Monday, July 29, 2013

Renate Hiller - "On Handwork"

Am deeply touched by this short you tube movie of Renate Hiller, co-director of the Fiber Craft Studio at the Threefold Educational Center in Chestnut Ridge, New York

R e p o r t

Handwork Research Conference
April 20 – 22, 2012

Preparing for the Future
 How do practical, artistic activities support the development of soul-spiritual capacities?
This theme and research question was at the heart of the second handwork conference organized by the Fiber Craft Studio of the Threefold Educational Center in collaboration with Dr. Gerald Karnow and the Conference Planning Committee*. It brought together 60 individuals from Waldorf Schools and other settings eager to form a learning community and support each other in their common striving.

It was in ancient times,
There lived in the initiates’ souls
Powerfully the thought
That ill by nature
Is every human being.
And educating was considered to be
Like a healing process
Which brought the maturing child health
For life’s fullness of human existence.
        From Course for Young Doctors by Rudolf Steiner

It is of the utmost importance to know that the ordinary thought-forces of man are the refined forces of bodily growth and formation. In the forming and growing of the human body, a spiritual manifests itself. For it appears as such in the further course of life – the spiritual force of thought.
         Excerpt from Fundamentals of Therapy, Chapter 1,
                                       by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman

These leading thoughts - that were also part of the pre-conference study materials -formed the inner core of Dr. Karnow’s lectures at the Threefold Auditorium. Drawing on his wealth of experience as physician, school doctor and educator, and by involving the conference participants, he brought alive the developmental stages of the human being from embryonic development through physical birth and the three seven-year periods up to age twenty-one. This journey of the human being towards maturity, towards the birth of the ego, is one of communication and movement with the forces of the cosmos and, through the senses, with the earthly environment. It is a process of gradual liberation of soul and spiritual forces from the physical.
This liberation happens in three successive stages from the head to the heart to the limbs in each of the seven-year periods. During the first seven-year period the child’s communication with the world happens through imitation. During the second period (age 7 – 14) the child works on gaining self-mastery in the feeling life by looking up to an authority. During the third period (age 14 – 21) the capacity of judgment evolves; then the capacity for self-direction begins to be acquired.
The handwork teacher – who is aware of these general developmental movements and has a sense of each child’s individual being – will find the right gesture of communication and the right handwork projects to bring healing and support on the path of maturation. Dr. Karnow stressed that the rich sensory experiences and most varied movement gestures inherent in handwork projects have the potential to support the developmental movements in just the right way. As the child engages in meaningful work, creating items that are useful and beautiful, skill capacities, cognitive capacities, moral capacities are being supported and fostered. A project that embodies beauty and truth brings joy and satisfaction.
The three-section workshops on handwork in the kindergarten and the lower and middle-school years led by experienced Waldorf teachers served as laboratories for practical research and conversation with regard to the conference theme. The resulting projects were displayed in the Threefold Auditorium Side Room where the plenum session led to a rich harvest of presentations from the workshops and a sharing of questions, thoughts and insights.
In educating children through artistic handwork activities we are preparing for the future – a future that they will shape with their heads, their hands and their hearts in their present incarnation and in incarnations to come.
*Conference Planning Group:
Nicole Nicola, Philadelphia Waldorf School
Tjitske Lehman, Kimberton Waldorf School
Chris Marlow, Green Meadow Waldorf School
Renate Hiller and Mikae Toma, Fiber Craft Studio

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