Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 7

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.  

grade 7 felt slippers

Greetings Grade 7 Parents:

I wanted to let you know a bit about our plans for this year’s handwork classes.  In seventh grade handwork the students experience the ancient art of felting.  We will explore the uses of felt throughout history and learn about the various qualities of this amazing natural textile.  Both strength and delicacy are required for felting.  The students are expected to participate fully and learn to weigh the effects of the force they exert as they track the course of their projects from airy fluff to sturdy pieces.  Felting meets the children on a visceral level.  It is hard work to be a seventh grader, in part because the child is growing so fast and is confronted with so many physical changes.  Felting assists this transition and helps address the awkwardness of growing so quickly by awakening tactile sensitivity.  To successfully complete a felted piece, the children need to hone their powers of observation, evaluate the state of their project and decide for themselves when and where to apply force.  They learn that simply standing up and leaning into their work can have a significant effect: they must engage in order to progress.  This process of observation and evaluation supports the methodology used in science class, where experiments will be witnessed and documented.

We will begin the year with a very simple introductory project – a juggling ball.  This project uses four layers – pellets for filling, a cover (a knee high stocking), a layer of wool and another cover. This is a fun way to teach simple felting concepts that will be employed throughout the year.   Next we will learn flat felting techniques to make a circle mat.  This project requires a delicate touch, and teaches the children how to carefully edge their work for a nice finish.

From here we will move on to slippers.  This project presents an opportunity to think and work in three dimensions.  We will utilize a resist in order to create layers and shape a flat piece into a three dimensional object.  I think of slippers as the seventh grade answer to third grade hats.  When the children were going through their nine year old change we made hats as a “shelter” for their burgeoning individuality.  In seventh grade the children are in the throes of another stage of development, and felting around their own feet is a grounding experience that brings awareness to and acceptance of their constantly changing physical bodies.

As seventh graders the children will be focusing on the sciences and studying the age of exploration, when brave individuals confronted the unknown.  During our time together we will look into how it is that friction, soap and heat can turn fluff into a fabric that withstands the elements and has housed, clothed and protected people all around the world.  We will also hear stories about textiles, and how the quest for higher quality wool and more vibrant dyestuffs lent impetus to explorers who traveled the world, questing for the colors which shaped empires and defined nations.

Ms. Bulmer and I are very grateful for the opportunity to work with your children this year.   Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about our work this year or the handwork curriculum in general.

Thank you,

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

 

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 6

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.  

 grade 6 interlaced embrodery

Dear Grade Six Parents:

I am writing to share some information about this year’s sixth grade handwork curriculum.

My goal for this year is to infuse the children with knowledge of fine needle work, which requires a completely different skill set than the work done in other grades and challenges the children to hone their fine motor skills very precisely.  In review: fourth grade’s cross stitch provided them with the opportunity to sew rhythmically, cross the midline repeatedly, learn pattern recognition and introduce a small needle.  Now, two years later, they are flying without the net as there are no well -placed holes showing them exactly where to put the next stitch.  They must observe their work carefully, estimate where the stitch should go, and follow that inner directive and sightline.

Towards that end, we will begin the year with needle books.  This practice piece is made from plant dyed felt, which is a forgiving fabric and allows us to learn how to begin, master the stitch, end the thread and hide ends.  The felt can handle many “missteps” and lends itself well to a smooth and even appearance.  Most of the work on the needle book will be done in backstitch, which produces a continuous line of straight stitches.  Backstitch is also the primary stitch used in their major project for the year.

That project is a herd of bison.   This is a project Carol and I have specially created for your children.

We will be working closely with each child to assist in drawing a bison picture, from which we will draft individual patterns. We will carefully preserve the childlike nature of the drawings so that the finished projects will reflect the person who made it.  After drafting the patterns we will transfer them to fabric and begin sewing.  This will prove to be a tricky bit of work, because it involves adding a seam allowance to the drawing and visualizing how the pieces should come together to make a three dimensional object.  The focus on realism and accurate measurement supports the work Mr. Smith will be presenting in geometric drawing.

As with last year’s sock project, bison will take up the remainder of the year.  Hopefully the children will enjoy watching their drawings come to life.  As we go, we will learn more about the animal. Each child will be responsible for a brief oral presentation (2 minutes) on some aspect of the bison.  The children will receive handwork grades this year.  The grade is based on the effort they exhibit, participation, including assisting in preparation and group clean up, and participation in the report project.

Please email me  if you have any questions about our handwork curriculum for this year.

Thank you,
Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

Grade 6 sewn lion

Lion created in Grade 6

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.  

socks

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

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 4

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.  

grade 4 pincushion

Dear Fourth Grade Parents:

Welcome to the new school year!  I wanted to reach out to you to share some information about this year’s handwork curriculum.

Our primary medium in grade four is cross stitch.  This gives us an opportunity to focus on very fine motor skills, working with a sharp needle and learning a cross stitch technique that incorporates crossing the midline with each stitch.  Midline work actually permeates the entire fourth grade curriculum: it can be found in knotted form drawings, eurythmy movements, games classes, and class warm up activities.  Among other things, crossing the midline supports mathematical skills that the children are learning at this time.

Of course there are many ways to cross stitch, but the Waldorf style works within a carefully defined form.  Children use their dominant hand to do all of the stitching, learning to swoop the needle from the front of the canvas, across the back and out the front again in one continuous motion.  This task sharpens eye hand coordination and develops pattern recognition.

We also work with color theory.  Six rainbow colors are available in three shades each.  For our first major project, a bookmark, the children are allowed to choose two color families, giving them six different shades.  The bookmark is intended to be a conversation between these colors.  Limiting this project to two color families really sharpens the children’s awareness of subtitles of shading and hue.  While some of the color “conversations” are simple and straightforward, others are amazingly complex.  Nonetheless, the available palette guarantees that all the bookmarks will be beautiful.

Finally, the bookmark form previews the work the children will be doing with fractions and plotting points in space.  All colors on the bookmark are duplicated on the left and right sides, so if you were to fold it in half it would be a mirror image.  Essentially, this is two halves.  Once the children have mastered this process, we will move on to pincushions, which are done in quarters with the added complexity of a centerline.  In this case the form the children create will duplicate itself in all directions, including diagonally.  Our fourth graders will be using color to plot points on a gridline in all four directions.

Fourth grade cross stitch is delightful balance of form and freedom.  Through use of symmetry and simple color choices, the children create truly beautiful designs that are always unique, reflecting something of the nature of the artist.  Cross stitch one of the most popular subjects we teach in Handwork.   I look forward to working with your children again this year.   Should you have any questions about the Handwork program, please feel free to contact me.

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

cross stitch floss

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 3

 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.  

IMG_0264

Dear Third Grade Parents:

Now that the year is off and running, I wanted to update you regarding our plans for Handwork Class this year.   Third grade is all about crochet.  During first and second grade, the children worked with knitting, which used both hands working in unison in a balanced gesture.  Now that we are beginning the nine year old change, we are working with crochet, which focuses on building dexterity in the dominant hand.

We begin by we are just learning to hold our hook and pull through stitches.  We will practice this skill for several classes, during which the children will make three long crocheted cords, which will be braided into a belt.

Once everyone is comfortable with the form, we will begin working on a mug mat.  Crochet stitches are more difficult to count than knitted stitches, and we will spend some time focusing on starting with 12 stitches and ending with the same number when we finish a new row.  This challenge requires the children to perform multiple steps in sequence.  The crochet stitch itself comes in two parts (“catch and pull through and then catch and pull through two”).  Crocheting along a row requires the children to complete the entire stitch twelve times, use visual cues to recognize the stitches from the previous row, and remember to add an extra stitch that will allow them to turn without loosing a stitch.   All of this goes into making their first little square, which will be our mug mat.  Learning a new type of needle work is always a challenging business; the third grade will be required to work together to cultivate patience and support one another while they take up this new work.

Once we have the basics established and the mug mats are complete, we will begin working on pouches. New skills learned for this project include working in the round and changing colors.  The pouch will be a conversation between two shades of the same color, beginning with the darker shade and working up to the light color at the top.  We will learn double crochet or “tall stitch” at the top, in order to make a hole for the lacing cord, which will be done using another new technique called butterfly cord.  Butterfly cord is like double finger chaining, and again it represents a step up, challenging the children to build upon skills they have already mastered by increasing the complexity.

Later this year we will complete our study of circular crochet by making a hat.  This is a classic third grade project, because it interweaves so nicely with the shelter aspects of the curriculum.  A hat is, at its most basic, a shelter for the head.  During the nine year old change there is nothing like using your will forces to create your own protection.  You might remember those sunny kindergarten days, when the teachers made sure everyone had on their hat and boots before a walk.  Now that the children are growing into caring for themselves, they experience making this most basic protective garment on their own.

The remainder of the year will be taken up with other practical projects, such as pencil cases.  Toward the middle of the third grade the children begin to work more independently at their own pace.  By the end of the year some of the children may be working on extra projects.

It is, as always, a great pleasure to work with your children.  Ms. Bulmer and I very much enjoy our time with them.  If you have any questions about the handwork program or your child’s work, please feel free to contact me.

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

grade 3 mug mat, pencil case and hat

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 2

 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.  

grade 2 lamb

Dear Second Grade Parents:

Welcome back!  I wanted to update you about the work your children will be doing in Handwork class this year.  Our second grade handwork classes are all about knitting.   We will be sharpening our skills with a variety of challenges.  During our first few classes we will roll yarn to be used throughout the year.  This is a team building activity which helps to warm up the hands for the work we have to do and improves coordination.  After this work is completed, we will begin the knitting curriculum for the year.  Please bear in mind that second grade children do not know what they will be making ahead of time – we like to keep the element of surprise alive as long as possible.  So please don’t tell your children what lies ahead!

Our first project will be rainbow balls.  In this work we will learn to change colors.   In addition, both this project and the one following help to reinforce mathematical operations in knitting.  Each “ridge” in knitting takes two rows to make.  Our rainbow ball will have four ridges of each color.  We will practice counting these rows over and over again to ensure that our rainbow ball has a beautiful round shape.  Once the ball is knitted we will have a great deal of work in sewing up, with 24 ends to hide.  We will learn to gather and make square knots as well. Next we will embark on a gnome project, which reinforces the skills above and adds in the challenge of decreasing.  Later in the year we will work with more complex projects involving shaping.  Finally, we will complete our second grade work by bringing in the purl stitch, which is a mirror image of the knit.

Most of the projects the children will make this year are toys: animals and fairy tale creatures supplement and reinforce the work the children are doing with Ms. Wright in Main Lesson.

In addition, we will present the children an opportunity to give back: extra projects that will eventually become gifts for the kindergarten teachers will be brought in for students who are ahead in their work or who are waiting for help.

Ms. Bulmer and I are looking forward to a year filled with growth and possibility, as we help the children’s hands to fly!  If you have any questions about this year’s curriculum, feel free to contact me.

Thank you,

Lisa RoggowHandwork Teacher 

 Grade 2 knitted gnome

Handwork at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Grade 1

 

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.  

grade 1 knitted chick

Dear Grade One Parents:

In all likelihood we will begin having first grade handwork class next week.  Before we begin I would like to give you a preview of the work which we will be doing.

A great deal of the first grade curriculum, in every class, has to do with working in a circle – both literally and metaphorically.   While we generally stay seated in Handwork class, we do reinforce that circular gesture.    One of the most important ways we do this is to work together, at a similar pace.   It is very important that the children’s early exposure to handwork be in a non-competitive, supportive environment.   Ultimately, our goal is to nurture a sense of confidence and capability in the children.   This unfolds most naturally when the process is non-stressful and reverential.

Therefore, the early part of our year will be spent reinforcing skills they may have learned in kindergarten, specifically making twisted ropes and finger chaining.   Not only are these activities fun, but they also wake up the fingers and strengthen fine motor skills.  Also, in the case of twisted ropes, they require team work, which is an excellent activity to help form relationships in a new class.  Next we will take a closer look the medium we will be using for the next two years and play with raw wool.  We will hear about where it comes from and how it is turned into yarn.  We will make bits of yarn and poof it up into clouds.  All these activities are a fun way to heighten the children’s tactile sense and get them accustomed to the materials.

When the children are all ready we will move on to making our knitting needles.   We do this by taking a pair of dowels and sanding vigorously with two or three different grades of sandpaper, until they feel as smooth as glass.  Then we rub beeswax onto the needles to condition them, and finally we rub and rub with a soft piece of felt in order to polish the wax in and clean the surface off.    By the time the needles are done the children will be ready to have the eighth graders come and teach them to knit.   They will be a more experienced class, with knowledge of  many of the skills important in first grade, such as knowing when to leave your seat and when to stay in it, when to raise your hand and when to ask for help.   And so they will hear our knitting story…

I will them about a little shepherd who has ten sheep to watch over.   As the story progresses, the sheep all disappear one by one.  The shepherd goes on a journey to find the sheep, and discovers them behind a fence in a pasture.   She calls to them, but they cannot come past the fence.   So the little shepherd goes “under the fence, catches a sheep, brings it through, and off it leaps”.   This is our knitting verse, and it gives a name to each step in knitting a stitch.  As the children become more experienced knitters we can diagnose problems with the language this verse provides – for instance I may tell a child who has wrapped his yarn around the needle twice that he caught an extra sheep.  The children who know the verse immediately know what happened and are able to correct the problem the next time.

Before the eighth graders arrive, the children will choose their color and my assistant, Ms. Bulmer and I will cast on  ten “sheep” and knit a few rows for everyone so that the children have something to hold on to when they begin knitting.   The older students are already looking forward to working with the first grade during these two magical class periods.

After that visit we will work for a few weeks on finishing up a small piece about the size of an adult hand.  To promote that feeling of working together, Ms. Bulmer and I will try to ensure that we are all working at about the same pace, checking all the work before class, fixing the many little mistakes that crop up and keeping the work at about the same level of completion.   These first little pieces will be sewn together and turned into bean bags for the classroom.   As adults, we are often very aware of small errors in our work, which can be discouraging.   Some children, when they are first learning, will often joyously gloss right over such things, caught up in the wonder of their new skill.   Turning this first work into bean bags not only gives us an opportunity to work in a circle by making something for the group, but it also gives the handwork teachers the flexibility to turn these first pieces into something that the children will see are of real use in their world.

With this first bit of knitting under our belts, we begin knitting in earnest, and you will most likely see three projects coming home after midyear.  Their needles will come home at the end of the year and we will use school needles in second grade.  With each project we do through the end of second grade we will add another skill to the student’s knitting repertoire and continue to reinforce old skills.

I am looking forward to getting to know your children.  Should you have any questions about  our work together, feel free to drop by the handwork room or email me.

Lisa Roggow, Handwork Teacher

grade 1 -knitting needles and cat

AUTUMN MIDDLE SCHOOL MAIN LESSONS at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Adolescence is an expansive age. Throughout the autumn middle school students have been asked to extend themselves both in the variety and the depth of their studies. The approach of the holiday break is a time for culminating all the efforts made over the previous months, and the main lessons reflect that.

drawing in ml book

The sixth grade, for example, has just finished a writing block with a special focus on dialogue and style. One way of developing your own style is by experiencing someone else’s. Each student set the stage for a scene, drawn from history or other familiar subjects. The composition was then collected and typed up without naming the author. This was passed on to a second student who developed the rising tension. Following that, it was passed on to a third student, who wrote the climax. To supplement the element of dialogue, students worked daily on a recitation of Mark Antony’s oration at Caesar’s funeral, drawn from Shakespeare. At this time, the sixth grade has taken up the subject of Astronomy. Having focused earlier on the earth forces of Geology, they now turn their attention to the cold, clear constellations of autumn’s night sky.

The seventh grade students are also occupied with earth study, developing group reports for European Geography. The subjects are wide-ranging for each report, including biographies, current events, and artistic renderings of both physical and cultural geography. The block will close with a European “feast,” featuring food samples from many regions. In art, the students have explored perspective drawing, painting, and pastels over the autumn, and will now move into the careful copying of Renaissance portraits.

Eighth graders have finished their main lesson on the Civil War. As with the previous grade, they too developed group reports that included biographies of both an African-American and a spy, along with battlefield maps. Their current study is Solid Geometry, taught by Academe’s Sharon Annan. This subject combines the spatial thinking of geometric drawing with the linear thinking of algebra, and is something of a culmination of many years of Waldorf math. Additional subjects in math have included a study of the binary system, which is the language of computers, and an algebraic expression of the Pythagorean Theorem.

platonic solids

The students’ autumn efforts have yielded a bountiful harvest! This harvest, of course will become the seeds of future growth, and we look forward to what will unfold next.

~Jim McClurkin

6th Grade Teacher

jim mcclurkin

This article was originally printed in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

Advent in a Kindergarten Classroom at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

advent 4 weeks

As we move into Advent time, the classroom is cleared of the abundance of autumn to create an open space for life and goodness to come. There is a vine wreath on the table in the classroom with four candles. One is for each Sunday before Christmas. The first week of Advent honors the earth – the mineral world. The second week, we behold the plant world. Greenery and flowers are added to the wreath and classroom. The third week, we honor the animal world. During this week there are often conversations about some of the dear animal pets that live with the children.

The fourth week of Advent, we light a candle for humanity. In this dark time of year, we as human beings must let our inner light shine out to others. This is the verse we say as we light the candles:

The first light of Advent is the light of the stones,

That live in the seashells, crystals, and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of the plants,

That reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of the beasts;

The light of hope that we may see in the greatest and in the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind

The light of love, the light of thought, to know and understand.

~Rudolf Steiner

~Annamay Keeney

Kindergarten Teacher

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

FAMILY RHYTHMS AND THE HOLIDAYS FROM WSA’S PARENT ENRICHMENT CLASS

Linden Tree Photography 2011 Advent Spiral 013

We are in the midst of the Holiday Season, with its joyful sharing, various festival celebrations of light, and special visits with treasured family and friends. It can also be a stressful time for families who are seeking to maintain a sense of regularity and familiar rhythms for their children, while also wanting to enjoy the change of pace that visiting with loved ones can bring.

Here are a few simple suggestions to add to or affirm your parenting wisdom at holiday time:

1. Just knowing and acknowledging that daily life may be different for a little while can be very helpful.

2. The most important rhythm, especially for our children under 7, would be the bedtime rhythm. While it may be later than usual, do include as much of the normal routines as possible; if traveling, do pack any familiar dolls/teddy bears, and books to support familiarity.

3. If your child still naps, do support a nap rhythm as much as possible.

4. While striving for regularity, do be flexible, and enjoy the change of pace that awaits you.

5. Notice, and attend to, stresses that may arise for yourself. Allow yourself a break, stepping outside, a ‘time out’ as needed. Just adding a few extra conscious breaths to your day can make all the difference.

6. Verbally preparing your child that things will be different can also go a long way in supporting their experience of the holiday season.

7. Do share, if possible, and if helpful, with family and friends, your routines that will support your child’s enjoyment of the holiday season. Including them in your plans of achieving a sense of regularity, may go a long way in friends and family supporting your efforts.

8. No matter how cold, do include outside time everyday or as much as possible, for you and your family; from walks in the neighborhood, to hikes in a favorite park, the invigorating cold winter air can renew everyone’s spirits; there is no wrong weather, only wrong clothing!

These are just a few ideas that can support a meaningful holiday season for all families.

~Sara Michelson,

Class Facilitator, Morning Garden Teacher

sleeping child at HF

This article was originally printed in the December 2010 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.