Last week at was about the closest you'd get to seeing a fourth-grade sewing circle.
Students spent five days learning about the famous quilts and quilters of Gee's Bend, AL, with artist-in-residence Robin Getsug, a mixed-media, collage and textile artist who is also an art therapist.
Their quilt squares appeared Saturday at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul, in the parade for Children's EcoArts Festival, which, also fitting for the quilting project, fuses culture, environment and arts.
The students' quilting exploration incorporated learning about the culture of the African American women quilters of Gee's Bend, who passed their traditions on for six generations.
Their quilts largely were made of recycled materials that otherwise would've been discarded, Getsug said, and what the produced was, of course, art—the art from which the students got their inspiration for their own cloth quilt squares.
"They all find their way to express themselves," Getsug said. "I always think kids are so inspiring."
Highland has been able to host artists in residence once a year for each grade level, said Highland art teacher Linda Hansen. Funding usually comes from grants or the school's fundraising.
Students get to connect with a professional artist, but another valuable element is seeing students connect with other subjects through art, Hansen said. Quilting, for example, involves cultural learning, but also measuring, patterns and fractions.
One of the most interesting parts of the steps in the process, though, was teaching the kids to sew, Hansen said.
"Some of them come out of it feeling so good about what they did," she said.