Rachelle Stebbins' Service Learning Quilt Project
"This last year I jumped off and started a project. I teach 4th grade in Amarillo, Tx, at Carver Elementary Academy. It is a magnet elementary school in a low-socioeconomic area of town. Our population in 50/50 white/black.
"I teach Language Arts through a process called Service Learning. This takes the community service project and combines the objectives that the course requires. In other words, I teach Language Arts (spelling, writing, grammar, etc.) through my service project.
"My students decided they wanted to do something for the homeless in Amarillo. Although we are a small city, we have a large population of homeless for two major reasons. One, we are the major city in the Texas Panhandle area; and two, we are a cross-roads for interstate 40, 27, and the railroad. Therefore, on any given night, although we may have 200-300 homeless in shelters, we will have 800-1100 sleeping in camps all over the city. My students found this horrifying, and were deeply concerned with the onset of winter. (Texas panhandle winters can be deadly.) They decided they wanted to make blankets for the homeless. I told them about a quilt I had made that turned into a pillow. They were hooked.
"To make a long and seemingly impossible story short, my 57 fourth graders hand-made 15 quillows in 3 weeks. We learned from our mistakes, and in the end did have to break out a machine for backup stitching to reinforce weak areas. We contacted Tyler Street Resource Center, a center in which 26 different agencies exist to help the homeless and needy, and Mr. Cortez, a social worker, came out and talked to the students. He arranged for each group of 4 students to be able to meet the person who would receive their quilt, and ask questions about the causes and cures of homelessness. You wouldn't believe the intelligent questions asked by these 9 & 10 year olds, and the empathy and understanding they showed to people who they had most likely made fun of previously.
"I have written a grant for next year to fund an expansion of this project. I have had success in locating some donation on the Internet also. Your information will be very useful to me for next year. We will start earlier, and hopefully make more quillows. Also this year we have an art sale coming up with our PTA, and my kids have decided they want to make a crazy quilt. Each class will make one to auction off, and then we will make one in which we incorporate the material from our quillows. This will stay in the classroom for new classes to see.
"I never thought I would like quilting because it takes so long (I sew clothing, and do quicker things); however, I love it when I get to share it with my kids at school."
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