Thursday, May 17, 2012

Holiday Helping Hands

Last fall, my friend Clare asked if I would help a class with a service learning project. Clare has a really cool job - she works for a foundation and is in charge of pretty much all service learning projects in our city. If you aren't familiar with service learning, it is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

I worked with students at Arlington Heights Academy. This is a sort of last chance high school for a lot of kids. Many of them have struggled at other schools for various reasons, but here they have an incredibly supportive teacher who truly loves them as individuals. She seeks out unique learning opportunities for them that set them up for success.

And, each December, they execute an event called Holiday Helping Hands. These students, many of whom come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds, donate various items from around their house to fill a secret santa like store. They create a literal wonderland in their school and invite hundreds of kindergartners to experience holiday magic. They create reading and math activities that teach the students while they have fun. It's a truly magical experience for both the older kids and younger ones.

My role was to help them make a quilt hat would reflect what they learned from the experience. My first visit was last fall, where I taught the students about quilting and helped them create a design. The students came up with exactly what they wanted - my only role was to make sure it was "do-able."

The students decided that they wanted a picture border around the outside, so they also chose pictures to go around the edges.

When I came back the second time, I had printed the photos onto photo transfer paper. The students cut out the pictures and ironed them on to white fabric squares. I was so surprised... they loved it!

Another part of their design was creating twelve circles that simulated a Candy Land board, one of their main decorating themes. Each circle had a word that described their service learning experiences.

They traced the shapes onto wonder under paper and then chose the fabrics they wanted to use. 

I took their work home and tried to turn it into their original design. I brought it back to school for them to tie together. I thought about quilting it for them, but I wanted to give the students as many opportunities to touch the quilt - literally and figuratively.

How cute are these high schoolers? Many of them are just freshmen.

I still need to add the binding -- but here's where we are now.

I'm really grateful for the opportunity to work with these students. Is the design my favorite of all time? Probably not. Is any single part of it straight? Nope - many hands don't make straight quilts. But it darn well might be one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! I love that you shared your love for quilting with these high school students. Quilting can have a connotation of being old fashion but your youthful enthusiasm for quilting is keeping it alive and introducing it to another generation.


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