Teaching Handwork/Woodwork Online

A COVID-19 E-learning Response Lesson Plan

Today, when I am not washing my hands, I’ll be bowing to children (instead of shaking hands at the door) and thinking of lessons that I can teach online should our school determine that will be needed. I know that some Waldorf schools have already closed and perhaps many more will be added to that list.

My Personal COVID-19 Handwork/Woodwork Response Plan:

  1. Wash my hands a lot. Bow rather than shake hands at the door. Be sure children use wax to thread needles rather than spit.
  2. Bring a “Spring Cleaning” spirit to the classroom. Have each class contribute to cleaning our room. Clean out handwork bags so that they can go home if needed. Wash chairs. Wash walls. Disinfect the scissors.
  3. Determine which classes can just take home already started projects on which to work. Put extra supplies (like an additional ball of wool) in those bags as I teach students this week so they are ready to go home quickly.
  4. Consider a two to three week block that can be taught online for each class/grade that cannot take existing projects home.
  5. Make a list of what materials to send home with children by grade and check supply cabinets. (To Do: Order more crochet hooks.)
  6. Consider what reference material might be helpful. I am considering a knot tying block for fourth grade and some colored knot guides might be helpful for students to have at home.
  7. Consult budget for materials I might send home but would not want back. For instance, a modeling block means that I might send home polymer clay and I would not want that brought back to school.
  8. Prepare a bag of take-home materials for each classroom.
  9. Bring home my school issued laptop and reference books I would want at home for each lesson. Bring home demonstration materials for each lesson. See if my classroom document camera can be linked to my camera for easy at-home demonstrations.
  10. Listen carefully at our school training session this week around Google Classroom and other online learning and communicating platforms.
  11. Find stories to read this week about neighbors helping neighbors and continue to talk about how we help others by taking good care of ourselves.
  12. Find stories to read this week about “looking for the helpers” when we hear troublesome news, like Mr. Rogers.
  13. Keep a calm and positive attitude. This will be an adventure and I am going to learn a lot about teaching!

Let’s help each other out! Post your own lesson plan ideas, steps you are taking in your classroom to keep people healthy and other resources you think would be helpful to your fellow handwork and woodwork teachers.

We are teachers and so we teach.

An Update

So now that a few days have passed I’ve made some tentative plans. I decided to focus my lessons on hands-on projects that use supplies most (if not all) families would have at home and could be done by children of all ages. I also wanted to focus on motor development ideas.

Elementary On-line Handwork

Block One: String Games, delivered electronically with video support, history lesson included which describes the worldwide collection of these games. We will host a “String Off” when students return.

Block Two: Soap Carving, delivered electronically with video support, invite children to submit photos to inspire others. We will host an art show when students return.

Block Three: Streamed Puppet and Storytelling Based on the Twelve Professions (with an emphasis on Fiber and Woodworking Professions)

Middle School On-Line Handwork

I just have 8th grade handwork this quarter and I’ll ask them to do the fabric design and historical research for Batik Stoles for graduation. There is a UNESCO video that goes with this unit so that is easy to deliver online. When they return we will wax, indigo dye and then sew them on machines.

Middle School On-Line Woodwork

6th and 7th will be challenged with a whittling project. I may use this video on how to carve an owl as a start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZ9z5lc3gnw

8th will take home their self-directed projects to continue working on them.

If I need more, I’d also like to do units on growth mindset using the book and video “The first 20 hours to learn anything.” I often use this after spring break anyway as I have about 20 hours left with students at that time of year. I could pair that with the idea of students using this unexpected time to complete “passion projects” with a show and tell when they return to school.

Share your ideas in comments right now.

Our community could use your ideas! Share yours in the comments and include links if there are resources you want to make available to others. Share, then try this blog post next: Sharing Ideas for Teaching Practical Arts from Zoom Call.

A Verse for Our Time

We must eradicate from the soul

All fear and terror of what comes towards man out of the future.

We must acquire serenity

In all feeling and sensations about the future.

We must look forward with absolute equanimity

To everything that may come.

And we must think only that whatever comes

Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

It is part of what we must learn in this age,

namely, to live out of pure trust,

Without any security in existence.

Trust in the ever present help

Of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do.

If our courage is not to tail us.

And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves

Every morning and every evening.

Rudolph Steiner

How to Make the Most of a Difficult Time

Teaching Amid COVID-19

I found the following poem deeply inspiring. Just reading it once gave me a whole new perspective on this time. Try reading it yourself and then I’ll tell you how it is impacting my time at home and my plans for my student’s learning.


What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath–the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now)

Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar

First, more trust, less anxiety

When I think of this time as a set apart time, my anxiety lessens and my trust grows.

I feel less anxious about how I am going to teach Practical Arts from my basement studio. I feel less anxious about whether or not my high school junior will be able to choose the “right” college now that we can’t visit. I worry less about my hubby getting the ick from one of his customers. Because when I think of this as a set apart time, all those things become less important than this amazing gift of space at the end of a dark winter.

When I feel less anxious my trust grows. Of course I don’t have to worry that my students will not be learning during this time. They are with their very first teachers, their parents, and those terrific people taught them so much before they ever got to my classroom. Maybe they won’t teach them what I would have taught them. They could learn so much more. Maybe they will learn to rest (rest and restlessness, I believe, all all learned behaviors.) Maybe they will learn how to do dishes or take care of the chickens while Mom is at work. Maybe they will declutter their closets and learn about letting go or sew up a seam on a favored shirt. Maybe they will learn Practical Arts that I just can’t teach effectively in a classroom of 26 people–like how to grocery shop on a budget when Dad isn’t working, how to tip the Grub Hub guy extra just because your family can help others, or how to wake up and be productive when you don’t have to go to school all on your own because you are excited about a project or plans for the day.

I also feel more trust for my own children’s decisions. It is less important (and maybe impossible) for my daughter to pick the “right” college. I remind myself that it is my job to make sure she has some options and that she be the kind of person that can be interested in the world and sure enough of herself to do her best in any situation. This gift of extra time to spend together before she goes out unto the world is just that, a gift!

My husband may get sick from a customer at work. He makes house calls to repair appliances. I can trust that he is doing all he can to keep from getting sick and to protect his customers from getting sick too. Of course he is doing that. But I also know that some of the people he meets were very isolated even before this time and a visit from my husband, who is highly skilled at conversation, may be just what people need to get them through—along with a refrigerator that cools and a washing machine that spins.

More trust less anxiety.

Making the Most of this Time

To make the most of this time of rest and withdrawal from others I can really focus on those forces that bring me to my best.

I decided to take an online class from Stanford University; a philosophy class called The Art of Living. That had me reading Plato this morning. I can authentically share with my students that I am a life long learner.

My gym is closed so I am learning how to walk on my daughter’s slack line. I am just at the stage of trying to stand up on it. I can authentically share with my studnets (and my kids can see from the kitchen window) that I don’t just ask them to do hard things. I ask myself to do hard things, too.

I can remind parents at our school that they were their child’s first teacher and so they have totally got this at-home schooling thing. I can even support them with non-traditional Practical Arts lessons. Real life skills: teach your kids how to sweep or wash dishes or any other responsibility. Cooking is a practical art. Folding clothes is handwork. Sitting under a tree is woodwork. Get out the play dough and sculpt birds and let those formative forces work when you take your kids on a bird watching trip around the block. Get you middle schooler to sand and refinish that table you’ve been meaning to get to or finally get the trim up around that door. These are arts. These are practical. I can bring that to families along with some blocks of fine motor skill development and will strengthening that I’ve planned. Throw in a few good stories. That is a good way to make the most of my time.

I can also stop typing this morning and finish quilting the pillows made from my children’s Christmas dresses that I started months ago! But I’ll be back to see what you are doing to make the most of your time. Leave a comment below, won’t you?

Photograph of post author and Waldorf Handwork Teacher

That’s what works for me! Barbara Albert, Practical Arts Teacher, Mountain Sage Community School, is sharing resources and organizing the Wool Wood Wax Workshop. Come check it out at https://woolwoodwax.org/

Sharing Ideas for Teaching Practical Arts from Zoom Call

Learning New Ways To Teach

Eighty Waldorf teachers stared back at me from my computer screen yesterday as we were socially distanced but still communicating on the Zoom app to talk about what all teachers are talking about this week….how DO you teach the arts when students are in their home rather than in their classroom?

From each of our living rooms we were questioning.  What are YOU going to teach?  Can you teach knitting online?  Are you sending home materials?  How can you keep your class connected?  Will parents be stressed out or jump in to help?

Project Ideas

Some of the best ideas for distance learning can easily be carried out by families at home.  One teacher was planning a scavenger hunt to get kids away from screens and moving.  She is placing treasures around her community park that relate to her lesson.  One teacher is making a whistle out of chicken bones, string and hydrogen peroxide.  (Yeah, I don’t know how that works either but it sounds cool!)

Shoe-tying, making knots and macrame are popular.  Soap carving can be done with tools commonly in households.  Kite making was a popular idea to get families learning together and outside for some movement.

Projects for Community Building

Some ideas were around community building.  Having each member of the community create a small piece of art that will be brought back together to make a whole art piece when group activities resumed is a great way to share the comforting idea with young children that we will be back together again.  Learning a community song to be sung at the return of activities is another way to do this.  

Knitting and Passion Projects

Some teachers will teach knitting to small groups online.  Some are making you tube videos that will be available to all teachers including those that teach at home. 

With so much time off, students have time to pursue their own interests so I will be encouraging and supporting “Passion Projects” for my middle school students.  Whatever they choose to make they can bring to school when we resume for a Passion Project Art Show. 

You can see more ideas to enrich your own lesson plans here.

I left that call feeling stronger in my own lesson plans, with a few new technical skills and a great appreciation for my colleagues across the world.  

The Learning will Continue This Summer

Yesterday’s conference call was just the beginning of Practical Arts teachers gathering to learn together.  This summer, Renee Schwartz, waldorfcurriculum.com, will continue the learning that Practical Arts Teachers will do when they all gather to hear Renee speak at Wool Wood Wax, a Waldorf Practical Arts Teaching Workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Renee will be bringing her amazing knowledge of the Waldorf Classroom Blocks and sharing how weaving is a thread that can connect to many ages and many blocks.  Renee will join Thesa Callinicos, Art & Grade Level Teacher at Gradalis Teacher Training who will speak to the Role of Imagination, Intuition and Inspiration in the Practical Arts and Clay Modeling Through the Grades and Logan Nance, Educational Support at Mountain Sage Community School, who will teach about Therapeutic Movement.  I will be giving a session on Working with the Will in the Woodshop.  Homeschool, private and public teachers are all invited.  

I am glad that Renee and others with similar passions are gathering to teach and learn from each other in a variety of places.  Whether in a Zoom app, at a kitchen table or at a workshop at the base of the Rockies, people are striving to better themselves and the next generation.  That is some good news we can all use.  

Photograph of post author and Waldorf Handwork Teacher

That’s what works for me! Barbara Albert, Practical Arts Teacher, Mountain Sage Community School, is sharing resources and organizing the Wool Wood Wax Workshop. Come check it out at https://woolwoodwax.org/

Helping the Next Generation of Waldorf Teachers

Contribute to Survey on Inner Work of Teachers

Dan Van Horn, Mountain Sage Community School

Dan Van Horn, Class Teacher at Mountain Sage Community School, This semester he is writing a research paper that explores spirituality and the inner work of teachers. He has put together a quick 10 question anonymous survey as part of his research. When Dan is not dressed as a gnome to introduce his class’s self-written and directed short plays, Dan is enrolled in a Waldorf certificate and Masters in Education program through Antioch University of New England.

Here is a link to Dan’s survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/33LBKX8

Elizabeth Seward Handwork Conference

February 15-19, 2020 East Bay Waldorf School

yarn ball and wooden needles

Elizabeth Seward is hosting a conference/ mini-retreat for handwork teachers on February 15 – 19, 2020.

The exact schedule is being shuffled but here are some highlights from Elizabeth: 

  1. We will use an informal theme of ‘thread’ through the conference, and examine both the warp and weft of the handwork curriculum, i.e. how handwork strengthens both the horizontal and vertical Waldorf curriculum.
  2. Spinning – how and why
  3. Second grade dyed and sewn pencil case with Shan Kendall
  4. Speech with Helen Lubin 
  5. Knots – practical, decorative, symbolic
  6. Temari balls with Yoriko Yamamoto – remember how it is to be a learner!
  7. Possibly some boro-style mending.
  8. More, in negotiation ……. 

Get more information by contacting Elizabeth at wandwofhandwork@gmail.com

Renee Schwartz to Help Connect Practical Arts to Main Lesson

Brining New Project Ideas and Hands On Learning

Renee Schwartz, Waldorf Practical Arts Teacher Training

Renee Schwartz is an Experienced Curriculum Consultant specializing in progressive education. Trained in Steiner/Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia approaches, she has received a B.A. in Philosophy from Smith College and an M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction from McDaniel College with a focus on Action Research in the classroom.  You can read more about Renee’s work here: waldorfcurriculum.com and switzerite.blogspot.com.

I dare you, yes dare you, to find a Waldorf block that Renee cannot speak of from the top of her head and offer you an idea or resource that is new to you. She has just that kind of breadth and knowledge behind everything she does.

Barbara Albert, Practical Arts Teacher

After having read Renee’s extensive blog and website for years, what a surprise it was to meet her at a training session last summer! Rarely have I met someone who understands so deeply the way that the Waldorf curriculum spirals and weaves through the years. Plus since she is willing to tell you everything she knows (and publishes it a waldorfcurriculum.com) you’ll learn a lot from her, too.

Register for Wool Wood Wax so you won’t miss a minute of what Renee has to say.

Then make yourself a cup of tea and take a look at these posts from her blog, switzerite.blogspot.com and website.

  • Photos from Fables Camp should give you plenty of good ideas for your handwork classroom.
  • You can find a link to the third grade training manual for the African Waldorf Teacher Development Program on this page of Renee’s website. I used it just this week as a story for some pottery/sculpture work. I use this as a story resource for 3rd and up.
  • This post on the Four Elements got me thinking. Renee suggests this as a fun summer camp. Even though it is a first grade block, what if my middle school woodworking classes touched on it again? Are forest fires necessary? How does wood form in the wind? How do trees communicate through the soil? What happens when wood is wet?

Logan Nance to Speak about Therapeutic Movement

One of the Most Requested Topics By Practical Arts Educators will be Addressed at Workshop

Logan Nance holds a BS in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University (1989), a Waldorf Early Childhood Therapeutic Educator Certificate from Gradalis Academy (2001), a Colorado Gardener Certificate from Colorado State University Extension (2018), and is currently enrolled in the Educational Support Certificate Program through the Association for a Healing Education.   Logan’s association with Waldorf Education goes back many years. She taught Pre-K at River Song Waldorf School for seven years and had a Waldorf-inspired Pre-K in her home for five years. Logan led the Kindergarten class at Mountain Sage and has been the Gardening Assistant. She is currently the First Grade Ready Games/Observation Coordinator and Educational Support Teacher. In addition, Logan is a longtime Waldorf Mom!

“When you talk to Logan about students, she has a way of seeing what others have missed. Her deep observational skills, her love of using movement to help children and her willingness to help others just make you want to learn everything she knows about children’s healthy development. A conversation with Logan makes you a more thoughtful teacher.”

Barbara Albert, Practical Arts Teacher

Logan will be sharing her understanding of developmental and therapeutic movement and how it can be applied in Practical Arts classrooms though out the grades.

Register for the Wool Wood Wax Teaching Workshop so you too can benefit from Logan’s passion.

Where ARE the Updated Waldorf Curriculum Guides for Practical Arts?

Do you have anything current in your teaching library?

Hand resting on Ancient books in a Basket

I don’t! And Why IS That?

I am so tired of reading the same old books about Waldorf projects. I’ve seen all the projects. I’ve been on all the Pinterest boards. I’ve googled “waldorf xxxx” a gazillion times. I’ve read all the articles in the Waldorf online library. I want my brain to be set on fire by something new.

Of course some of the old stuff works

I know the old stuff works for many students and teachers. In fact, some of it is downright magical. I love the old projects that are still working for my students like

Continue reading “Where ARE the Updated Waldorf Curriculum Guides for Practical Arts?”

Dear Children, Steiner Address

Steiner’s Address at the Christmas Assembly

You see, my dear children, there are beings on earth that are not like human beings — for example, the animals around us — and we might often think that we should envy these animals. You can look up and see the birds flying, and perhaps then you might say, “Oh, if only we could fly, too! Then we would be able to soar into the air.” We human beings cannot fly like the birds because we have no wings. However, dear children, we can fly into the element of the spiritual, and we have two wings to fly there. The wing on the left is called “hard work,” and the other wing on the right is called “paying attention.” We cannot see them, but these two wings — hard work and paying attention — make it possible for us to fly into life and become people who are really ready for life. If we work hard and pay attention as children, and if we have teachers that are as good and capable as yours, then what makes us fit for life will come to us, and on the wings of hard work and paying attention we will be able to fly into life, where the love of our teachers carries us.

You know, you can sometimes think that there are things that are more fun than learning. But that is not really true; there is no greater joy than learning. You see, when you enjoy something that lets you be inattentive and does not make you work hard, then the joy is over immediately. You enjoy it, and then the joy is gone. But when you enjoy what you can learn, when you are flying on the wings of hard work and paying attention, then my dear children, something stays behind in your souls. (Later on you will know what the soul is.) Something stays in your soul, and you can enjoy that over and over again. When we have learned something good and proper, it comes back again and again; we enjoy it again and again with a joy that never stops. But the other fun things, the ones that come only from inattentiveness and laziness, they come to an end.

Rudolph Steiner, Address at the Christmas Assembly, December 21, 1919, RSarchive.org

The above quote is just a portion of Rudolph Steiner’s address to the children. I thought it a fitting reminder for all of you that spend your days helping children to work hard and pay attention. I also wonder how I could bring this sentiment to my students this season?

Hard Work and Paying Attention

One way that we already talk about hard work in my class is with a middle school growth mindset tool I use.

Continue reading “Dear Children, Steiner Address”

Waldorf New Project Ideas

Let’s Get a Conversation Going–Comment What Are Your Making Now?

Many of you have completed the survey to help plan the Summer 2020 Wool Wood Wax Waldorf Teaching Workshop. So far we’ve had the highest votes for the topics of Hands-On Making and New Project Ideas.

Let’s just get an idea of the breadth of the student projects happening in our classrooms this week. Comment below what you and your students are working on during the middle of December. Your perennial project might be a new idea for others.

Continue reading “Waldorf New Project Ideas”