The handwork curriculum in grades 1–8 educates students on many levels. At its most literal level, students learn traditional crafting skills that have been practiced for centuries and are increasing being lost to a digital world. Learning how to create beautiful and useful objects builds fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, powers of concentration, perseverance with difficult tasks, facility with counting and patterns, and the confidence and satisfaction that comes from making something by hand. At a deeper level, using the brain to control the hands, tools (such as knitting needles), and natural materials is a complex activity that, like handwriting, stimulates multiple regions of the brain and offers cognitive benefits.
In the early elementary grades, all students learn to knit, crochet, sew by hand, and embroider. In sixth grade students make a doll, and in seventh grade learn to quilt. Handwork culminates with the use of an electric sewing machine in eighth grade. Throughout the grades, projects are of a practical nature: pot holders, toys, scarves, socks, and other articles of clothing. All work is done with an appreciation for and development of aesthetic qualities.
Woodworking begins in fifth grade, with an emphasis on the qualities of wood and how to use the tools that shape it. Students develop a feel for their material by rasping and sanding a darning egg out of a square block of wood. They then move on to concave shapes like bowls, which involve digging into the wood. Sixth grade projects, typically forks and spoons, begin to reflect the style of individual children. Seventh graders build wooden boats, using scaled drawings as a guide. Eighth graders build furniture, usually chairs or stools, and are introduced to power tools. Woodworking helps develop focus, creativity, perseverance, and skillfulness of eye and hand. Throughout, the teacher attempts to awaken an appreciation for the combination of usefulness and beauty.