This is an article written by our friend, Donna Brown. We plan on having more articles focusing on the results of knitting in the future.
I teach knitting to Middle Schoolers. Yes, you read that correctly. Middle Schoolers. Those strange young humans who range from under five feet to over six feet tall. The very same young people who are trying to find out who they are, and where they fit in the world around them. They can be awkward, passionate, idealistic, active, and most of all, FUN!!!
Yes, I teach knitting to these students “in the middle”, and it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my teaching career. In the morning, I teach sixth grade English, but when afternoon arrives, I put the nouns and verbs away and welcome 7th and 8th grade girls and boys to join me in the classroom for a time of relaxation, talk, laughter ……and knitting!
At my Middle School in Fort Collins, CO, the last forty minutes of each day, students are offered enrichment classes that aren’t part of the normal curriculum. Students have the opportunity to take classes to learn skills on the computer, art, design, brain games, the environment, cooking, and woodworking, to name only a few. Enter the knitting class. When I joined the staff five years ago, my principal asked what I could offer as an enrichment class to 7th and 8th graders. Without thinking twice, I offered knitting. Her enthusiasm for my idea wasn’t overwhelming, but she was willing to give it a try.
My first class had 12 students for the semester. Five years later, there are two teachers required to teach knitting to over 50 students. There is a waiting list for enrollment in knitting class. The word is out among our students…knitting is fun! One of the few requirements of the class is to donate one item to our feeder high school for their yearly drive to collect hand-knit items for needy families. After they make a donation item, the sky’s the limit.
When I first mentioned my knitting class to Peggy Wells, co-owner of Brown Sheep Company, she immediately gave us yarn to support our efforts. Over the past five years she has donated countless skeins of beautiful wool yarn for my students to enjoy. Many students would not be able to afford to buy their own yarn. Her generosity has made it possible for hundreds of students to learn the ancient art of knitting at a time in their lives when there are so many things competing for their attention. When they come to knitting class, they leave their screens behind and become engrossed in the simple of act of working with needles and yarn. They talk together, share secrets, laugh, and make something they are proud of.
When I asked students to tell me how they feel about knitting, they said:
“It’s a great way to end the day.”
“It’s the least stressful class I have…I always look forward to knitting.”
“I made everyone in my family a hat for Christmas.”
“I love all the beautiful colors of the yarn.”
“I taught my little sister how to knit.”
“We could not change the school through knitting without you!” (Mrs. Wells)
“I really really love knitting. Without your kindness of letting us use your yarn, we would have to buy all our own yarn. Thank you!”
“If it weren’t for you (Brown Sheep Company), we wouldn’t have as much wool, and it would be harder to learn the skill of knitting. It may not seem like we appreciate it, but we do more than you imagine.”
I guess that says it all.