Students put heritage on walls
Heritage and soft, warm fuzzies can be the same thing, especially if that heritage is captured in a quilt.
Students at Avon Elementary School this year are learning about heritage – sewing machine-style – with school secretary Gladys Hartmann. Thanks to her, everyone at school, from students to teachers to cooks in the cafeteria, is working on part of a quilt. Before summer vacation starts, every classroom will have its own quilt hanging from the walls at the school.
Kids are using everything from tape to paint to photo-transfer cloth to create their own squares, and students from first grade on are learning the basics of running a sewing machine – under adult supervision, of course.
Hartmann’s love for quilting is fairly recent, but the roots of it run deep. The granddaughter of an avid quilter, Hartmann got involved in quilting about 10 years ago, after her father died. “I felt a strong urge to carry on a family tradition,” she said. “I found a lady who helped me get started.”
As she learned about the techniques and heritage of quilting, Hartmann shared her knowledge and skills. Living in California at the time, she did a similar project at a school where she was serving as an “art volunteer.”
Now in her second year at Avon, Hartmann proposed a quilt project for the school this year. The staff, and particularly art teacher Mike Salomon, jumped at the chance.
Using quilting as a jumping-off point, students learn about basic art concepts including contrast and pattern selection. The students have also explored their own feelings.
While kids throughout the school are participating, this year’s fifth graders are quilting as a “legacy project” to pass on to future students. Earlier projects have included planting trees and working around the school. This class, though, is telling future students, parents and teachers what was important to them, and what they’ve gotten out of their years at the school.
Sydney Idzikowski – who started at Avon Elementary as a kindergartner – has included on her square her kindergarten and fifth grade pictures, a photo of her cat and a picture from a winter ski trip with the “Beavo” ski class.
Gabriel Ortiz, who also started at Avon as a kindergartner, included a picture of himself from the family’s old home in Mexico. Ortiz surrounded his photo with bold patterned cloth. “I just thought it looked good,” he said. “I thought about when I was small, and I remembered about Mexico, so I brought that picture.”
A lot of the immigrant kids don’t have pictures of themselves, though, so photos were taken at school.
Ortiz said learning how to run a sewing machine was hard at first. “It’s gotten a little easier,” he said. And, while he wasn’t one of the boys who had to be convinced that running a sewing machine isn’t strictly for girls, he shrugged when asked if he might do more quilting one day.
“I want people to see we did hard work on (the quilt), that we did our best,” Ortiz said.
And while previous fifth grader classes have done good work on their legacy projects, this one will be unique.
“Quilts tell stories,” Hartmann said. “These kids can leave part of themselves here.”
“I want someone to see I had a lot of fun at Avon,” Idzikowski said.
Of course, kids are having some silly fun, too. Walking through the halls, members of one class worked on an Hawaiian theme because teacher Matt McGough had been there recently.
While kids have been sewing their own squares, Hartmann has been sewing the squares into “blocks.” It’s been a lot of work, but the payoff is the thanks she has received from the kids.
On a bulletin board with one block is a thank-you note from a student. The note is written phonetically, the work of a student who’s learning English. “It took a lot of work for him to write that,” Hartmann said. And, while this may be a one-time project, “It’s been really fun working with the kids,” she said.