||Volume 17, Number 7, May/June 2005
Respect for diversity, environment, community, self, and others
by Verena Foxx
- an attitude of caring about people and treating them with dignity.
- treating others in a courteous, considerate, and polite manner.
- valuing yourself and others.
This spring, an entire Vancouver elementary school community, as well as students from the neighbouring Gladstone Secondary School, and from the University of B.C.’s TREK community outreach program, worked together on an intense social-responsibility quilting project that focussed on respect.
In May 2004, the staff of Beaconsfield Elementary School made a decision to develop a school- and community-wide social-responsibility activity with the focus on respect. In September 2004, the planning with UBC TREK students started, and during the week of February 14, 2005, the entire school, including many parent and family volunteers, the school principal, and student support workers merged, on the massive quilting undertaking.
January 2005 was declared "Month of Respect" to help students learn about the theme. Activities included a Respect Announcement of the Day, read by a student over the school’s PA system. Think of someone who is respectful, and talk about why that person would be a good friend. Watch a half-hour TV show. Who was respectful or disrespectful and why? Daily journal writings on the theme, as well as many other literacy, music, art, and personal-planning activities, went on in classrooms all month.
Teachers learned the craft of quilting and displayed their various levels of work to help students feel confident about showing their work later.
At the beginning of February, students were formed into 17 groups of 18 to 20, with all teachers and support teachers in charge of class groups in every free corner of the school. Five themes were developed: Respect for Diversity, for the Environment, for the Self, for Others, and for the Community.
The Parent Advisory Committee took care of collecting fabric donations and finding sewing machines for the week. All the 40 volunteers, plus about 40 school staff members collaborated on a potluck lunch on each quilting day. "The parents were amazing; they really got involved in the project," remarked teacher Anna Amenta."We couldn’t have done it without them or without the UBC TREK and Gladstone students."
In preparation for the event, Grade 7 students made name tags, ironed fabrics, and made posters. "It was a strong leadership role for them, and they really liked it," said Grade 7 teacher Bridget Browning.
The quilt-making kickoff took place at a school-wide assembly, after which the students met in their various groups and worked at designing, drawing, cutting, sewing, gluing, and assembling one large quilt per group. "It was really good for students with academic difficulties," emphasized student support worker Joy Wong. "Because of the low adult-student ratio (thanks to many volunteers) students were well supported if they were struggling."
"Students had free artistic reign and were able to really express themselves," remarked teacher Kristina Wilting. "They weren’t afraid to try something different, and working in small classes really made a difference."
"It was an awesome experience. There were no behaviour problems during the entire project," emphasized Jennifer Billingsley, a Grade 3/4 teacher who led one of the family groupings.
"Our students really understood the concept well by the time we started on the quilts. The month of pre-teaching was very useful," added Lynda Ikeda, Grade 1/2 teacher.
When the quilts were all completed, the school met in another assembly with everyone clapping for the projects. "It was very emotional; the quilts are so expressive and filled with such wonderful ideas," concluded primary teacher Cheryl Joe.
The respect quilts are now permanently on display in Beaconsfield Elementary School’s hallways, stairwells, library, and gym.
"It was an awesome project," concluded ESL teacher Brenda Webster. "If anyone wants to try it, we’ve got lots of little scraps that we would be happy to donate."
Verena Foxx is communications officer, Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association.