Before we talk about the kindness quilt, let’s talk about fifth graders. They are fearless and full of energy; completely uninhibited one moment and painfully self-conscious the next. They love to learn but have begun to think about what it means to be cool. This means they will occasionally fake disinterest, but it doesn’t last long. Their natural curiosity and desire to leap into things feet first will have them asking questions and volunteering opinions in no time. Oh, and fifth graders are not above getting messy and making mistakes.
All of this came as a pleasant and amusing surprise when I first met Cara Cahill’s 5th grade class in Missouri. Cara is the kind of teacher who gives her kids a lot of leeway to explore, talk, ask questions and figure things out on their own. She had no problem letting me brainstorm and test various ideas for the quilt with the kids. Likewise, they had no problem sharing their opinions and asking questions. It wasn’t long before we’d decided on the design with the hearts in the center (see above), as opposed to the one with the tree (which the boys vetoed for being too girly), and were hard at work creating the hearts for the center.
In our subsequent visits, we:
- Did the math required to figure out the size of both the overall quilt and each of the smaller pieces that would compose it;
- Listed and chose “Kind” words to go around the center section;
- Colored and cut out the letters to form the words:
- Stood side-by-side and created acrostic poems using each of the letters; and
- Began the process of creating individual pieces in which each student would tell the story of his/her experiences making the quilt.
We also talked about doing augmented reality using, using the students’ individual drawings as the “triggers” for the videos and planned a final event where the students would have the chance to show their quilt to family and friends.
Then the holidays and all the accompanying excitement and busy schedules descended upon us and our quilt got put on hold. We’ll see what the new year brings, but in the meantime I can honestly say that the kids and I have more than accomplished what we set out to do with our Kindness Quilt. We’ve imagined, designed and built all the pieces for a beautiful piece of art and practiced all kinds of important skills like reading, writing, math, cooperation, collaboration and how to be kind to one another. All that and we had a GREAT time doing it! It doesn’t get much better than that. – Jena Ball
Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.