Last year, DWS students, alumni and staff tied 75 handmade scarves around telephone poles, trees, fences and lampposts in Greektown, Grand Circus Park, Riverwalk and near a homeless shelter on St. Paul. The scarves featured tags that read, “If you’re cold this winter, please take me.”
Since there is no school in session on MLK Day, the scarf-bombing activity, which will kick off with volunteers meeting at the Roasting Plant in Campus Martius on January 18th at between 10am-12pm., is voluntary. However, knitting is part of DWS’ handwork curriculum, offering students the opportunity to participate.
Handwork skills are integral to cultures worldwide; mass production in modern times prevent many from realizing the intellectual and creative aspects of participating in such fine motor projects. In Waldorf education, knitting is taught in first grade; Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner referred to “thinking as cosmic knitting.” Early handwork activities in the Waldorf curriculum set a foundation for a sense of self-reliance and pave the way for learning physics, geometry and other areas of math and science later on.
Children learn crochet in second grade and return to knitting after that, learning to purl. Sharp needles for embroidery and cross-stitch come in 4th grade, mirroring the journey of crossing from childhood into adolescence. Knitting in the round happens in fifth grade, reinforcing mathematical concepts, and long-term sewing projects begin in grades six and seven.
Research shows a connection between fine motor skills and brain development. Children learn to use both sides of the brain simultaneously when practicing handwork, and eye tracking and numeracy are reinforced by these lessons.
Even more than all of these academic benefits are the heartfelt ones DWS students feel when they use handwork lessons to create something that benefits others. Like many parts of a Waldorf education, the handwork curriculum integrates the intellect with the academic, nurtures a sense of caring for others and builds practical skills for confident human beings ready to impact the world around them.
Written by Lynne Golodner, DWS parent, blogger and owner of Your People Public Relations