Teachers from around the country, working with students from pre-school through college, have been telling us how they're used quilts in their classrooms. . .
We live in an extreme rural area in Nebraska. Most of the high school students who take my home economics class have parents and grandparents who make quilts during the winter season. It only seemed right to put this into my lesson plans. Two years ago we started to make simple block quilts from polyester and would donate them to local homeless shelters. They thought this was alright. But I had one student who came alive to quilts. He can remember his aunts making quilts with his grandmother. Now, I have never made complicated quilts before. Just simple nine patches that are tied. But this student is now making a Grandmother's Flower Garden which will be quilted at an old fashioned bee in June. He has made approximately ten quilts and everything is perfect. No mismatched corners. No nothing. I am so glad of the work that he is doing. He is a natural quilter.
As a math teacher in a state correctional facility, I have had students make two quilts. The first was a simple wall hanging to represent an intensive treatment program. The parole agent took it with him on speaking engagements.
The second, done over a two-year period, was an asymmetrical log cabin quilt that was given to three local nonprofit agencies during National Victim Awareness Week. It was designed and pieced in my classroom and handquilted by non-English speaking students. It won first place in a county fair. Over 100 students worked on this project. After its completion, the students then created a 12-minute documentary on the creation of the quilt and its meaning as a community service donationn.
My students are serious, often violent, felons. One would think they would not participate in this type of project but they put a great deal of care into the creation of this quilt. I was most pleased with the project.
I am a freelance artist, and an passionate quilter. Last year my oldest son's high school asked me to chair a quilt project as a fund raiser. I agreed, and soon began working with the student to create a quilt that told the story of their four years together as a graduation project.
Little did I know how this project would evolve. Two weeks after beginning this project many things began happening at school. First one of our student's parents commited suicide. This rocked the students very deeply. This was right at Christmas time. The week after the holidays our class president's mother past away at the age of 47. Two weeks later one of our teachers mother's died. As you can see, everyone was able to come together and work on this quilt and use it as a way of remembering a time that was much happier.
Just as the quilt was ready to have the quotes the students had decided to place around the quilted pictures of themselves. We had a student die. This was the final blow. This was the most moving project I have ever done with a class. They dedicated the quilt to all those who were not at graduation. They all signed the back of the quilt the week before it was auctioned off. Two families went in together and bought it and gave it to our class president in loving memory of his mother and for all she had given to the school. The quilt left last week to go to Washington, D.C. Quilts have been used for centuries to both bring people together and teach. I think this quilt did both.
As one of the media specialists in a large high school, I enjoy using my hobbies to teach classes in all subject areas.
Several years ago, the EH teacher was looking for an activity to expand her students' unit on colonial history. I suggested quilts, and though we were nervous about doing this in a class of all boys, and boys who can be hard to manage at that, we dove in.
Bringing in real quilts in various states of completion helped me show the students how a quilt is constructed and helped them understand the labor that goes into making one. I showed lots of pictures, and we talked about pattern names. Each student made a 4 patch potholder from scratch and quilted it to take home with him.
A couple of years later, a math teacher, home ec teacher, and I brainstormed a unit using quilts. Following a unit on geometry taught by the math teacher, I brought quilts and slides of quilts to class, showing how different shapes are combined to make designs. Each student designed a square on graph paper. Those designs were constructed into quilt squares by home ec students. The final product resulted in two wall hangings, one for each classroom involved.
Last year, I went on the road to U. S. history and art classes. A lesson on how quilts illustrate U. S. history taught that ordinary people make history, and we learn of how important events affect people by studying the items they made (make) and use(d), such as quilts. The slides I showed illustrated our history up to roughly 1900, and I hope reinforced the important people and events, as well as gave them a picture of everyday life.
These students also made quilt squares, but used wallpaper samples instead of fabric. Surprisingly, the students who are usually considered not be the best responded most favorably to this lesson; college prep and honors students were less receptive and creative. In art class, we approached the topic by pointing that fabric is another medium through which one can express one's creativity. It was exciting for me to discover antique quilts whose artistic aspects parallel modern artists like Warhol or Mondrian.
It has been several years since I did this, but it was a great project when Tennessee was celebrating an event called Homecoming '86.
I had a grat 7th period class. We got addresses of famous Tennesseans and wrote them letters enclosing a muslin square which we asked them to autograph in pencil. I taught them a simple backstitch and they embroidered the names in blue floss. We got sixteen replies from people like then-Senator Al Gore, Patricia Neal, John Palmer, Barbara Mandrell, Lamar Alexander, etc.
The kids were very excited over the replies. We set the autographed squares in red and blue Ohio Stars and quilted around them. It took about six weeks to do it, but they were such a great class that I had them "caught up" to to the standard curriculum in about three weeks. They learned letter writing, exactness in measuring and cutting, camaraderie, etc. I'd like an "excuse" to do it again.