San Antonio students quilt story about pioneers

San Antonio Elementary Matthew Gocsik is among  the second graders to   craft their own special quilts using words, math and history as part of a class project.
San Antonio Elementary Matthew Gocsik is among the second graders to craft their own special quilts using words, math and history as part of a class project.
Published Apr. 30, 2018

SAN ANTONIO — When San Antonio Elementary principal Kimberly Anderson and teacher Jane Hancock taught second-grade students the art of quilting in late February, they used traditional tools like fabrics and needles to impart the details of this time-honored art. And in the past few weeks, these pupils have crafted their own special quilts with the help of less conventional tools. Words. Art. Math. History. And their own hearts.

In the Seed by Seed project, students studied the lives and challenges of American pioneers, those who lived and thrived off the land in our nation's earliest days. They read fiction and nonfiction books such as "Seed by Seed" and "Pioneers to the West" about the lives of pioneer families and about legendary figures of the time, everyone from author Laura Ingalls Wilder to pioneer nurseryman and missionary Johnny Appleseed.

"They learned about the challenges these people faced as they discovered new ideas and new worlds," said Jeannette Allison, a second-grade Cambridge teacher at San Antonio Elementary. "And drawing inspiration from Appleseed, they were encouraged to conceptualize ways that they themselves can change and improve their world."

"We asked the students, 'What seed will you plant?'" said Allison. "Using the example of the pioneers, people who lived good lives, what good ideas will they sow?"

First, they learned the art of quilting, both from artistic and mathematical aspects (determining the number and size of blocks needed for a row, a column and an entire quilt). Then the 20 students in the second-grade classes of Jeannette Allison, Debbie Felts, Judy Kendrick, Clair Agnello, Kady Olson, Stacey Getz and interns Amal Muhammad and Christine Cocheo wrote short essays and colored pictures on multi-colored papers that emulated quilting blocks.

Each of their creative works was required to answer one of five concepts based on pioneer life.

"1. Use what you have. 2. Share what you have. 3. Respect nature," said Allison. "4. Try to make peace. 5. You can reach your destination by taking small steps. And the last question is, 'Will you live by this lesson?'"

After creating their multi-colored paper blocks, students pieced them together using ribbons, strings and threads, with each class creating a section of the team's story quilt. And students, if they chose, explained their blocks to their class, showing off handwritten essays and drawings of forests and beaches, hearts and peace signs.

"We need to respect nature. It's sad not to respect it," explained Kylee Holland. "We need to plant more trees, not cut them down."

Matthew Gocsik said he would "make peace and be a leader ... and if someone is lonely, I'll play with them."

"Respect the beauty of nature," said Emerie Fitzgerald. "Reach your destination by taking small steps."

Adam Stott advised that you can make peace by "being kind to foes."

"Let's all get along with each other," agreed Mason Sheets.

Other students, through words and pictures, offered practical suggestions for saving the environment.

"Pick up litter, don't pollute the water," said Vivian Deal.

"Make compost and recycle," said Lilianna Storms.

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"Clean trash off the beach," said Hailey Dwyer.

Zoe Ruffman suggested a donation of blankets and clothes to the needy, while Gabriel Knusven said he liked to share trading cards with his best friend, Skyler.

"Just be everyone's friend." said Lacie Fick.

The complete Seed by Seed story quilt was on display April 18 at the San Antonio Elementary Fine Art Show.

"This quilt tells a story," said vice principal Donna College, "a story that the kids most literally tied all together."