Through consciously using the hands and working with a variety of materials and processes, children become confident in their ability to create. The intelligence gained by working with the hands lays the foundation for the development of clear thinking. Capacities for concentration, patience, and perseverance are reinforced as students work to complete projects.

GRADES 1 THROUGH 3 – The children learn to knit and crochet, which are rhythmic activities that strengthen the coordination of both hands as well as eye-hand coordination. The main skills introduced and developed in first grade include sanding and finishing a pair of wooden knitting needles, learning to knit and cast off, finishing a knitting project with hand sewing, and learning to shape knitting with a decrease. In second grade students continue to develop their knitting abilities and learn new skills like casting on and the purl stitch. Single chain crochet is introduced in second grade and further developed in third grade to include double crochet and crochet in the round. An appreciation for natural materials is fostered through the use of natural and plant dyed fibers.

GRADE 4: Handwork in the fourth grade supports the students’ sense of self sufficiency as their hands become stronger and more capable. Students learn how to sew with needle and thread, becoming proficient with several basic stitches. They experience how design and color can be used to show balance and symmetry through embroidery as well as cross stitch projects.

GRADE 5: Students in fifth grade are more confident in their abilities and respond well to practical projects. They build upon their knitting skills by learning how to knit in the round with double pointed needles to create a pair of socks. The students will work from a pattern for the first time as well as being supported in identifying and correcting mistakes. An appreciation for natural materials is fostered through the practice of plant dyeing the sock yarn.

Mountain Laurel Waldorf School - Special SubjectsGRADE 6: Handwork in the sixth grade serves to broaden the students’ sewing ability. They create a hand sewn doll by following a complex sequence of written instructions. Students develop a pattern for their doll based on measurement and proportion. They work sculpturally by transforming sewn flat fabric into a three dimensional form. The awareness of bodily spatial relationships is developed through this project. Fine sewing activities include creating detailed features, hair, and doll clothing.

GRADE 7: The authentic and physically demanding work of felting meets the awakening intellect of the adolescent and their need to push against things. Both wet felting and needle felting are sensory activities which help students connect with their tactile senses in a different way. In both processes, the wool has a “mind of its own” and is independent of the teacher’s authority. Students must meet the materials, observe the results of their efforts, and make the adjustments necessary while continually striving towards beauty. An appreciation for natural materials is fostered through the use of natural and plant dyed fibers.

GRADE 8: As their studies turn towards contemporary world topics, eighth grade handwork now expands to include the use of the sewing machine. Students study fabrics, take measurements, learn how to use a sewing machine, follow printed instructions, and troubleshoot their project to create a wearable garment. This machine sewing project is the culmination of the handwork curriculum,and students proudly wear their finished garments at the closing assembly at the end of the school year.


Handwork at Mountain Laurel Waldorf SchoolThe sculpture program encompasses both modeling and woodworking.

Modeling enlivens the academic subjects by bringing those experiences into reflection and expression through the hands. Research shows that engaging small motor skills helps to create neuro-pathways in the brain that support other learning centers in the brain. For a child, to actually form a pyramid out of clay challenges their spatial and motor capacities and creates a deeper understanding of the dynamics involved in such a structure.

From the early days and the first grade, children are given colored beeswax to shape and two figures or scenes from the stories they have heard. The teacher carefully guides them from simple shapes like snakes or butterflies into more complex figures as their skills mature. By second grade, they are modeling animals from fables or nature stories. In third grade, they might make a farmyard with the farmer and all the animals.

Clay can be introduced in the fourth grade if it has not already been used. Over the next few years, students can try animals, pyramids, sphinxes, clay tablets with cuneiform writing, Greek vases, relief maps and other projects related to the curriculum. Clay modeling is usually taught by the sculpture teacher beginning in fourth grade. Giving shape to a soft formless material imparts strength and form to the will and awakens the feeling for her life takes shape. Woodworking speaks to the needs of the human being as they are embodied in the living human form. Working with wood tremendously strengthens the will because wood is physically hard, and sharp tools and physical strength are needed to achieve a change in shape. The child has to work with the material that possesses a grain and has to match their will to that grain.

GRADE 1: Modeling Begins by using beeswax in the first grade with the class teacher.

GRADE 2: In second grade, the sculpture teacher, using beeswax and the process of metamorphosis, helps the children find and evoke the form-gestures that the children have visualized from the stories they have been told.

Sculpture at Mountain Laurel Waldorf SchoolGRADE 3: Clay is introduced in the third grade as the story of the creation of the earth and the human being as Adam is told. Using two hands together, simple, large archetypal forms (beginning with the sphere) or taken through a metamorphic series. The children find the archetypal double-bent form gesture in the sleeping Adam. During the second half of third grade, the children model different shelters in clay, from Noah’s Ark to a house of their own design. The use of clay helps ground the children as they begin to experience the loss and awakening embodied in the nine-year change.

GRADE 4: With the arising of greater self-consciousness in the fourth grade, the children touch on their first geometric form (the tetrahedron) and explore the changing range of gestures in the animal world. The animals are always formed through metamorphosis, out of the whole, which imparts a feeling for that wholeness. The children take up woodworking briefly at the end of fourth grade through found-wood and then again strongly in the second half of the fifth grade.

GRADE 5: The new found balance of the fifth grader is reflected and explored in the changing balance of the human form as seen in the ancient world, including the combination of the animal and human in the Sphinx. The balanced but dynamic form of the egg, fitting within the human hand (the building gesture-form of nature), is shaped in hardwood.

GRADE 6: In the sixth through eighth grades, the children are coming to the foundation of their thinking, embodied well in the modeling of the metamorphosis of the Platonic solids. This project often begins these last years. In the sixth grade, cause and effects and strength and movement or worked with in modeling projects such as wrestlers or dancers and masks of comedy and tragedy, and other strong soul-gestures. They use a rasp and gouge to make a finely formed, large hardwood spoon that fits the hand well and serves a particular range of uses.They must carefully work with the distinction between the handle and the spoon-bowl and the transition between the two.

GRADE 7: Seventh graders, reflecting the study of the Renaissance, are ready to work artistically with what can be observed in the world. They observe and shape a model of the foot in movement, finding the arch (some place that never touches the ground and allows for freedom of movement). The needs of human beings in their human form (building on the spoon) are taken up in a hand carved bowl in hardwood.

GRADE 8: The culmination of the sculpture program at Mountain Laurel School is the handmade stool. This last process employs measuring, geometry, engineering, ergonomics and the use of at least 15 different hand tools. It challenges the eighth grader’s newfound ability to take up thinking more consciously.