A Patchwork of History

I slipped into the Great Room this morning to see Marilyn Link, our Upper School Biology teacher, sharing her knowledge and passion for quilting with the second graders. These students have been working their way through a unit on pioneers, and Mrs. Link was able to give them a guided tour through American history, courtesy of the Great American Quilt. They heard about colonial quilts, about Civil War quilts, about Victorian Quilts. They learned about patterns and held fabrics in their hands. They learned how manufacturing changed quilting, and they got a sense of the social dimensions of this cultural artifact--quilting bees and such.

So much about this learning experience was superb. Students were learning from real things, not from artificial constructs. They saw Mrs. Link's quilts, her patchwork, her fabrics, her pattern books. Very Aristotelian: Learning from the bottom up. The students were also making all kinds of connections across disciplines. They were seeing the connection between this craftsmanship and history. They learned how quilting materials come from animals and plants. They saw how technology changes culture.

They also got the chance to connect with an Upper School teacher, and she with them. One of the best things about being at a one-campus, TK-12 school is that we have opportunities every day to connect with each other, big people and little people, concrete and abstract learners, poll-parrots and poets.

One more thing I loved about this: the celebration of amateurism. Mrs. Link is a teacher by training. Quilting is a hobby, a love. In this day of specialization and professionalism, let's find every way we can to celebrate those who do something simply because they love it. Amateurs remind us that learning, at its best, is done for its own sake and not because it's useful for some other purpose. Love of learning. Period.


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