Learning about history by making a quilt block
A fifth grade class at Westminster Christian Academy in Madison County used an opportunity to create a quilt block for the Quilts Across America II Project as a way to learn about North Alabama history.
Earlier this month, the fifth graders in Edith Yeargin's class submitted a quilt block to this nationwide project. Four fifth grade classes from each state were invited to research, design and create a quilt block depicting the unique culture and heritage of their community.
One quilt block from each state will be chosen for "The Quilt of Many Cultures", which will be exhibited across the United States beginning in the fall of 2003. The quilt blocks not chosen for inclusion in this quilt will be incorporated into quilts to be given to "at-risk" babies in New York area hospitals.
"Erin Pourcho's mother told us about the project and told us our class could enter. We were excited because it was a national project. If the class quilt block is included, that would be good, but going to help babies would be good too," said 10-year-old Jeremiah Lausee. "Either way, it will be worthwhile going to a good cause. I liked the sewing part best because it gave me something to do. I had sewn little before, but nothing like the quilt block."
During this project, the Westminster fifth graders conducted narrative history interviews and learned about North Alabama history, color theory, textiles, basic sewing skills as well as the traditional craft form of hand quilting.
"Each of us interviewed our grandparents for history and we wrote about famous people in Alabama history. We took ideas about the state song Stars Fell on Alabama and worked it into our quilt block," said 11-year-old Laura Kay Richardson. "We each drew our own sketch and we then voted on which ones to include. We learned the stitches we were going to need for the quilt and then we sewed it together. It was really fun."
The quilt block designed by Yeargin's class contains four sections that represent the history and culture of North Alabama.
"I liked picking out the colors and choosing the design. There are normal colors and colors blended together. I learned about sewing but I am not very good at it," said 11-year-old Graham Gold. "I like the part of the quilt block with the Indian. It's got an Indian walking along. I liked the idea of including that because I thought it was cool and Indians played in important part in Alabama history."
The top section of the quilt block that Graham likes best shows a Native American with a woven basket. The students chose to include this because this area was home to Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw Indians.
The right section of the quilt block depicts the forests and rivers of North Alabama. The bottom section depicts the Civil Rights movement with hands of different races reaching out to one another to close the gap of racial division.
The left and final section is a cotton field with mature cotton plants in the hot southern sun.
10-year-old Erin Pourcho, one of Yeargin's fifth grade students, grew the natural cotton fibers in this section.
"I don't live on a farm, I live in the city but I did grow the cotton in the backyard. When we went to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, we stopped at a cotton field and I got some cotton boles. I grew cotton back in first grade, so on this trip we got about five boles of cotton, and I picked them all out and planted them in the corner of the yard," Pourcho said. "It was about a month before school when I got my first cotton bole. They didn't really stop growing until it froze. Whenever one would pop out I would pick it."
Pourcho's cotton was used for decoration on the quilt.
"We took embroiders floss the color of the cotton bole and sewed it onto the quilt piece. I got 80 seeds from the cotton boles, eight plants and each plant produced about five cotton boles, and so I ended up with a lot of cotton. It felt really good for my cotton to be used because I knew I had done the work to grow it," Pourcho said.