I recently listened to a Knit Picks podcast talking about handwork in the classroom at the Cedarwood Waldorf School in Portland Oregon. According to the web site – “Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.” It was a really interesting philosophy and wondered why we don’t have more of this in the schools.
I did some research and found the following information:
From the Journey School:
1st Grade - “At seven years old, a child enters a new phase of development. Expanding neural connections between the two hemispheres of the brain man that for the first time the two sides of the brain can communicate with each other effectively. This is the ideal time to start knitting when each hand has a separate but coordinated activity to perform. Knitting enhances intellectual development by building neural connections, and helping form efficient pathways for doing, feeling and thinking.
2nd Grade – “Human beings use their hands in infinite ways and recent research confirms the inter-connectedness between hand agility and brain development. Working with the hands expands neural connections in the brain, improving performance in other academic areas. Building respect and admiration for the work of the hands while engaged in enjoyable activities that require patience and perseverance to complete, is the task of handwork”
3rd Grade – “At nine years old the child enters a turning point in childhood, and takes a big step towards the consciousness of adulthood. As a child begins to explore the necessary skills for living, handwork subliminally answers many questions and builds confidence in a child’s ability to face the future.”
4th Grade – “Human beings are people of action, intellect and emotion. Many educational systems tend to focus on the intellect at the expense of the education of the whole person. Steiner inspired education aims to serve the needs of the whole human being: Head, Heart, and Hands. The involvement in handwork, challenges the child to learn from the material through to the conceptual and vice-versa. During this process the child experiences development on an emotional, social, practical and intellectual level.”
5th Grade – “Handwork is the education of the will. “The will is connected to thinking. It is the task of every Steiner inspired teacher to help children become clear, imaginative thinkers, human beings who can go into any profession or any area of work with new, creative ideas – ideas that will be urgently needed in the 21st century.” (Patricia Livingston)”
There is obviously a strong connection between handwork and the brain. While involving my students with handwork, I can also incorporate the subject areas also.
Reading/Social Studies – Students can research the history of their particular handwork and share what they have learned. Students might want to read more about a specific technique they are interested in.
Writing: Students can write about what they are doing, explain the process, or share how it makes them feel. They can keep a journal about how they are progressing.
Math – A lot of handwork involves measurement and counting.
Science – Researching how handwork improves the brain would be enlightening for students.
Social Skills – Students can learn a new skill and help each other to improve. This involves listening and communication skills.
I would like to incorporate more handwork in the classroom. Do you do this? If so, what kind? Please share.