Friday, November 13, 2009

Knitted together

Journalists don't get to dedicate stories to people, but my mom was on my mind the entire time I wrote this one.

Published Dec. 3, 2004 , in the Keizertimes

Scout Wells wants to start making her own clothes.

Chandler Cobos is making a scarf for her church to donate.

And since joining the knitting club at Clear Lake Elementary School, the only thing on Shelby White's Christmas list is a knitting kit.

After testing the waters last spring, a group of teachers at the Keizer school have students participating in a knitting circle that grows by leaps and bounds.

"We had sort of a false start last year, but we found a book that taught us how to make our own needles, which helped with the cost, and we've had some yarn donated so we're well on our way now," said teacher Barb Rappleyea.

Students start small.

A four-line poem that likens the hand movements to going under a fence to catch sheep teaches a basic step. Bookmarks and small ornaments have been the learning blocks, but several students are already on their way to making scarves and hats.

Students attend the knitting club during recess or if they have a free period, but most of the group meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Eager learners from first through fifth grade have all stopped by to try their hands with the handmade needles.

Some students are brought to the club by their teachers, but most learn of it through word of mouth.

Tristan Briggs, who attended his first session on Monday, heard about it from his friend, Scout.

"I thought it would be fun," he said.

Tristan is one of about 15 boys who show up for the lessons.

"I had one boy tell me that his father would kill him if he knew he was knitting," said Susanne Riley, who teaches alongside Rappleyea. "I told him I'm glad he still showed up."

In addition to furthering their own skills, several students, like Cassidy Webber, are becoming adept teachers themselves.

Cassidy and other students have taken needles home to teach their mothers the craft.

"The best interactions are the ones they have when they are teaching each other," said Rappleyea.

In addition to learning a new skill, the students form small circles throughout in the school's learning resource center and share the adventures of the day while knitting as if they've been at it for years already.

The knitting club has also been useful in removing stigmas that were once associated with students using the learning resource center. Developmentally disabled students have found that - in the knitting circle - there are no social barriers.

"It used to be that we only had the kids who were performing below grade level in this room. Now they walk by and ask, 'How do we get in there?'" said Riley. "On the playground, kids tend always to play with the same kids and rarely experience anyone new. This give kids an opportunity to connect in a whole new way."

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