Teacher launches innovative math instruction
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 11, 2013 | 1250 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pillow talk at Park View
PARK VIEW ELEMENTARY third-grade teacher Heather Hayes holds up a half-finished pillow as she explains the next steps to students. Students learned about measuring dimensions and weight while making the pillows. Banner Photos, JOYANNA WEBER
view slideshow (5 images)
Hands-on learning has made math soft and cuddly for Park View Elementary School students as they learned about measurements while making pillows.

Third-grade teacher Heather Hayes said this was a project she had wanted to complete with her students ever since she began sewing two years ago.

“Every time I finished a project, I always thought there was so much math involved that students would benefit from learning to sew,” Hayes said.

During the project, students measured length, width and weight. Each student measured and cut 12-inch by 8-inch pieces of felt. Students could choose from red, navy blue, green or purple. They then sewed three sides of the pillow. After the pillows are turned inside out, they are stuffed. The pillows are then weighed to make sure they were 3 ounces each. Next, the young craftspeople measured one inch from the edge to cut a one-inch fringe on one side of the pillow.

“It’s so fluffy,” student Allison Jones said of her finished product.

Luchen Strickland and Christian Armstrong were excited about the project.

“I’ve always wanted to make my own pillow, “ Luchen said.

The boys said stuffing the pillows was the most difficult part.

“You had to stuff it as much as you can and you then weigh it to see if it was 3 ounces,” Luchen said. “I had to do that like five times.”

Luchen and Christian said their favorite part was sewing.

Allison and Makayla Brooks said they were nervous when they first heard about the project.

“I was nervous I was going to mess up,” Makayla said.

The girls enjoyed the experience, especially stuffing the pillows.

The most difficult part for Makayla was sewing the pillows shut after they were stuffed, she said.

The third-graders already have plans for their creations.

Allison said she would probably use hers as a travel pillow.

“Or sleeping on the bus,” she said.

Makayla said the pillow was good for cuddling.

“I’m just going to use it for the car,” she said.

“I’m gonna use it on the bus,” Luchen said.

Although Hayes had wanted to offer the project for awhile, funding and safety concerns were challenges to overcome.

Funding for the project was secured through the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation.

Hayes applied for a $1,000 mini-grant made possible by a donation to the Foundation from Lonza. The grant funded six sewing machines, fabric and other needed supplies.

Hayes said she went to a grant-writing workshop to learn how to best present her idea to the foundation.

When Hayes initially presented her idea to Park View Principal Deb Bailey, Bailey was a little apprehensive about having third-grade students working with sewing machines.

“There was a moment’s hesitation and then she said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” Hayes said.

Research was done to ensure the project would be safe for the students. Finger guards were purchased for the sewing machines to keep students from getting hurt. Volunteers also provided extra assistance to ensure everything ran smoothly.

“It’s been working out wonderfully,” Hayes said. “I think the kids have really gotten a lot from it as far as [learning about] measurements.”

She said the project gives the students a visual for the concepts they are learning in class.

The teacher said she has enjoyed watching the students take ownership of the project.

“That’s their pillow and they’re very proud of it,” Hayes said.

Scheduling time for students to complete the sewing has been a challenge. The class of 23 students completed the project in groups of six. Hayes gave up her planning time to have more time for the project.

She hopes to have the project be a part of her class’ measurements study every year.

“Just getting the fabric each year would be the only thing I would need,” Hayes said.

Other third-grade teachers have already asked her about helping them do the project with their students.

In addition to the pillows, students will be making ponchos.