more into themselves. They are studying the Middle Ages, the renaissance period and the age of exploration. In woodwork they explore developing an inner space in a block of wood by creating a wooden bowl.
In grade 8 the students are more aware of their physical world and their personal appearance. This year they are challenged by projects that are layered with detailed processes and problem solving. Students increase their focus and continue to refine their accuracy, creativity, and most of all, patience. This year's work helps develop endurance and confidence in preparation for high school.
* Excerpted from Educating the Will by Michael Howard.