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Beeswax and Clay Modeling

In the Waldorf school, artistic experience weaves through the curriculum on a daily basis. Modeling is an integral part of the fine arts curriculum and is taught in each grade from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Children in first through third grade are taught beeswax modeling once weekly throughout the school year. Students in fourth through eighth grades continue with clay modeling. In the upper grades, clay modeling is integrated into the main lesson curriculum. In addition, individual teachers may choose to use plasticine, a more malleable form of clay.

In modeling, the artistic process is more important than the end result. Each child works to his or her own capability. The teacher strives to inspire and encourage the students and attempts to create a mood of reverence as well as care in the use of materials. The teacher guides the process, technique and content while allowing for individual expression. The content does not stand-alone but relates to the main lesson theme for each grade, making it age and curriculum appropriate.

The material used in beeswax modeling is a malleable mixture of beeswax and lanolin. Teachers have noted that when working with this particular medium, the hands become warm and the skin soft, in contrast to the cooling and drying effect of clay. This is one reason this material is preferred for younger children. The process involves modeling “from the whole to the parts,” as each child works to have a form emerge from a ball or egg shape. The subject arises from a story or a theme from nature, the seasons or festivals of the year. For example, the teacher may tell a springtime story of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. The children then model a caterpillar cocoon and a butterfly.

In the upper grades, class teachers bring clay modeling to the children throughout the main lessons of the year. Students may model the topics of science lessons, such as plants and animals, create three-dimensional maps of areas they are studying, or work with the platonic solids in geometry.