Lafayette and Wellington combine their sewing and storytelling talents
A memorable sewing project connected theater students from Lafayette High School and first-graders at Wellington Elementary, whose combined efforts led to a monstrously fun morning!
The teens first scaled the children’s drawings and made patterns for their plush, fuzzy monsters. Opting for fleece as the primary material because it wouldn’t unravel, students used sewing machines to meld the major pieces and hand-stitched more detailed parts like the yarn mouths and button eyes.
“I wanted to give our technical theater kids the opportunity to actually work as a costume shop foreman. We’ve done set building and set design, so I wanted them to use their new skills – to build from someone else’s design. We’re not necessarily ready to sew a costume, so this was an opportunity to use their hand stitches and basic sewing skills,” teacher Amie Kisling explained.
Wellington teacher Amy Harris, who embraced the proposal, had instructed her youngsters to each draw a pair of monsters to star as characters in a short dialogue or skit. The Lafayette class then divided those colorful crayon and marker pictures, and eventually brought the 3-D monsters to life. As the high schoolers spent several class periods crafting and sewing, the youngsters prepared trifold storyboards for their tabletop plays. And after the teens delivered the characters to Wellington, the next hour vibrated with active, imaginative storytelling. It was difficult to tell who was smiling more broadly.
“The hardest part was staying true to what they drew. The kids wanted to see exactly what they drew or their vision of it,” said senior Grace Brown, who had sweated the thickness of her creature’s rainbow stripes. “It was stressful to get it done in a short amount of time, but satisfying to see them perform with their stuffed animals. They were all so excited, and the stories were so cute.”
The project fit nicely with the elementary standards Harris was covering in class, including such elements as character development and descriptive adjectives. “I liked the idea of my students being confident and being able to express their thoughts and to really get creative. It’s something different, and they made a lot of connections,” she said. “We’re really working on the storytelling aspect because the first stage for a good writer is to be able to tell a story,” Harris noted. Each first-grader had to introduce their characters and setting and also find three ways to solve a problem. “Some kids really developed their story with words and descriptions. They were just so into it. They had a ball!” she said.
The Lafayette group also enjoyed the culmination of their work, though turning those drawings into three-dimensional characters had presented quite a challenge. “They were frustrated, but what a cool thing to have to push through,” Kisling said of her class. “This was a way to practice those skills in a high-stakes (arena), knowing that a first-grader was counting on them.” “This is what education should be,” she later added. “It was just a bus ride over – and a lot of fleece!”
Behind the scenes: