“Every quilter has a masterpiece within.” ~ Author unknown
Last month, I wrote about how our learning experiences related to Thanksgiving could be infused with the arts. We discovered how making soup could be extended and enriched when we added music, storytelling, and painting. I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things that the children have explored since that time, for example pumpkins, planting and….making a quilt! How do these things relate, you might wonder? When planning a curriculum for young children, I often seek ways to show relationships between things that at first might not appear to be connected. Hopefully, children will form their own meaningful links between the experiences that they have, and then apply these new understandings to their experiences in the world outside of the classroom. Let’s examine how the threads of these different experiences can be pulled together by children and their teachers.
First, we saved seeds from the acorn and butternut squashes used in the soup, eventually planting them, using soil and recycled yogurt containers. This has aided children in remembering the cookery experience and allowed them to explore questions around foods that we eat. It has been wonderful to water the seeds, watch them grow and chart the number of days it took for the first sprout to emerge. We have been making observations (e.g., comparing the acorn and butternut plants) and putting counting skills to use, which reinforced some basic math concepts. Next we linked the planting experience to literacy by reading Jeanne Titherington’s lovely picture book Pumpkin, Pumpkin. Using sentence strips with pictures, we were able to observe the sequence of plant growth, identify key words such as seed, sprout, flower, plant, and pumpkin, and make a game of putting the sentence strips in order. As an added bonus, the text of this book can be sung as an ascending and descending scale, which brings in a musical element!
Finally, we read a beautiful picture book called The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn. This is a charming story about a little girl who must learn to part with her beloved sleep time quilt. As she prepares for the grown-up world of being in school, she also learns what it means to give up something she loves for someone else. To connect the literacy experience to the visual arts, we decided to create our own pumpkin blanket. Each child glued fabric scraps with assorted patterns, colours and textures to their own square of felt. They worked very busily, selecting scraps, deciding how these would be arranged on the felt, applying glue and pressing each piece into place. No two squares were alike. When the squares were dry, these were assembled into a quilt and affixed to a wall in the classroom. The end result is beautiful to look at, and gently touching it is a wonderful tactile experience. It is also a reminder of what we can create when we work together.
Each of these activities stands on its own as a vehicle for teaching discreet skills in the learning areas of language and literacy, numeracy, science and nature, visual art and social studies. But it is clear that they can be joined and presented in creative ways that encourage children make deeper and more meaningful connections – in the world and also within. If we imagine that each of these activities is like a fabric scrap, then the end result of assembling the scraps is the beautiful quilt that represents their learning as a more holistic experience. Shouldn’t learning always be this way?