Color and DEI in the Handwork Classroom

How do we welcome and affirm children of different cultural, social, racial, or ethnic backgrounds into our handwork classrooms? This question goes WAY beyond the choice of skin color fabric for dolls.


I recently read an account written by African American parents of their 1st grade son’s experience in a local Waldorf school in Los Angeles. In a nutshell, they accepted the value of the innocent view that the world is good, presented in our first grade stories, but also needed to prepare their son for the realities of life as a young black man in Los Angeles – which could literally be a matter of life and death. Although I don’t know how to bridge the gap, I think it is wrong for us teachers in a Waldorf school to put a child in a position of such dissonance. The contradictions between reality at home and what we bring to children in our Waldorf classrooms seems profoundly wrong. What do you think?


Brining this closer to home, a very meaningful discussion In our recent professional development series, The World of Needlework and Embroidery, centered around the use of color and the color choices we offer our students in the handwork classroom. Many spoke of the abundance and exuberance of color in the Mexican Otomi work, the relief that brought to these drab days of pandemic anxiety and social deprivation, and one colleague reminisced about her joy in discovering the brightly colored streets on her travels in Mexico.


My experience was different. I felt overwhelmed by the panoply of color, and wanted to retreat to the safety of the gentle quiet greys of my Northern European heritage. As adults, we were able to articulate and share our feelings, and reflect on them. But how does this work for a child? How can we ensure a child feels welcomed and affirmed in our handwork classrooms by offering projects and color choices that are comforting or familiar – as well as new and challenging? How can we make sure that a child does not have to shed their own familial identity in order to enter a Waldorf classroom?


I welcome your thoughts.




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