Wool is used throughout the kindergarten and grades classrooms in our Waldorf-methods school. This is because wool appeals to the senses of children and adults alike. Other than the occasional itchy wool sweater, wool products are pleasant to touch and to look at, often coming in variations of beautiful colors. Wool offers ample opportunity to be wielded as a teaching tool.
In the kindergarten program, wool is used in many forms and has been duly dubbed “magic wool” by the authors of a book by the same name. Wool is found everyday as artwork on the walls in the form of wool pictures, adding to the aesthetics of the classroom and fostering reverence for delicate art. It is used most often as a material to create the characters in puppet shows, and as the natural stuffing in cloth dolls.
Wool felt is used for birthday crowns and little sewn animals and gnomes, as well as sewing project material for the students. Children use it in handworks for finger knitting wool yarn and wet felting wool roving.
In the grades, wool is still found to be useful. The yarn used for knitting in first and second grade, then for crocheting in fourth grade, is wool. In more established schools, the handwork teacher will often dye the wool for their school, bringing it as a lesson in natural dyes and natural fibers to the upper grades. Wool can also be found in grades classrooms as decorations to enhance a Seasons Table.
Probably the most hands-on wool lesson comes in the Fiber Block in 3th grade. Students will visit a farm with sheep, collect wool that was recently sheared, bring it back to class to clean and card, then use it to create something in class such as a wool picture cover for their hand-made book about natural fibers. They will sometimes make their own spindle and spin the wool into yarn, then knit a project with the yarn.
Why use wool? Wool is appealing on many levels. Wool can be collected without harming another creature, since sheep must be sheared before the warm summer months in order to stay cool. Wool is naturally flame-retardant, so children’s toys are safer, both from fire and from the chemical flame-retardants. Wool is strong and durable, stretchy but not easily broken, perfect for knitters, young and old alike.
Wool is pleasant to our senses. Easily absorbing natural dyes allows for bright colors usually only commercial dyes can provide, pleasing our sense of sight, as well as being kind to the environment. It is also relatively odor resistant, so using wool for cloth toys pleases our olfactory system. Wool fabrics, especially wool felts, are much softer than polyester fabrics, which is preferable to our sense of touch. So, perhaps the next time you see sheep grazing in a meadow, whisper thanks for providing wool, a wonderful teaching tool.
Submitted by Helga Conklin, Kindergarten Teacher
Book review on wool crafting books
Website to buy wool and wool products
Website for puppet making using wool materials