By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
Fifteen students in Krista Kurfman's eighth-grade language arts class at Quincy Junior High School have been getting a lesson in hope through a sewing project.
The students recently read Ben Mikaelsen's book "Touching Spirit Bear" and had a discussion afterward about how an Indian spirit blanket cited in the book had an impact on the main character.
"The whole point of this blanket in the book is that it represents hope and safety and all of these other symbols," Kurfman said. "We talked about the blanket a lot, and we decided we were going to make one."
No one in the class had ever made a blanket before, including Kurfman. So the group went online and did some research.
Kurfman said the students figured out what it would take to make a simple quilt using pieces of fabric. They also devised a strategy for sewing and decorating the quilt by hand.
Work started on the project in September. The quilt was finally finished in mid-December, with all 15 of Kurfman's students contributing to the sewing process.
The students also made their own squares that were incorporated into the quilt. Each square was adorned with a single word that symbolized something the students thought the blanket represented, such as hope, love, truth, honesty.
The students plan to donate the quilt -- along with a copy of "Touching Spirit Bear" -- to one of the families served by Quanada, a Quincy shelter for battered and abused women and their children.
Students are hoping the quilt and its hopeful messages will bring some encouragement to the family seeking shelter from an abusive situation.
"Some people need it more than us," said Taylor Knight, a student in the language arts class.
Students also wrote letters to the family that gets the quilt offering messages of hope and encouragement.
Class member Jevis Reeves said she's glad the quilt is going to people facing a difficult time in life.
"I think it's pretty awesome because some people might need this," she said.
Kurfman said she loved the quilt project because it benefited students in multiple ways. She said making the blanket not only helped drive home to students some of the book's themes, but the project also gave students a sense of accomplishment.
"From listening to the kids as they sewed and talked, I don't think a lot of them really knew they could create something with their hands," she said. "They never had the chance to do this before."
And by passing the quilt on to someone going through personal turmoil in life, she added, "they see they can actually do something to help someone else."
Student Nick Collins said he was glad to play a role in completing the quilt. He had never sewn anything before.
"I thought it was pretty cool," he said.
Kyell Yisrael said the quilt turned out to be a special gift because most of the students in the class derived some special meaning from reading the book.
"It inspired us," he said.