Rory Strickland is a third-grader at the School of Arts and Sciences at The Centre and she’s a fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” series.
Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the books chronicle a pioneer family in the late 1800s. They are loving, resourceful, cooperative and hard-working. Without access to modern conveniences, they make things by hand and often rely on one another to overcome life’s challenges. They accept help from neighbors when necessary and provide support to community members in need.
This appeals to Rory’s creative and civic-mindedness, especially as she explores a special art unit focused on traditional crafts and service learning. Rory and her classmates are studying utilitarian artforms including basketry, soap making, felting, crocheting and weaving.
“I like the feeling that I’m from a long time ago,” she said. “We learned about American history and this is what people used to do. Back then, kids would help their parents with the stuff around the house by making things like this.”
Designed by art teacher Heather Light, the lessons serve as a vehicle for students to work with their hands and hearts by understanding the value of service to their community. In donating some of their work to charity, student learn that, through creating, they can show kindness to others.
This is a lesson Rory has already internalized. She said, "I love helping people. It makes me feel above and beyond good. If you don’t help people, to me, you’re not human.”
In the development of this unit, Light drew upon her own background and interest in traditional arts. With an overarching classroom theme of kindness and community, the service learning component was an obvious extension. By combining learning goals and community service, Light hopes to enhance both student growth and the common good. “I want to build that intrinsic motivation to love and care for other people,” she said.
One of the most popular class activities was knitting hats and second-grader Jewel Fernandez proved to be prolific. She and other art students often took materials home so they could continue their work. The finished hats will be donated to children going through cancer treatment. Jewel said “some people’s hair falls out so we made hats so they could be happy. It feels good and it’s fun. It’s nice if you help people when they’re sick.”
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