Each third-grader in Jerry Ann Brown’s class has had a hand in creating a classroom quilt during the past school year. The project has spanned several subjects, including literature and the arts, and when it is finished, will be raffled off to raise money for a special cause chosen by the students.
The Elkin Elementary School students didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago that they would be creating a quilt of their own as a class, but Brown made sure a similar theme crept into their lessons throughout the school year, she explained.
“Elkin City Schools has a push for STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics,” Brown said. “All of the teachers have been trained through the STEAM initiative. This past summer, I had my training and I was tasked with something to do with my kids this year.”
Coming from a family of quilters, Brown chose the quilting theme, especially in the students’ literature lessons. From the story of “Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt,” about a man who chose to make a quilt after the ladies in the quilting bee wouldn’t let him join them, to “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt,” studied during Black History Month about the quilt that led slaves to freedom, she made sure the students had other lessons as well, with math lessons as part of the “Blue Ribbon Quilt.”
During the year, quilters from the community visited the class to share their stories about quilting with the students. Brown said Emily Attaway brought quilts her church mission had made to show the students.
She broke the students into groups and gave each group a different book to read, with the groups having to design a poster for a gallery walk including a synopsis explaining what their book was about. Brown said at the end of the gallery walk, she asked the students if they saw any similarities in their books. “Each one had something to do with quilts somewhere in the book,” Brown explained.
The students were told they were going to take their theme of quilting to the next level, by making a quilt to be used to further help the community. “Their idea was to put their hands on it, and then then got to pick a charity to raffle it for during open house for next school year,” Brown said.
To help raise money to pay medical expenses, the third-graders chose to give the proceeds of the raffle to Melody Hayes, a teacher’s assistant at the elementary school who is battling cancer. As she explained where the money was going and that the students made that decision on their own, Brown teared up, “I thought their idea was sweet.”
As of Thursday, Hayes did not know she would be the recipient of the funds raised.
The students measured and cut out their own quilt squares, and then used paint to add their hands to the squares. Sharon Bledsoe, mother of class member Saylor Billings, took the squares and sewed them together. “If we had enough sewing machines in the MakerSpace room, we could have done it, but there is just one there now,” Brown explained, hoping eventually enough machines might be donated.
On Thursday, the last full-length day of school for the year, the third-graders spent part of the day tacking their squares to the other layers of the quilt on a frame made of PVC piping and with the help of Brown’s mother, Barbara Williams.
Brown said she is hoping for a good turnout so the class can raise a lot of money during open house in August. A date for open house has not yet been set.
The third-graders had a number of favorites about the quilting theme and project this year, which they gladly shared Thursday.
For Mia Luffman and Jesse Jester, it was learning to sew, and for Passion Smith, it was “reading the books about the quilts” with “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt” being her favorite.
“I like how she taught us to put together the patterns,” said Saylor Billings of the visit by Attaway. Lilly Cheek said choosing materials to use and cutting the squares out were her favorite parts.
“When we planned about it, we all gathered together and planned what it would be and who the money who go to,” said Anahi Parral Acevedo.
“My favorite part is when we put our hand prints on it with the paint and giving the money to Ms. Hayes,” Anna Hall said.
For Sydney Davis, working as a team and being able to use the quilt project as a fundraiser for “someone special to pay for their medical bills” was her favorite parts.
This summer the quilt will get its final touches so it will be ready for the open house raffle.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.