Painting and drawing
In a Waldorf school, all students study drawing, painting, and the rudiments of clay modeling. In grades one through six, visual arts are taught by the class teacher. Drawing is part of the main lesson, while painting is taught in a separate period, although the themes are generally taken from main lesson subjects. The finest materials are always used, including high-quality watercolor paper, beeswax crayons, and artist’s colored pencils. The overall purpose of the visual arts program is not only to teach students to draw and paint, but also to teach them how to observe carefully.
In the first three grades, the class teacher draws many pictures on the blackboard. The younger children copy these pictures using block crayons. In third grade, shading is introduced into the drawings, and block crayons begin to give way to more precise stick crayons. Color and gesture are emphasized, while stick figures and outlines are discouraged. Form drawing, a precursor of geometry, is taught in main lesson blocks, starting with simple straight and curved lines and moving on to mirror images and four-fold symmetry in second grade. Third graders practice continuously running forms in preparation for learning cursive writing. Students also learn watercolor painting. Using wet paper and large brushes, the young children first experience the quality of each primary color individually. Later, as they learn to blend two colors, secondary colors arise from the painting. By second grade, they begin to see forms in the colors, and in third grade they are able to develop these forms themselves. In addition, all children model small figures out of colored beeswax, first warming it in their hands, and then creating forms based on nature or on main lesson stories.
Handwork has been taught in Waldorf Education since the first school in 1919. Handwork is a practical art that involves the senses of sight and touch as well as balance and movement. In doing handwork, fine motor skills are refined. The children learn respect for the process of making something and gain confidence in their ability to complete a task. Age appropriate projects are chosen for each grade. The children learn a variety of skills throughout the years, and a healthy respect for the natural materials used is fostered. Special care is taken to design objects that are practical and functional and also allow the children to work with color and form in a creative way.
In first grade the children begin the year exploring wool fleece. Their fleece is shaped as a cloud and then gently spun into a length of yarn that becomes a wool bracelet, necklace, or wiggly worm. This first experience with a natural fiber enlivens their senses of touch and smell and creates a reverence in the child for the gifts from nature. The children learn to finger knit a golden crown. They add gem colored bits of wool fleece to their crown by felting with the gentle friction of their hands. The children gradually learn to cast on stitches and knit. Rhymes help make learning the stitches easy to remember. The first knitted project is a small cat. Once they have learned to knit, the children make a pair of knitting needles to take home and practice their knitting. Their main project is a recorder case. The children choose four colors of plant–dyed yarn to make this project. They complete this project with a wet-felted button made from the remnants of yarn. The children will also learn to sew a basic whipstitch on a sewing card and then sew a little clothespin gnome.
In second grade the children begin with a review of knitting and are also taught to increase and decrease stitches as well as purl. Crocheting is also introduced. This new skill focuses on the dexterity and coordination of their dominant hand. Their first project, a square potholder, strengthens their ability to make decisions, where to place their hook and when to add stitches. They will also learn to crochet in the round and make a chain bag for their eurythmy slippers.
The third graders begin the year crocheting. Their first project is a small pouch. They learn many new stitches that prepare them for their main project, a crocheted hat. This project challenges them to work with their own design of color choices and stitch patterns. The children also experiment with plant dying and use dyed wool felt to make a needle case. These cases remain in school and house needles, pins, and thread for future projects. Lastly, the children return to knitting and make a horse. The horse pattern is more complicated than previous projects, requiring the children to expand their forming and shaping skills, and building confidence in their abilities. This project coincides with their first Class Trip to the Hawthorne Valley Farm at the end of the year.