Gardening at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

A classroom without wallsLinden Tree_WSA0316__007

The role of gardening in Waldorf education

 Through your own experience or stories told by your children, you probably know that being outside is large part of the Waldorf curriculum from Kindergarten on up. What’s not readily apparent is the significance of the children’s activities outside. From watering seeds to feeding chickens to pulling English Ivy off trees, children are moving with purpose.

A conversation with our Gardening Teacher Rebecca Johnson and Grade 4 Teacher and Grounds Committee member Jenny Dilworth revealed how engrained gardening is at WSA, and how it contributes to the children’s education. Fundamentally, gardening is one way we prepare our children for the future.

Growing cucumbers and careers

We’re in an age in which careers as we know them may well be obsolete when our students are of age to begin their own professions. The garden teaches fundamental skills that will help children navigate such uncertainty: flexibility, responsiveness, tolerance, and adaptability.

Teaching them these things through nature serves another purpose; namely, they’re a part of things – connected with the world around them. Accordingly, they gain an understanding that their decisions affect others. And they learn these lessons often without having to be expressly taught. For example, if they don’t water seedlings enough, then the seeds won’t grow so well.

On this and other levels, the children are developing their connection with the world by being in it and interacting with it. “Most fundamentally,” says Rebecca, “They’re learning that you are needed in this world. And what you do really matters.”

Grade by grade, row by row

The classroom learning throughout the WSA curriculum echoes clearly in the garden. Rebecca, working with the classes and their teachers, leads the learning through the grades.

  • Grades 1 and 2 abound in natural wonder. Stories and garden games fittingly fill gardening time as does exploration. When students are ready, they’re given jobs along with guidance on how to behave in the garden – how you walk, talk, and interact.
  • Grade 3 finds the children ready for more work-based relationships with garden. They become responsible for a majority of planting and maintenance. Connections with the natural world are strengthened by growing, harvesting, and cooking crops. “It’s very real for them,” says Jenny, “and their actions in the garden teach them what they’re capable of doing.”
  • Grades 4 and 5 cover many natural classroom connections with the garden. Through study of local geography, flora and fauna, and botany, gardening takes on an added dimension. The children expand on their jobs, taking on more responsibility and exercising greater independence through campus-wide activities like removing English Ivy and clearing space for the bees.

Linden Tree_WSA0316__009“In the world, there are vacuums,” shares Rebecca. “The students learn that they’re capable of filling them by using their skills and by simply being who they are. The sooner we can teach children the beautiful relationship we have with the natural world, the better off we’ll be.”

The bees are coming – everybody, look buzzy!

This spring, WSA will welcome bees to our community. When exactly? The bees are expected mid to late April. “It’s a matter of bringing them in when they’re ready according to their natural cycle, not unlike a pregnancy,” says Jenny with a smile. “We just have to be flexible – and that’s one of the lessons we learn from nature.”

The apiaries will strengthen kids’ connections to nature. And the new residents will provide parallels to the classroom curriculum – ancient Egypt, honey, history, and ecosystems to name a few.

~Derek Hambrick

This article was written for the Waldorf School of Atlanta‘s 2015 Garden Breeze Special Edition.  For more information about our school, please visit

2015 Pentathlon at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Pentathlon: a Waldorf rite of passageDSC_0108

For all Waldorf students, spring is a very special time, even more so for our Grade 5 as they prepare for the annual Waldorf Pentathlon! During the 3-day gathering, more than 115 fifth-graders from Waldorf Schools throughout the Southeast compete in five different events: running, discus, javelin, long jump, and wrestling. Our school is honored to serve as host city for the 2015 event, taking place at Camp Twin Lakes in April.

Francisco Moreno, our Movement Teacher, who spent the year working with and preparing the students, explains the significance of the Pentathlon. “In the Waldorf philosophy, this event is a ceremony – and the children are not necessarily aware of this – of saying goodbye to the baby years and honoring the coming of the teenage years.”

The event is the perfect c4 city states at pentathlon - from amberulmination of their studies of ancient civilizations, and more specifically, ancient Greece. In that context, the students compete in the Pentathlon not as schools but as Greek city-states. Participants are divided among Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. “The forming of each city-state allows them to leave their protective cocoon or circle of home,” adds Mr. Moreno, “and be in a place where they bring something new, the unique gift of themselves to each group.”

Like most Waldorf traditions, each event carries a significant metaphor for life. For example, the jumping event represents life moving forward, while wrestling mirrors the need to face and overcome life’s challenges.

The Pentathlon culminates with an awards ceremony on the final day, when the judges present each child with a medal, wreath and an acknowledgement of that student’s highest moment – some unique way that they contributed to their city-state or the event overall. The children leave the event happy, confident and better equipped to thrive in their teen years.

~by Price Jones

This article was written for the Spring 2015 issue of the Garden Breeze newsletter for the Waldorf School of Atlanta.   For more information about our school, please visit us at .

Waldorf School of Atlanta Pedagogical Overviews

jim mcclurkin

Waldorf School of Atlanta teacher – Jim McClurkin

This essay was written by Jim McClurkin, a teacher at WSA since 1999.

Pedagogical Overviews

The Waldorf School of Atlanta provides a proven educational program that nurtures students along a continuous developmental path that results in young adults who are confident, poised and have a strong inner focus for life and work.

Early Childhood (Explore Early Childhood)

Our Waldorf preschool and kindergartens nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity in the young child, while encouraging reverence and joy for the goodness of life. The warmth and beauty of the classrooms and the mixed age groupings provide an opportunity for children to play and learn in a home-like atmosphere. The 3-year olds (participating in a 4 hour/day program) and the 4-year olds are engaged according to their age and abilities, while imitating the mood, gestures and work of the classroom teachers (and their older friends). The 5 and 6-year olds develop the independence and sense of responsibility necessary to become leaders in the class. In the loving and creative atmosphere of the kindergarten, these young children acquire the confidence and discipline they will need for the challenging academic work of grade school. The kindergarten experience is rich in storytelling, puppetry, song, poetry, cooking, and artistic activities. Crafts, handwork, games, and regular outdoor play encourage the healthy growth of the child’s body. Toys, art materials, and classroom aesthetics emphasize natural, simple materials, encouraging the child’s imagination. Through play, each child learns a broad range of cognitive, social, and linguistic skills. As in all Waldorf classes, parents are encouraged to minimize exposure to television, videos, and other media that might hinder the free and harmonious growth of the child.

Grade One (Explore Grade One)

First Grade is the commencement of formal schooling marked by the child’s awakening capacities of memory and thinking. The seven-year-old retains a feeling of oneness with the world, and is more able to bring broad awareness than focused concentration to learning situations. Much learning therefore involves the presentation of an image to the child, ensuring her understanding through her own mental picturing. This leads to a pictorial approach in the teaching of all subjects. The rhythm of working together as a class is established during this year, and the students are introduced to all areas of school life. The students are eager to learn together and take their place within the large whole. As new habits are formed, a foundation is being laid for healthy social interaction. Through the teacher’s authority and presence, a sense of reverence, respect, and wonder permeates the mood in the classroom. Throughout the first grade year, the academic tasks of reading, writing and arithmetic are embedded in the rich world of fairy tales. The archetypal pictures found within the fairy tales engage the child’s fantasy in the subject matter that they encounter throughout the year. Through these richly crafted stories, the children are introduced to speaking, writing, reading, and mathematics. All skills are reinforced with practice involving rhythmical movement, recitation and music. Bookwork is illustrated with pictures that reinforce the concepts being developed. Each lesson aims to incorporate a three-fold structure, which fosters the development of the children’s feelings, thinking abilities, and will forces.

Grade Two (Explore Grade Two)

In Grade Two, the familiar routines and observances of the previous year are maintained. This strengthens the rhythm of the class working together, and builds confidence and a sense of belonging in the children. The students continue to learn best when pictorial thought content is presented. Much time is spent consolidating all that was first learned in Grade One. Students continue to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of arithmetic and language arts, and they also develop a wide range of skills in gross and fine motor movements such as jump rope, knitting, and flute playing. The children’s thinking is thus balanced and reinforced by their experience in physical and artistic activity. While in Grade One a mood of wholeness develops in the children, in Grade Two this mood can differentiate into contrasts, with a reverential mood on the one hand, and a temptation for mischief on the other. During this year, the children develop greater interest in the unique qualities of one another and become curious about individual differences. To meet this growing social awareness, teachers introduce stories where contrasting human qualities are portrayed. Wonder tales and legends of Saints from around the world show lofty striving and highlight noble human qualities, while animal fables and trickster tales satisfy the child’s interest in mischief. While the morals of these tales are never explicitly stated, the students derive direction and form from the images they are given.

Grade Three (Explore Grade Three)

Grade Three is marked by the physiological, psychological, and cognitive changes taking place during the ninth year. The child’s walk is firmer and more balanced, and the constitution is substantially stronger. Growth begins to focus more on the limbs and metabolism, and there is an increase in the breadth of the trunk. At the same time, a significant step in self-awareness occurs during this year. The children are developing a strong sense of being separate from their surroundings, perhaps for the first time. A feeling of being alone can contrast with a sense of wonder at seeing the world in a new way. These mixed feelings often lead to confusion and insecurity as questions of purpose and identity begin to emerge. There is a longing for increased independence and autonomy as the child moves into this new phase of childhood. They have a tendency to criticize and question authority as they seek to define themselves as individuals. The images from Hebrew stories, with their laws and guidance, foster inner security during this unsettled period. Practical activities such as farming and house building help ground the children in the physical world. When the whole group works together on these activities, feelings of separateness can be transformed into feelings of responsibility for the whole. With their new interest in the practical, material world, the children can now apply the skills learned in the first two grades to a wide range of everyday situations like measuring, weighing, and cooking.

Grade Four (Explore Grade Four)

In Grade Four, the transition from early childhood is complete. The children emerge with greater awareness, expressed in new confidence and great vigor. They want to experience the world from an individual standpoint, to find their particular place in the world. They develop a sense of where they are in relation to their environment, in both a social and geographical sense. The fourth grade student is eager to learn more about their world, and they embrace new challenges with curiosity and enthusiasm. During the fourth grade year, students are challenged to extend themselves in every aspect of their work. Their growing interest in concrete knowledge is met through natural science, in a study of the animal kingdom in relation to the human being. The children also take up a thorough study of their surroundings in a Local Geography block, in which mapmaking skills are developed. Norse stories, meanwhile, present the children with images of diverse, strong-willed personalities all contributing to the social whole. Throughout this year, students are encouraged to take greater responsibility for their own learning. They complete several independent projects, and give their first formal presentations to the class.

Grade Five (Explore Grade Five)

In the first four years of school there is a strong emphasis on form, both of the class as a whole, and of each child’s habits. In the next four years, there is a subtle and gradual shift in emphasis toward content, in lessons and in the world at large. This shift in emphasis, of course, follows the child’s own lead, responding to his or her changing consciousness. By age eleven, children reach a kind of balance and regular alternation between their awareness of the world and of their own inner lives. There is balance, too, in their mental, emotional, and physical growth. The fifth grade curriculum seeks to extend the children both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, in terms of space, they expand their horizons of the earth and the plants that cover it. In terms of time, they experience five civilizations spanning thousands of years. Inwardly, they extend their awareness of the math processes they perform, and also of the words they speak and the sentences they write. As their intellectual faculties become stronger, students are able to approach their cognitive work in a more realistic and reasoning manner. By the fifth grade, students have generally attained a certain ease and grace of physical movement intrinsic to their age. The celebration of their unique abilities at this time culminates in their participation in a Greek Olympiad, a pentathlon event with other regional Waldorf schools.

Grade Six (Explore Grade Six)

The twelfth year is the gateway to pre-adolescence and idealism, and although the sixth grader is increasingly able to experience internal logic, their sense impressions can often be clouded by emotion and whimsy. Throughout this year, students are encouraged to develop strong powers of observation, and precision and accuracy in their thinking. As they awaken to the intricacies of human thought and action, they readily embrace the biographies of individuals from ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. In order to ground students in the surrounding world while fostering their fascination with the unknown, sixth graders are provided with their first formal study of natural phenomena. Mineralogy, geography, and physics lessons provide opportunity for in-depth encounters with the physical world while strengthening powers of sense-observation. In addition to being grounded by the lawfulness of the earth, students are also encouraged to develop expansiveness in their imaginative thinking. Astronomy draws students towards the heavens and provides opportunities for them to explore the mysteries of the cosmos. In an effort to recreate the experience of early astronomers, Astronomy is taught exclusively through observation of the unaided eye.

Grade Seven (Explore Grade Seven)

As students move into adolescence, they need increased opportunity to feel the strength of their own initiative. The grade seven curriculum serves to ground the students, to inspire them to venture out toward the unknown, and to offer an introduction to their quest in life. Through their own engagement and striving in the world, students are able to develop strong feelings of sympathy and antipathy in relation to their surroundings. These feelings help shape their own perceptions and allow them to stand on their own with increased confidence. Through the exploration of an unknown world, the seventh grade curriculum challenges the thought process of the young adolescent, leading them to discovery, understanding, and discernment. They learn, as the explorers did, that going one’s own way means leaving behind the security and stability of familiar territory.

Grade Eight (Explore Grade Eight)

A Waldorf eighth grade experiences a gradual but significant shift from the presentation of a subject solely from the teacher to the class, to the mutual consideration of a subject by teacher and class together. A sense of community develops in which speaking becomes more thoughtful and listening more attentive. With the awakening capacity for logical thinking and free, independent judgment, the eighth grader now wants to be in the world more than ever before. They want to do, to discover, to know, and to find relevance in their studies by finding connections with the outside world. Throughout this year, the students continue to expand their sense of place in the world. They plunge into the Age of Revolution, and embark on a study of noteworthy individuals who have found the courage to follow their passions in revolt against the status quo. In addition to their continued inquiry into scientific phenomena and experimentation, students study the lives and struggles of scientists and inventors who first discovered chemical and electrical laws. These studies ground students in the human aspect of scientific thought, while providing a picture of the profound effects of modern technology upon society and culture. The eighth grade year marks the students’ final year with their Class Teacher, and culminates in the completion of their Waldorf grade school experience. Given the huge step these students are about to take in the world, the curriculum is designed to inspire passion and highlight the incredible potential of the human mind and soul. It is our hope that our students will graduate with compelling questions that will continue to fuel their love of learning for years to come.

Childhood First.


Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

As human beings, we use our hands regularly in our daily lives. At Waldorf, the Handwork curriculum is broad and includes 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 needle book, a pair of socks. Design and color choice allow for individual creative expression. 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. Throughout the process, respect is fostered.

At the Waldorf School of Atlanta all first graders learn how to knit. This basic skill uses both right and left hands, and brings a steady, calming rhythm to the younger child. Crocheting, which emphasizes the right or left hand, almost always follows in the second or third grade. Cross-stitch is paramount to fourth grade as the children begin crossing over from childhood to adolescence. In fifth grade, knitting in the round, used to make hats, mittens, and socks, is a three dimensional, mathematical activity leading up to critical thinking in the middle school. Long-term hand-sewing projects involving concepts, patterns, and mathematical computations are usually found in sixth or seventh grade. The eighth grade Handwork curriculum often involves machine sewing, which perfectly integrates the student’s study of American History and the Industrial Revolution.

We hope you enjoy the Handwork series on our blog:

Grade 1 handwork

Grade 2 handwork

Grade 3 handwork

Grade 4 handwork

Grade 5 handwork

Grade 6 handwork

Grade 7 handwork

Grade 8 handwork

Our Handwork Teacher is Lisa Roggow.

lroggow photo




Spanish Language program at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 5

The Spanish Language program at the Waldorf School of Atlanta is led by Catalina De Luna Garza.  A review of the Language Program can be found on our website and specific insights into teaching each grade are found in these letters to the parents.

 sra de luna headshot

Dear Fifth Grade Parents,

Any teacher who has taught fifth grade at a Waldorf school would agree it is a pleasure to teach this grade. The curriculum is very rich and the fifth graders have usually achieved a balance in their growth. Physiologically they have not reached puberty –although they are close to it- and they are, for the most part, physically and mentally well balanced.

For the Language class, this moment of equilibrium brings a greater flexibility in managing the class. The students are found to be more receptive and less likely to argue with the teacher.  In general, the lesson has the same format as in previous years, but there is a change in the length of the three parts.  The first part of the lesson is the same but shorter than previous years (rhythmic part- songs, tongue twisters, riddles, clapping games, recitation, oral conjugation, etc.). The students do not need to move as much as the younger ones, for the realm of feeling is experienced more strongly than the will.  During the second part of the lesson we go over grammar or other material that require greater attention and concentration (both recalling previous material and introducing new). After this the class will do some writing or reading. The students will create their own Spanish book, which will reflect artistically all of the material being learned including cultural notes, poetry and grammar.

Accurate pronunciation will be practiced through speech exercises, poems and reading. The children will now be given short homework assignments as well as regular grammar quizzes, vocabulary tests and dictation.  Legends of Mexico will be the topic for story telling and reading. The texts will be reviewed by answering questions about the content in oral and written form. Vocabulary will be brought from the stories and other topical themes. Grammar is developed from what was introduced in the native language in 4th grade. Students will work extensively with the conjugation of regular verbs in present tense and some irregular verbs will be introduced.

As you can see the year will be full!! You can enrich your child’s Spanish experience in many different ways.  The most important part of all is to have a positive and open attitude –  “open your windows to a new culture”; your children will notice it.

If you have any questions or concerns about the Spanish program, please email me.


Catalina De Luna, Spanish Teacher at WSA

sra de luna- Linden Tree Photography WSA Yearbook 171

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 5

The Handwork Curriculum at the Waldorf School of Atlanta is led by Lisa Roggow.    Her loving care of the children is evident in these letters to parents of each grade.  


Greetings Grade 5 Parents:

Welcome to the year of socks!  Making socks in the fifth grade is a Waldorf tradition because socks contain a world of knitting know-how in a small package.  For those of you who “speak knitting”, the following skills are addressed:  knitting, purling, ribbing, stockinette, following a written pattern, working on four needles in the round, picking up stitches, shaping and creating curves.  Basically, this translates to the following: if you can knit a sock, you can knit just about anything. Working in the round extends knitting into three dimensions – developing a spatial awareness that comes in handy during 6th, 7th and 8th grade as well.

We will start the year making a small gnome project.   The gnome will be used as a swatch, which allows us to evaluate your child’s knitting style and decide what size needles they need – and how many stitches they will need for their socks.  In addition, it offers a small sampling of most of the skills listed above.  If your child does not yet know how to knit, we will take extra care at this time to make sure that the basic skills are mastered before beginning socks.  There are several new knitters in the class this year, but we anticipate that, with some support, everyone will be able to complete this project.

The children will also make handwork books into which they will copy the patterns for gnomes and socks.  Here they are exercising writing and copying skills, and later they will learn to follow the written instructions.

In order to complete this project before the year is through, I will eventually give the children the option of taking one of their socks for homework once they are firmly established in their work. Homework is not required unless it becomes apparent that an individual will be unable to complete their socks before the end of the year.  Only one sock is allowed to go home at a time, in case the child forgets to bring it back and thus looses a week’s worth of class.  Both socks are created simultaneously, so that they repeat a skill as soon as they learn it, reinforcing the lesson.

The children are growing in so many ways. The year long project is one way we meet their increasing maturity.  Another is the double period.  This year the fifth grade will have handwork once a week for a double period on Wednesday afternoon.   Generally it takes a few weeks for the children to adjust to this novelty.  We will be sure to vary activities during the first part of the year in order to help keep them alert during the long stretch.  We have had one class so far, and the children were excited and eager to go.  Ms. Bulmer and I are truly delighted to be working with the children- their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious.

Please note that this year the children are being offered a choice of yarn types.   I am offering our traditional, gorgeous plant dyed wool/mohair blend.  This beautiful yarn is very soft.  However, it will shrink to the size of a toddler bootie if you accidentally wash it in warm water or agitate it in a machine.

Having destroyed many socks this way myself, I decided to offer a more hardworking alternative.  Therefore, we are also offering a superwash yarn.  This yarn can go through the washer easily, and will even survive the dryer without loosing wear-ability.  It is made from wool that has been treated in order to prevent shrinkage.  The superwash yarn is commercially dyed.  I am allowing the children to choose which type of yarn they use.  Should you have strong feelings in either direction, please speak with your child about his or her choice.

As always, if you should have any questions about the program, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

Grade 5 socks


A flourishing handwork program is one of the unique hallmarks of Waldorf education. Dr. Rudolf Steiner, the creator of this educational system, identified handwork as an important component, famously remarking that “knitting is cosmic thinking.” But how are we to interpret this concept, and what relevance does handwork have today? Remarkably, recent research, such as Frank R. Wilson’s The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, elucidates Dr. Steiner’s observation, and begins to show why working with the hands supports the development of logical and mathematical thinking.

At WSA, our handwork program covers a variety of crafting knowledge including knitting, crochet, cross stitch, hand sewing, wet felting and machine sewing. Each of these areas facilitates the development of coordination and fine motor skills through the wide variety of techniques presented and mastered as the children move through the grades. In addition, these activities support the acquisition of new math skills as they are presented by the class teachers and stimulate thinking through awakening the hands.

grade 1 knitted chickGrade 2 knitted gnome

At WSA, we begin our handwork journey in first and second grades with knitting. In The Recovery of Man in Childhood, Steiner remarks “…both boys and girls should learn to knit. This is good training for the fingers in skillfulness, but it is far more than that. The rhythmical thinking with the fingers which knitting demands grows with the child, and when he grows up the man will think more cogently and more harmoniously because the child practiced this skill just at a time when his first independent thinking was born.”

During these first two years in handwork class, we are overtly working with basic math facts and number sense. We are continually counting our stitches, and discovering what happens when we lose one or gain two. Later we learn that “ridges” are made by knitting two rows, and the children delightfully calculate that two ridges are equal to four rows. Ambitious second grade mathematicians might discover that their rainbow ball, which is made of four ridges each of six colors, has a total of 48 rows or 24 ridges. They will continue to progress through several patterns which provide questions in applied mathematics. For instance, our washcloth begins with three stitches and adds one lace stitch per row. It continues to grow until 30 stitches are reached. But how to maintain the lace pattern and make the washcloth shrink back to 3 stitches again, thus creating a serviceable square? The answer is to take away one stitch, (-1) add the lace stitch (+1) and finally take away one stitch more (-1).

As the second graders knit their way through this question, their nimble fingers are, as Steiner indicates, absorbing much more than how to make a washcloth. They are developing number sense in a practical, meaningful way, and they are learning how to think.

Conversely, sensory integration researchers have shown that children with certain arithmetic challenges show a high incidence of finger agnosia – they are unable to identify the position of their fingers in space. Knitting in Waldorf schools provides regular “rhythmical thinking with the fingers” that awakens motor control and brings the children’s awareness to their hands.

 grade 3 mug mat, pencil case and hat

After two years of knitting, the children are generally quite dexterous with their needles, and are ready to move on to another challenge. In third grade we bring crochet. Third graders are increasingly aware of themselves as individuals, and as they are stepping into the world we present a form of handwork that relies on the dominant hand. However you knit, both hands will have to work the needles to some degree. But crochet works with one hook. With that hook our third graders work to create a variety of useful everyday objects which all have a practical purpose in the real world.

In this pragmatic tone, we do not forget our math skills. Third graders have to learn to “read” their crochet. First they identify their own stitches, and then they move on to working with patterns of stitches. For instance, circular items begin with a 10 stitch round. If they are to stay circular, we must add stitches as the project grows, or it will begin to curve up and make a bowl shape quite quickly. The practical exploration of this concept resulted first in a flute case, which started with 10 stitches, grew to 20 and stayed there. As a result, the base curved up into a pouch shape, which was elongated to a tube.

Next we are ready to try a more complex sequence. Our rainbow circle mats deepen the concept of the circumference – we are trying to make a large flat piece, and so we must go from 10 stitches to 20. Soon this will not be enough, and we again work to increase the circumference by doubling our stitches. This is accomplished by identifying each stitch in the circle and placing two stitches into it on the next round. And so we have 40. From here third graders begin to work with the individual nature of their own creation, using their observation to determine when and how to add stitches in order to expand the circumference of their work evenly. This provides an opportunity for working in patterns: 2 stitches in each stitch doubles, but a pattern of increasing every other stitch will work differently, as will increasing in every third stitch. And so our third grade handwork classes continue to strengthen fine motor skills and reinforce basic math skills such as counting, addition and subtraction, but they also add number patterns and a smattering of practical geometry and fractions.

 grade 4 pincushion

Fourth grade brings greater intensity to our work with dexterity and fine motor skills. Now we take up small needles and cross stitch. Waldorf cross stitch is unique in that there are no patterns to follow except those which the children create themselves. In main lesson, the class teacher is bringing the leap of faith that is fractions. In handwork we support this work by making bookmarks and pin cushions. The bookmark consists of a canvas that is divided into two equal halves. The children are set the task of filling every hole in their canvas with a color of their choosing – but they must mirror the design exactly on both halves of the canvas. This is a real world image of the concept of “one half ”. The children rise to the challenge of creating one thing which is exactly like another. Next, they move on to pincushions, which have a midline and four quarters. Here there is nothing for it but to plot a point in space – I have put one yellow stitch four steps over from the center and two steps in – and to plot its coordinating point in three other areas. The result is a design which is mirrored horizontally, vertically and diagonally, all four sections exactly alike; the representation of one quarter.

 Grade 5 socks

Fifth grade sock knitting is perhaps the culmination of our mathematical handwork experience. The children work on three needles at once, wielding a fourth to knit in a circle. By now most Waldorf children are so dexterous that they have very little difficulty adapting to this challenge. However, it is still a magical moment when, having worked a few rows back and forth in order to begin, they divide their work onto three different needles, bend it into a triangular shape and join it together so that they are suddenly working in the round. Even more interesting is the fact that once they are knitting in the round, they no longer have to alternate knitted and purled rows in order to create a smooth surface – now knitting alone will suffice because they are only working on one side of the surface. There are so many instances of flexible thinking and fascinating cases of applied mathematics in sock making that it would be impractical to address them all here, but suffice it to say that we work with percentages of our stitches and decrease using ratios (sets of 10, 20, 10 stitches become sets of 9, 18, 9).

All of the work mentioned above is encased in a form that is enticing to the children. Items the children have created with their own hands become so precious that they inspire a sense of reverence, and rightly so. In the creation of each of these projects we find experiences in applied mathematics and flexible thinking, in addition to a world of information about color and texture to stimulate other types of thinking and knowing. In this context, knitting is truly an experience in cosmic thinking.

In the larger world, researchers are continuing to discover connections between how we use our hands and how we learn to think. Meanwhile, young knitters in Waldorf schools develop number sense and work their way through problems in applied mathematics while they labor to create toys and practical items to enjoy.

~Lisa Roggow

Handwork Teacher

This article was originally printed in the March 2012 issue of the Garden Breeze of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

Thoughts for Summer from the Waldorf School of Atlanta

butterfly painting


As the school year ends the children are delighted with their new freedom. Life is filled with the warm sun shining down on us all. It is as if a burden of dark and cold has been lifted. It is time to be out, to shed clothes and shoes…to really feel the earth and grass on bare feet and connect with the light of the sun and stars. It is summer. Children have all the time in the world!

We parents are delighted when our children are happy and resilient. Children are more patient, tolerant, flexible, and happy when their life flows rhythmically. Rhythm isn’t a schedule. Schedules are goal oriented. Rhythm is life oriented. It is ebb and flow, again and again and again… with little variations on the way.

Follow this recipe to create your summer rhythm: repeating days, weeks, and traditions to make the summer season full, rich, and memorable. Even those of us who work can create days and weeks that have that summer feel.

*Take a few activities you love and that make it feel like summer such as:

Rolling in the grass, riding bikes, jump rope, swinging…

Swimming, grilling, working in the garden, blowing bubbles…

Walking to the park/lake/pool/creek, natural places to wade/play/build a dam

Concert in the park, camping in the back yard, hiking, making/eating popsicles…

Camping trip, hiking, visiting Grandma and Grandpa for a week, some summer camp days


Decide if these are daily, weekly, or seasonal activities…

*Add in daily/weekly activities such as chores that need to be done, grocery shopping, laundry, food prep, cleaning house, … Your children are such capable human beings. It is healthy for them to participate in the life of the family. It can even be a disservice to a child to always have things done for them.

* Downtime to do nothing! …Find beautiful stones and four-leaf clovers, Give your children time to breathe (and yourself too)! Give them the gift of time to get “bored”. It is actually healthy for your child to not know what to do. It takes an inner strength of will to pull one’s self out of that seemingly empty place. What a gift when the creative juices start flowing! How empowering!

*Combine and Alternate

Inside time/ outside time

Loud times /quiet times

Silly times/focused times = breathing in and out…breathing is healthy!

Regular meal times!

Sleep time: Kinder children still need to get those same 10-12 hours sleep each night and a nap/quiet time in the afternoon. Even on vacations children (young and old) need rhythm and sleep… and the adults too!

So, give your children time to feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, see the dust sparkle in the sunlight, smell new mown grass, hear the insects hum as they work…and breathe your days in and out… enjoy your summertime.


~Annamay Keeney

Kindergarten Teacher


Grades 1-5:

As the summer months approach, the long days of summer seem like a dream come true. But after the first few weeks, many families struggle to find rewarding things to do with their children.  Of course there are wide range of camps available both at WSA and throughout the community but what else is there to do? Here are some fun, easy, and inexpensive ways to keep busy.

1. Become an investigative reporter – with a camera, students can take pictures of the world around them and make up stories to go with their pictures.

2. Gather up old greeting cards and create puzzles or collages.

3. Have your child make an obstacle course in the backyard and have the family take turns going through it. Who can complete the course in the fastest time?

4. Make a terrarium.

5. Find a place to volunteer with your child.

6. Invent board games

7. Explore making paper airplanes.

8. Create a sculpture with recyclable materials

9. Stargazing & story telling

10. Skip stones at the river

11. See a Shakespeare Play

12. Learn how to paddle a canoe

13. Hang and monitor a bird feeder

14. Celebrate a summer holiday (even if you make up your own)

15. Make Homemade Ice Cream!

Grades 6-8:

1. Encourage children to take on responsibility in areas of interest to them. (Volunteer at a veterinarian’s office, senior center or theatre.)

2. Physically challenge your children with activities like Outward Bound, hiking, white water rafting, rock climbing, water skiing or horseback riding.

3. Take them on an adventure with a purpose, i.e., not just a hike, but a hike to find the perfect camp site; not just a bike ride, but a bike ride to a lake for a swim.

4. Give them a job that will teach them to master a new skill (knot tying, bike repair, planning, shopping and preparing for a weekly dinner, building a camp fire, laying a stone path, tending a garden). Practical work will help them feel more competent.

5. Build a fort, shelter or tree house with your child.

6. Visit or volunteer on a farm (interactions with large animals help children learn how to adapt to another being’s needs).

7. Allow time for boredom. Let your child arrive at their own ideas for an activity, using imagination and initiative.

Often children have issues with focus and persistence in the face of obstacles. Encourage your child with activities such as these to help build their will, patience, motor skills, and sense of discipline.


This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of the Garden Breeze Newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

bench and flower pot

Woodworking at the Waldorf School of Atlanta


From an early age children begin to express their will by exploring the use of their hands. It is with their hands that they begin to develop other faculties. Accomplishment and joy are the rewards achieved through the wisdom of each activity.

“To do, to be active, is Man’s noblest calling.”

Woodworking begins in the fifth grade. In this grade students experience the full process of woodworking, within which the children review botany, especially the various types of wood, and learn the use of hand tools and woodworking techniques. While working with wood, children’s senses are awakened, hands begin to strengthen, hand-eye coordination improves, and with repetition, their ability to sustain focus slowly increases. Patience and attention to detail emerge.

In the sixth grade, students learn to accurately use both ruler and compass to refine their measuring skills. They are expected to create projects using the sense of touch, an approach that allows them to express their feeling through manual arts. Students shape and form the object with the help of simple hand tools. Through hand-eye coordination in fabricating the object, the students develop the strength of hand and stamina of will necessary for personal growth. During the sixth grade year, students are also introduced to the history of woodworking. They are each assigned a research report and an oral class presentation on an aspect of this topic.

The grade seven woodworking curriculum and projects emerge from the students’ study of the ages of discovery and exploration. This year, there is an increased emphasis on the importance of rules and regulations, developing clearer communication skills, and becoming more independent and willing to explore new boundaries. Adolescent students are in search of clarity and truth, and they now meet the world around them by asking: “Why?” They desire and benefit from both mental and physical challenges. The projects this year focused on developing the students’ will forces, critical thinking, patience, team building and performance, and personal management of time.

In the eighth grade, students are able to experience the culmination of all their previously acquired woodworking knowledge and skills. They have become more acutely aware of the physical world around them and how they, as physical bodies, move within that world. In response to this maturation, the eighth grade project is selected both to challenge and expand the skills that the students have developed over their four years of woodworking. The project is layered with detailed processes and problem solving and requires each student’s consistent focus, keen accuracy, creativity, and most of all, patience. The eighth grade class is currently working with inlay patterns made from thin veneer. Some students are making journals covered with thin plywood and leather, others are building boxes with a plywood lid. In both projects the plywood holds the inlay design. The rich fiber and color of the veneer come to life as the student sands and buffs the surface with beeswax. These items will be available for your viewing in the woodwork
room on Grandparent’s Day.

~Francisco Moreno
Woodwork Teacher

wood bowl

This article was originally printed in the April 2013 Garden Breeze Newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

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Grade Five is having a wonderful time making socks in Handwork class. Six socks have been completed so far, and many more are on their way!