Elementary pupils are piecing together memories for a nursing home resident.
By ELLEN J. LIST
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- Third-graders Carissa Conway and Rachel Aeppli learned how to sew a log cabin patch this year.
Classmate Jacob Winter learned that he liked to sew.
Delila Danch cut her own patches, and Brittany Black tied her own knots.
Ceara Brown learned to highlight appliqu & eacute; with paint.
And even though Emily Shaffer thought the best part of the class was getting her fingers messy with paint, she "was only thinking about the nursing home people who are going to use this quilt."
PBS Web site: For four years, third-graders in the Wilmington Area school district have been using a program offered on the PBS Channel 45/49 Web site to learn about quilting.
Catherine Smith, a third-grade teacher, says her pupils not only learn practical skills, but also the importance of recycling and community service -- all by making a quilt.
Smith's yearly quilt project started because of a story in their reader, "The Patchwork Quilt," by Valerie Flournoy. In the story, Mama wanted to buy Grandma a department store quilt, but Grandma refused, saying that there were no memories behind those patches.
Thanks to Smith's project, one little girl has a special memory.
Last year, after learning in Social Studies that people in communities help each other, the class presented its quilt to Ashley George, a first-grader in their school. Ten months earlier, a tornado destroyed Ashley's home. "Ashley curls up in that quilt," said her mother, Diane George, "and falls asleep knowing that there is a whole community of people who care about her for the long haul."
In earlier days: Smith's classes have also learned that before recycling was called "recycling," it was called "necessity." When clothing was beyond repair, the good parts were salvaged and the patches were made into quilts.
When batting for the middle layer wasn't available or affordable, people simply recycled again. "I remember putting several worn blankets together for quilt filling," said Eleanor Shuttleworth, an 82-year-old Coitsville Township resident.
In "The Patchwork Quilt," Tanya's Mama was concerned that Grandma would become lonely, but Tanya knew better. "Grandma isn't lonely," said Tanya. "She and the quilt are telling each other stories."
And so it is with the third-grade quilt.
Symbols of love: "I drew ballet shoes on my patch," said Parris Sallmen, "because I really like to dance and I think the people in the nursing home used to dance. ... They probably wish they could dance some more."
Luke North used acrylic paint.
"It's a rose -- a jagger rose, but the jaggers came out like blobs," he said. "I have roses at home that are special because they are very red."
"I put 'Hounds' on it," said Derrick Burns, "because the football teams are called Hounds. I think the boys on the football team used to make these [quilts]."
Alex Taylor's patch was from a jumper her mom wore when she was a little girl. "I know she was little because I looked at some of her pictures," said Alex.
"I painted the moon and stars, and this is an Ohio lake," said Steven Coast.
"I cut my patch from my old church shirt," said Michael Sojack, "but I lost my tie -- it's in my closet somewhere, but anything in my closet is lost."
"I watched my mom sew the soccer ball on," said Sean Christofferson, "and then I slowly did the football one myself -- it took me 20 minutes." His stitching was completely invisible.
Travis Kelly's big brown eyes sparkled as he pointed to his patch. "Mine is the one that says 'Travis Kelly' on it."
Looking ahead: "I embroidered the candles and ice skates myself," said Chalyn Kaufman. It took a lot of work. "I think I will probably move into a nursing home someday, and maybe some little kids will make me a quilt." Then she whispered, "I don't think Mrs. Smith will be their teacher, but she might be, but maybe she'll be in the nursing home before I am -- but I didn't want to say that."
Without exception, every child in the class can't wait to give their quilt away -- this year to the Shenango Presbyterian Home.
But Stephanie Kish summed it up when she said, "The best part would be if I could go in the nursing home and see the quilt on somebody."