Lois V. Gardner
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. . .
This is not my idea when I entered a new position as media specialist at James Simons Elementary School in Charleston, SC there were two beautiful quilts hanging in the school's media center. One quilt was made of squares designed by students to show familiar activities and scenes in Charleston, SC before Hurricane Hugo. The second quilt depicted similar scenes during and after the hurricane. These quilts are products of community history lessons and art therapy projects combined. They remain as primary resources to help us understand the students' experiences.
During Black History Month, my Cadette Girl Scout troop made a quilt (actually applied felt squares on a sheet to make the quilt design). During the five week project, we sang spirituals and told stories to make the time go by. At the end, we made a story of about 8 to 10 of the squares to lead southern slaves to the North or Canada to freedom. The girls learned about the value of quilts in the underground railroad, worked on their leadership badges and had a lot of relaxing time. It was a great project and I hope to repeat it next year. The idea came from the art teacher at the middle school.
I have used quilts in the classroom to teach geometry and symmetry and tesselations. The students learn how two triangles are made into rectangles and squares and learn how to make symmetrical designs and then go on to make tesselations and also how, by using color, the same block can look different. Another math teacher and I speak at math conferences on how to use mathematics in quilting by using the golden ratio, the Fibonaci series, etc. Most quilts are truly mathematical.
During our Montana History interdisciplinary unit, Montana Saga, I teach
about homesteading. I have had quilters come to my classroom and show
various types of quilts and tell about the history of quilting. The homesteaders
then go home and get 9 pieces of fabric, preferably with a story behind
the pieces, then make a nine patch quilt top. If the fabric is unavailable,
we draw the squares. Some homesteading students also like to bring in
their favorite quilt to share with the class. It seems almost everyone
has a "quilt story." Students also recreate quilt designs to make greeting
cards using quilt stamps. We have also made quilts for the bunks at Camp-Mak-a-Dream
as a community service project.
I teach family and consumer sciences at Abilene Middle School. During my first year of teaching, I came across the book "The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days," by Mary Cobb, which tells how quilts were made, how they were used during the move west, and how each block design tells a story of their adventures.
I tied this story in with the unit covering the family. Each student researched the country from which their last name originated, wrote a report on the country and presented the report to the class.
After the presentations, the class read the quilt-block history story. We discussed how the family types were different then as opposed to now and how we use quilts today. Then, each class made a quilt using either the simple nine patch block or the rail fence block. Each student made one block and then all the blocks were sewn together. After the quilts were finished with batting, backing, and then tied, each class presented their quilt to the 'Parents As Teachers' organization in Abilene. There, the quilts are used by infants and young children.
I love this project because it not only gives the sense of accomplishment to my students, it also gives them the opportunity to give to the community.
My 8th grade science students are working on a unit called 'Quilted Tessellations'.
In conjunction with their math class my students have been designing tessellations on paper, with paper, on the computer, and now in fabric. We have studied the color spectrum and how colors are used and work together. We will complete fabric quilts just using one block pattern called 'Cindy'. This simple tessellation produces numerous different looking results depending upon color scheme and block placement.
The quilts will be donated to our local police department. They carry them in the trunk of the cruisers. If a child is picked up for any reason the quilts can be given to them for warmth or comfort. All this is being paid for by a Curriculum Leadership Grant from Bridgewater State College.
I used the Log Cabin pattern to teach my students about accurate measurement and following directions.
I gave them an unmarked template and had them measure and mark the dimensions of each of the pieces. I directed them to choose three dark colors of construction paper and three light shades. They were to follow the dark and light pattern of the Log Cabin quilt. After they had constructed their squares, we discussed the importance of accurate measurement, the implications of being even a little bit off on one piece, and the evidence of following directions that could be seen in the color arrangement of their blocks.
They were engaged in the lesson and had a concrete example of the concepts I was trying to teach.
Grade seven students measured, cut, sewed, and tied three lap size comforters in nine patch and rail fence patterns to give as Christmas gifts to the residents at Marathon County Health Care Center who received no other gifts.
Two students made a matching pillow at home, and another student made a matching pillow at school. All of this was done in three weeks during free time and study halls only: no class time. This was our 1998 project.
In 1999, sixth grade students cut and sewed a nine patch baby quilt for their homeroom teacher, who was expecting a baby.
In 2000, grade seven students have just read The Hobbit. They are creating quilt squares with fabric paints and fabric pens. The squares will be set together with green sashing and the quilt will be filled with a thick, warm polyester filling. It will be given to the Salvation Army shelter home with two copies of The Hobbit and a request that it be given to a teenager or young adult.