by Marie-France Perron
For years, I’ve wanted to make a quilt with my students during our unit on patterns. We teach our students the importance of caring for our environment, being kind to others and respecting diversity. I thought, what a better way to put all these values into practice than to create a quilt!
The thing is: my students are four years old. I’ve always been worried about their little fingers and the makers of these little fingers and whether they would like the idea of their children using little, shiny, pointy needles. Still, this year, we did it!
My very bright, curious and excited young students created a quilt which will be donated to the elderly. The project all started with a brainstorming session about what a quilt might be, what it can be used for and how we might make one. Students based their responses on previous knowledge and experience; they problem-solved and used knowledge of mathematics and arts to come up with relevant ideas. We then proceeded to ask parents for donation of old clothing (preferably with patterns on them) which helped students put into practice what they had learned about reusing materials to reduce waste and care for our planet.
Each student chose a piece of clothing – most chose their own as they felt a personal connection to it and started to trace and cut squares of fabric. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although students were basically “destroying” their shirts and skirts, they did not feel upset about it, stating they were happy to make a quilt for the elderly so they could keep warm. These young children were showing compassion and kindness for the community as well as an understanding of the needs of others. One crafty mother offered to create squares with each of the students’ handprints on them to include in our quilt. We all enjoyed this and the quilt is even more special because of it.
Once we had about 80 squares of fabric made – which took quite a long time if you can imagine little hands using child-proof scissors to cut in somewhat straight lines – we started sewing, putting two squares together at a time. All along our students developed their fine-motor skills and showed lots of perseverance. Several mums and grand-parents took part in this part of the project. Community involvement is very important to our family school and, in our class, we love to have parents in as much as possible. Mums coordinated to come in for three mornings to help students sew one-on-one. No one was hurt and students worked relatively independently!
At this point, students were using lots of mathematics vocabulary such as up, down, beside, patterns, long, short, square, rectangle, straight and much more! We made sure to have a variety of different patterns and to scatter the handprints. Students were very creative and worked collaboratively to put the quilt together.
For a final touch, we asked one of our cleaning ladies at school, who is also a professional seamstress to sew our quilted fabric onto a blanket. Once we saw the finished product, we were in awe of our work. I think I was the most surprised by my students’ accomplishment!
The next step now is to deliver our special gift. Students and their teachers will visit an elderly home in the community to donate the quilt. We will spend some time with them and sing some songs. We are all very excited to see our quilt being used!
Overall, this project provided my students with the opportunities to collaborate not only with their peers, but with members of the community as well. They expressed themselves through creative art, used a variety of motor, cognitive and problem-solving skills, persevered when faced with a challenge and showed compassion and kindness toward others.