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 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.