For Rachel Suter’s Hambright Elementary first-graders, monsters really can come to life, but they’re not scary at all. In fact, they’re adorable creatures lovingly made by hand.
In April, Suter had her students describe in detail what an ideal monster would look like to them. She then passed along these descriptions and accompanying crayon drawings to students in Elizabeth Sheerer’s Fashion and Design class at Penn Manor High School.
The older students got busy bringing the illustrations and words to life, using felt, fiberfill, yarn, fabric, buttons and other materials to create hand-sewn one-of-a-kind monsters for every student in the class. The project gave the first-graders a chance to practice their descriptive writing skills and the high school students an opportunity to develop their design and sewing skills.
But it went far beyond that.
The groups of students developed a real bond that culminated when the stuffed creatures were delivered to Hambright the morning of May 23.
“My students were so ecstatic to see their monsters and compare their stuffed animals to the pictures they drew,” said Suter. “They really look up to the older kids, and they felt really special to have high school students read their stories and create something special, just for them.”
Sheerer’s students took part in the monster “reveal” via Google Meet.
“My students loved seeing them get their monsters and were excited to see them dance around with them,” she said.
“I was very impressed with my students’ hard work and dedication. They learned the meaning of creativity, new stitches, and hand and machine sewing skills. It gave them a sense of pride to accomplish the project.”
Some of the high school students made two or three of the creatures, being sure to replicate the colors and shapes in their younger peers’ drawings. Others added features, like a chocolate chip cookie, based on students’ written descriptions.
Many of the first-graders, with little prompting, gave very specific details about their monsters’ personalities (“I would tell him a joke and he would laugh”) and where they would live (“in my desk,” “under my bed”).
Suter said she didn’t hesitate when Sheerer – who taught Suter when she attended Penn Manor High School 10 years ago – told her about the project.
“My students were able to use all the writing skills we have been working on all year, and they also learned about collaborating and working with others,” she said.
“It was the perfect end-of-the-year activity!”
High school junior Abigail Nesmith said the project helped her develop her hand sewing skills. But it had another benefit.
“In this crazy world, it was a nice opportunity to think of others,” she said.