Quilt Qualities

The teachers with their quilt squares

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.” – Vera Nazarian

What qualities do you feel an Iditarod musher displays? My students recently came up with a lengthy list of qualities that they felt described an Iditarod musher.  There are plenty of them and they’re unique.

Iditarod Traveling Quilt created by Summer Camp Teachers

Iditarod Traveling Quilt created by Summer Camp Teachers

My school currently has the most recently created Iditarod Traveling Quilt, which was designed this summer by teachers at the Iditarod Summer Teacher’s Camp. I wrote a post about our squares earlier this summer, The Incredible Quilt. Terrie Hanke, 2006 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, took the squares which were drawn on white handkerchiefs and sewed them onto a piece of fleece making a colorful quilt.  Having the Traveling Quilt in your classroom is the perfect opportunity to do several lessons with your students.

One lesson I did with my class was on character qualities, or character traits. To start the lesson I shared the quilt with the students. Since I was at summer camp, this quilt is personal to me.  I designed a square and heard ideas from the other campers as they created their squares.  I shared the meaning behind each square with my classes. We discussed the qualities shown on the quilt squares and how each symbolized Iditarod mushers. Teachers at summer camp chose Inspiring, Determined, Incredible, Teamwork, Achievement, Respect, Overcome and Dream  as the character traits for the squares they created.

We read a story from Lew Freedman’s Iditarod Classics. I chose a different story for each group to read. Students took their time and read the thrilling Iditarod accounts. When the students finished reading, they stayed in their groups and brainstormed qualities they felt the musher in their story displayed. We then came back as a whole class and discussed those words and the significance they had in the story.

The next step was to assign each group a different letter from the word IDITAROD. The students had to come up with a quality or trait describing the musher from their story using the letter they were assigned. This was a great opportunity to work with students on using a thesaurus. Some students had many words to describe their musher, but no words that started with their letter.  Using the thesaurus was very helpful.

We are now to the point of designing the quilt square. When we made our quilt squares this summer, we just used white hankies. While I was looking for hankies I found some pre-cut felt squares at Wal-Mart for just 23 cents. The students using their chosen quality designed and decorated the square depicting the story their group read.

Much the same as we did at summer camp, when the squares were finished it was time to share with the class. After they shared their story, they shared the quality they chose and why. Finally, they shared their quilt square with the class and the meaning behind the design.  Our goal is to have our squares turned into a quilt.

This year there are 18 quilts traveling the United States.  When an Iditarod Traveling Quilt reaches a participating school, a binder full of ideas for teachers to use in the classroom is included. There is an instruction page on how to actually sew your quilt if your class designs quilt squares. As the quilt travels from school to school around the country, teachers continue to add lesson ideas on how they used the quilt in their classroom.  If you are interested in having a quilt visit your school click here.

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As a post lesson activity we watched Cindy Abbott’s recent TEDx talk. TED talks are conferences that are centered around technology, entertainment, and design.  Their slogan is “Ideas worth spreading.”  Cindy gave a local talk in California earlier this year.  It has recently been posted online.  Our class viewed the lesson and discussed the qualities she displays.  We then compared these qualities with the qualities chosen for their squares.  Check out the video below.

Click here for Quilt Qualities Lesson Plan