When I was first asked to do a global collaboration project, I was stumped for an idea. I teach three subjects: English Language Arts, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Marketing and CTE Textile Arts. I like to use what I am learning in the DEL program to enhance my classroom and teaching practice whenever possible. In April 2022 my ELA classes were studying Phineas Gage and Brain Science, my Marketing class was starting its unit on advertising and commercials, and my textile arts classes were working on their final quilt projects for an upcoming quilting exhibition that they will be participating in this summer. I decided the subject that would lend itself best to a collaborative project was my textile arts class.
I have written before about the math heavy nature of quilting, see my post on computational thinking and quilting. The idea I came up with was to find a class in another school that was working on a geometry unit. With help from one of my professors, I was connected with a high school in Tacoma, Washington. I teach middle school, but math and quilting are both universal languages and age did not matter for this project.
The project was designed utilizing the 6 A’s of Project Design developed by Steinberg (1998).
Information about the project
Problem or Question Addressed:
How do math and quilting relate to one another?
What will students produce?
- Math students produced tessellations
- Quilting students produced Electric Quilt designs and finished quilt blocks
Disciplines, Content Areas and Standards:
- High School Math Geometry Standards (Common Core, n.d.):
- Given a geometric figure and a rotation, reflection, or translation, draw the transformed figure using, e.g., graph paper, tracing paper, or geometry software. Specify a sequence of transformations that will carry a given figure onto another.
- Pattern design
- Block construction
- Color theory
Academic Rigor – High Order Thinking
- Students applied what they already knew about quilting to a new problem.
- They analyzed by experimenting with sizes and fabric to get the quilt blocks mathematically correct and then they created fabric quilt blocks.
- Problem solving – how to work with new angles they had never encountered before.
- New skills were learned – paper piecing
How will the adults collaborate to design the project and/or assess student work?
The adults worked together to exchange ideas and figure out the best assessment methods for the project. Adults also exchanged student work as students were unable to directly connect, and worked asynchronously.
What opportunities will students have to observe, interact, and work closely with adults?
In Tacoma, my partner teacher worked with her students on tessellations. In Onalaska, I worked with my students to determine the math behind the tessellation designs, how to use the design software and actual block construction.
How will students engage in real investigations and field-based work?
- Math students explored tangrams and tessellations, they designed the quilt blocks.
- Quilting students were actively creating quilt blocks both digitally and in fabric – this is the field-work of my textile arts class.
What technology tools and media sources will students use?
Students will likely use Electric Quilt 8, they will also use iPads for math and drafting the designs.
How will students be expected to communicate their new knowledge and skills?
Quilting students communicated their new knowledge by producing a finished quilt block. Math students produced finished tessellations and they also made their blocks out of cut fabric, though, to my knowledge, they were not sewn together.
How is your project grounded in real-world learning?
This is how pattern designers typically work. They draft a block on paper and then they figure out the math behind the block or they use a drafting software like Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8). Finally they attempt to create the block in fabric before writing the pattern. The difference with this project is that the inspiration is coming from another source.
How will your students work in teams and problem solve with each other?
My students worked in pairs of two to create quilt blocks and helped check each other’s math and quilt block designs.
How will your project help students develop organizational and self-management skills?
Students will have to keep their supplies organized as well as their files on the iPads and computers. They will also have to stick to a strict deadline. Additionally, they had to keep track of the small pieces of fabric as several blocks took multiple days to complete due to complexity.
What project criteria will students use, and how will they reflect on their learning?
Students completed a self-reflection on Google Forms. The criteria for completion of the project was a replicable quilt block.
How will standards be assessed?
My students were assessed based on their skills rubric for all sewing projects – their seaming was checked as well as the pattern that they produced. I do not know how my partner teacher assessed the math portion for her students.
Above are the digital drawings produced utilizing the Electric Quilt 8 software.
ISTE Standards Connection
ISTE Standard 2.4: “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems” (n.d.).
- Educators spent time planning together (via email) to design an authentic learning experiences for students (2.4a)
- I collaborated with my students to diagnose and solve technology problems – EQ8 has a steep learning curve and students designed blocks for techniques they had never used before (2.4b)
- Collaborative tools utilized by teachers was email – we mainly communicated through email – we encountered barriers to shared docs because my district is Google based and her district is Microsoft based (2.4c)
This project was a large learning experience for me. I had never worked on a project of this type before with someone outside of my district. One thing I personally struggle with is patience, especially when working in group settings. This project allowed me to practice, not only patience, but empathy. Working with others and dealing with real life hardships meant that I had to think on my feet and shift my timeline and expectations for the project. I had hoped for each student to be able to make a block, however, we were only able to complete 3 blocks in the timeframe allowed.
The academic goal of the project – making the connection between math and quilting, was largely accomplished. Students were able to see the design process from beginning to end. They were also able to utilize the quilting software program and learn new skills with that program. Even though we did not complete the project on as large of a scale as I would have liked, we did accomplish our goals. Students practiced their math skills, design skills, and quilting skills. They were also able to collaborate with students in another district, although asynchronously. They enjoyed the challenge of learning new-to-them-quilting techniques, like foundation paper piecing. They also worked with very small pieces of fabric (1.5”x1.5”) which was new to them.
In the future, I would like to have more time for the project. Perhaps beginning after winter break, rather than the end of April. By this time in the school year we were wrapped up in finishing year end projects, and had a huge deadline for an international quilt show that we are participating in. These circumstances made the project feel overwhelming at times for me and the students, though they handled it beautifully. We also lost 4 days of sewing because of SBA testing, if we had started earlier, this may not have been an issue at all.
My students completed reflection forms via Google Forms and expressed that the project was fun, but they would have liked more time and some way to directly connect with students from the other school. This is something I will have to explore for next time, maybe arranging a zoom meeting for the classes (though that would depend on bell schedules for each school). My partner teacher also expressed that her students greatly enjoyed the project, especially seeing the digital designs created by my students.
In order to help students directly connect, another idea for the future would be to find a district that is also on Google and find out if we could do shared Google Docs with the kids – with the appropriate parent and school permissions in place, of course. If a Google district is not possible, then I would need to investigate other collaborative options for students.
One idea I had that would have helped me as a teacher, was to maybe let students in EDUC 6101 know the parameters of this project and that they will be completing it in the spring quarter. This would give DEL students more time to plan, connect with colleagues in other districts, and come up with contingencies. Spring is such a stressful time of year for teachers, especially math, ELA and science teachers because of SBA testing. Having that forewarning in place might allow DEL students to have their project set up and ready to implement when EDUC 6103 begins.
If I was to do this project again in the future I would make the following revisions:
- Allow more time for planning
- Perhaps connect with a school in another part of the country or another country (mainly to broaden the horizons of my own students, as I thoroughly enjoyed working with my partner teacher).
- I would also like to connect with another school that does quilting, I know there are at least 2 in Oregon. I think it would be good for my students to meet students their own age who also participate in a similar program.
Anonymous. (2022). Digital Quilt Block Samples.
Common Core. (n.d.). High School: Geometry >> Congruence. Common Core State Standard Initiative. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/HSG/CO/
Dunworth, M. (2022). Collaborate.
Pixabay, (2013, March 31). Tree and Lake Reflection. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tree_838667.jpg
Steinburg, A. (1998). Real learning, real work: School-to-work as high school reform. Routledge.