The handwork and practical arts curriculum in the Waldorf school stimulates the creative powers while establishing esthetic confidence through a conscious guidance of the student’s developing will. These “will” activities lay the foundation for thinking. Recent neurological research confirms that mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hands, stimulates cellular development in the brain and strengthens the physical instrument of thinking.
It is a golden rule in Waldorf education that learning begins with movement, and in this respect eurythmy and spatial dynamics are the handmaids of all other subjects in the curriculum. When learning grammar students will come to terms with past, present and future, learn the difference between active and passive, and realize the function of verb, noun and adjective. Specialized movement activities, including games, meet these fine distinctions so that the lessons of grammar enter into the domain of the whole child. This is a form of knowledge enshrined in the old phrase “to know it in your bones” so different from merely knowing it in your head. Similarly in music, the inner response to rhythm and beat, major and minor moods, and melody are carried into the activity of the limbs.
Eurythmy is the archetypal and universal inner life of humanity made visible in the world through movements of the body. Eurythmy nourishes the human soul by validating its existence and experiences.
Foreign language instruction begins in the first grade with a mini-immersion class twice a week. Natural aptitude for language is wonderful at this age; we cultivate it in songs, dances, verse, games and seasonal ditties. The experiential nature of foreign language class continues through the grades, with reading, writing and grammar taught beginning in the fourth grade. Classes are conducted as much as possible in the foreign language. While the primary aim is to create a cultural experience that nourishes the child’s curiosity about the world and strengthens his patience with and empathy for whatever may be foreign, a basis for future proficiency is formed, often with a very pretty accent.
SWS provides woodworking for grades 5,6,7 & 8. The projects are a spatula, spoon, three-legged stool and carved bowl in that order. It is all done with handtools. As with all handwork in the Waldorf curriculum it is developmental rather than a training. It is a scientific fact that brain development has a direct relationship to working with one’s hands. It is also evident that pride of accomplishment and self-esteem come from the challenges of creating an object of practical beauty. These qualities cannot be given but must be arrived at empirically. Our students are justifiably proud of the work that they do. This is the basis and outcome of our woodworking program which is in it’s seventh year.
Music in the Waldorf school permeates all the lessons, not just the formal music classes. The teachers bring songs, games, and other musical activities to the children during their morning circle time, and music is woven throughout the curriculum. The music teacher sees the children twice weekly for singing, song games, theory and various instrumental experiences – all age appropriate for the specific stages of development. In the early grades special Choroi flutes are introduced to bring more consciousness into the very fingertips. Later on in the upper grades, traditional recorders are used in conjunction with the curriculum of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In Grade Four all the children begin violin ensemble, and the string program continues through Grade Eight. Music is an art form that does not find its reflection in the outer sense world, but arises out of one’s own soul experience. Through imagination and beauty, music education in the Waldorf curriculum provides an opportunity to exercise the creative self and give expression to the healthy development of the growing human being.