Stitching school

Carsen Maciag | For the TidingsSheri Preskenis uses quilting to teach a broad range of subjects at Bellview Elementary School.

Quilting is much more than a nice pastime to Bellview Elementary teacher Sheri Preskenis. It's also a prime teaching opportunity for lessons in math, history and literature.

Preskenis' fourth grade class has been quilting all year, incorporating every subject except science in the project Quilting Across the Curriculum. They studied how geometry affects the designs of quilts, learned about pioneers hand-stitching clothing on the Oregon Trail and read books and wrote essays about quilting.

"I just enjoy quilting, and it's great to be able to do something hands-on and creative, to teach the regular curriculum in a fun way," Preskenis said. "This is not something I would be able to do normally."

The project was funded by an Ashland Schools Foundation grant, which paid for class sets of children's books about quilts and all the materials for several projects.

The class began small, first sewing a pillow out of memorable scraps of fabric such as baby clothes or an old soccer shirt, and then a class banner, with each student contributing one square. Their largest project to date, where each student designed a quilt square based on a favorite children's book, will hang in the new Bellview library being constructed next year. Preskenis is planning one final quilt before the end of the year, a joint project with her class's second-grade reading buddies.

Preskenis' students are picking up on her enthusiasm for the craft.

"I think this is better than doing normal assignments or copying out of a math book," said Bryce Augustson, 10 as he stitched a heart into a square of fabric. "I haven't actually quilted before, but I think it's fun to do the activities here at school."

A few chairs down the quilting circle from Augustson, Willa Moen and Caitlin Mahaffey, both 10, debated the merits of sewing by hand versus using a machine, techniques the entire class has learned.

" machine is quicker, but I like doing it by hand better," Moen said.

Most of the students said sewing was harder than they thought, and they couldn't imagine sewing all of their own clothing by hand. But some said they would like to continue quilting even after the class project is over.

"After this I might start making quilts," said Myles Wilson, 10. He told his mother and sister about quilting at school, and now they are making their own pillow at home, he said as he finished reading "The Rag Coat," a story about a poor girl who couldn't attend school until a group of women quilted a coat for her.

Educational assistant Jackie Hassell, who supervised the students using the sewing machine, said the kids seemed to be enjoying the project, even the boys, although she was not surprised.

"It's cute," she said. "It's a skill they don't usually learn in school."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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