The experience acquired as a handcrafts teacher for the last 8 years lets me affirm that by working with their hands, children transform conventional materials like threads into more complex objects (animals, bags, socks, among other things), and do a lot more than just occupy their time doing something “useful”, it is a therapeutic activity that fills children with joy that can’t be explained. But there is a lot more to tell…
Steiner said: Criteria comes from imaginative forces, working through the heart. It is not the head by itself but the whole human being that shapes criteria. Just think about how many senses are used when working on handcrafts –sight, touch, movement, balance, among many others–. Senses receive many impressions from the world and unite to form criteria. Our hands take us to a deeper and closer relationship with the world and, therefore, to a higher understanding of humanity. Manualidades y Artesanías (Hauck, 1968).
For this and many other reasons, handicrafts are a “must” in every classroom, above all at these times of human development (ages 7 to 12) where technology has occupied many moments and spaces of childhood.
In any case, we must be careful about what types of manual activities to perform. It’s quite common to find publications on all kinds of media about handcrafts workshops for children that are basically on cutting, folding and pasting paper, cardboard, fabrics, or even materials that are very harmful both to the child’s health and nature. We should ask ourselves: “Are these really the kinds of handcrafts that should be accompanying the child’s development between 7 and 12 years old? What is the real objective of performing these activities?”
At Escuela Caracol, children learn to comb the wool (from Nahuala’s Sheeps), spin the wool into yarn, and from that weave bracelets, necklaces, etc. with their own hands. They make their own crochet and tricot needles and with them, they make animals, bags, flowers, gnomes, among other things. They embroider with cross-stitch designs and landscapes, weave carpets or mats with tulle; likewise, they weave their own gloves, caps, socks, and maguey backpacks; they carve their nawales in stone. In all grade levels, the students sew and embroider.
To say that it is wonderful and special to be a master of crafts at Escuela Caracol is still selling it short, it is an invaluable gift.
Nazario Ignacio Porón
Ignacio “Nacho” Porón is a tzutujil Waldorf teacher with a specialization and great talent for crafts. He is currently the primary teacher of third grade in Escuela Caracol.