Two students draw on quilt squares

Students in Clark Elementary School (Paducah Independent) have spent the last several months working on a quilt to express themselves and have a vibrant learning experience. Submitted photo

Creating a safe space for students to show their personality is a goal for Clark Elementary School (Paducah Independent) art teacher Shanice Frazier.

After a class field trip to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Frazier developed a schoolwide quilting project. Students were each given a quilt square to express themselves.

During the fall semester, Frazier’s art class learned the basics of quilting and creating designs for their squares, while she also was teaching them to think, act and work like artists.

“We started with the planning, the thinking, brainstorming ideas and all those kinds of things,” she said. “Then we put those ideas on paper, and then we started designing.”

Each grade level is working on different variations of quilts and each grade has a specific color-coded square. Kindergarteners put their names along with cutouts of dogs and cats on their squares. 1st graders drew self-portraits on their squares, and 2nd through 5th-grade students are working on stitching.

A quilt square with the silhouette of a person on a beach with squiggly blue lines on a white backdrop above the silhouette

Olive Hideg’s quilt square.

Olive Hideg, a 5th-grade student, quilted a person sitting on a beach with stitches along the top to create wind and waves.

“It kind of makes you feel like we’re all appreciated in our own way based off like what we put down,” said Hideg. “It makes you feel special, and it gives you like your own unique little square.”

5th-grade student Adam Fadhil and 4th-grade student Hadlee Floyd both said their quilting squares have been a good outlet for them during the school day.

“I think it really shows who I am because I did a football and I like playing football and watching it,” said Fadhil.

Frazier said this project has provided the students with an opportunity to connect with their local community and a platform for creativity. She said some of this project reflects aspects of United We Learn and Portrait of a Learner initiatives, using skills like an engaged citizen, productive collaborator and an empowered learner.

A quilt square showing a football on a yellow backdrop

Adam Fadhil’s quilt square.

The Kentucky statewide Portrait of Learner, approved by the Kentucky Board of Education, identifies the skills students need to be prepared for an ever-changing world driven by technology, human interaction and innovation.

This portrait gives school leaders and teachers the framework to design instruction in a way that promotes real-world competencies and job readiness.

“We have wonderful resources here in our community, so I was thinking about bridging the gap between these cool resources and art,” said Frazier. “So now we are learning these two cool things together through this quilting project.”

“It feels good to be able to do something that we want to do and like,” said Hideg. “It’s really fun because we get to do it on our own and you get to put your feelings onto this square.”

Frazier said the project is about more than just quilting a square; it also is letting her students know that they are loved, valued and appreciated.

“It means a lot,” she said. “The days are long, and the days are hard, and we try to do our best and put our best foot forward. Hearing that you are making a difference and hearing the things that you are hoping the kids are getting out of your class is what they’re getting out of in my class.

“We talk a lot about this being our safe space,” Frazier said. “If you need me, I’m here. All your opinions are unique and different and special.”

Frazier said the school worked on this project throughout the fall and spring semester, finishing up the full quilt in March.

 “These kids have that outlet that they can express themselves, whether it be through music or drama and dance or art and painting,” said Frazier.

The finished quilts will be auctioned off with hopes of raising money for the school’s art programs, including art, music and drama.

 “So, all of this money that we’re trying to raise will help to benefit each one of those classes as well as the teachers here in the building,” said Frazier. “A win-win right there.”