Success follows ‘Trouble’ at CHMS

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Features Editor

What started as "trouble" had turned out to be one of the most successful ventures of the year for Dot Well’s sixth grade reading classes at Charles Henderson Middle School.

"It all stated with Trouble River," Wells said. "The book is the story of a crouchedy old grandmother and her grandson who were left alone in a cabin deep in the woods. During the night they heard Indians scouting the place and they knew they were in trouble."

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The grandmother and grandson escaped on a raft down Trouble River and the book is the story of the harshness of survival under the difficult circumstances of the time.

"This is the fourth book we’re read and my students really got into it," Wells said. "They were so interested in how these people lived that I thought it would be a good experience for them to learn how difficult life back then really was. It was hard for them to even get covers on their bed in winter."

Getting cover for the bed meant making quilts and Wells presented the idea of making a class quilt to the students and they were excited about the project.

Each student was asked to bring in fabrics to make up the quilt and each student will have one six-inch square on the quilt.

Making the quilt was a living history project. Not only did they learn the skills necessary to piece a quilt, they also learned to identify quilt patterns and the stories behind the designs. Grandmothers who came in to teach them

to stitch also entertained them with stories surrounding the art of quilt making.

"One grandmother shared this incredible story about her own grandmother who lived to be 103," Well said. "For the last 52 years of her life, she was blind yet she pieced quilts. She was able to tell the color of the pieces by the feel of the material. She would ask for her green dress to use as quilt pieces and, if they brought her the pink one, she would know it."

The students learned a lot about sewing from that grandmother and even more about overcoming obstacles in life.

Another grandmother shared a book, Hidden in Full View, with the students as she quilted with them.

"She told them the story of how quilts were used to assist the slaves in the Underground Railroad," Wells said. "Quilts would be hung on the fence and the pattern of the quilt would indicate to the slaves whether the house was a safe harbor for them. One pattern would let them know they could come in. Another would let them know the house was being watched and it wasn’t safe to enter. The students learned a lot for the stories the grandmothers shared with them."

They also learned from the research that was required. Each student had to research the history of a quilt block that holds the design of the quilt.

"Learning the history of the blocks makes quilting much more interesting," Wells said. "When the look at a quilt now, they will see it in a different way."

One of the surprises of the project, for the teacher, has been the way the boys in the class have responded.

"They are zooming right along, and they said they are doing better than the girls and they just might be," Wells said, laughing. "I am impressed with the work they have done. This has been a wonderful learning experience."

If the students don’t get finished with the quilt, Wells will make sure it’s finished over the summer and it will be hanging in the hallway of the school when the bell tolls for the school year 2000-2001.