HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Honolulu's Waldorf school, they de-emphasize laptop learning for more hands-on lessons. In Mrs. Altwies' third grade, they're spinning a yarn over knitting class, and boys seem to have a knack for it.
"Some of the best knitters are the boys. And the most enthusiastic," says Frances Altwies, who's been teaching in the Waldorf school system for 30 years.
From first through eighth grades, all the students learn to knit, crochet, sew, and stitch. Knit one, purl two isn't part of art class at the Niu Valley school. The hand work is woven into the school curriculum.
"Use of the hands for meaningful work actually helps to develop the capacity for thinking", explains Altwies. "So, we have the idea of knitting one's thoughts together."
Eighth grader Niklas VonderHaar plays on the Pac-5 intermediate football team, but in his free time, he likes to knit. Curious people approach him with questions.
"Well, yeah. It's happened a couple of times," says Niklas. And what do they usually say when they see him with needle and yarn? "They just come up to you and ask what you're doing and you just respond, 'Oh, I'm knitting'. And they're like, 'Oh, that's cool'."
Hand work classes are just part of Waldorf's focus on doing and creating. In the lower grade schools, there are no textbooks and no computers.
Waldorf believes the hand-eye coordination helps increase brain development. And keeping them in stitches helps students problem solve, be more artistic, and more social. The first Waldorf school opened in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany, and back then, knitting was very common. Through the years, it's held on to some traditions that the school feels are relevant today.
Niklas' classmate, 13 year old Brandon Zunin, takes flying lessons and scuba dives, but, he also enjoys knitting and crocheting.
Brandon says, "It's kind of helped me to master my hands. So, it really kind of translates to lots of other things that I've been doing."
Altwies instructs the children using a catchy rhyme on how the yarn should flow across the knitting needles. "What do we say? Slide under the rainbow. Dance behind the sun. Skip on back and off we run!"
In the process, she hopes knitting will teach them so much more – just by staying in the loop.