The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 2

This piece is actually about the last quilt my class made.
Bloggers have asked me to ‘finish the story’.
Here is Part 2, with two more to follow.

Over the summer I will go back to the beginning,
how it all started with a trip to a museum, and meeting Milly.
It is perhaps my favorite series of posts,
and certainly one of the most important and memorable
parts of my teaching career.
It will be my next series of posts. 

In Part 1, children embraced the song “This Land is Your Land” as their own.  They sang the song every day, multiple times a day.  By the time winter arrived, they had ‘taken over’, and constantly used the book This Land is Your Land when they sang.  The book brings American landmarks and history to life, and it also depicts humanity, the good and the bad.  Children love the ‘sad page’, and the ensuing verse that gives us all hope and reminds us of what we can do, together.  In my classroom, the song just keeps on going.

Part 2:
It was a regular morning in the classroom.  Children were finishing snack.  The routine is they get a book and have silent reading (or not so silent) while other children finish their snack.  Of course there are a few children who try to eat quickly so they can have first dibs on a book.  This Land is Your Land is always the first to get picked.  And, it’s hard to read the book and not sing, or at least hum.  On this particular morning, multiply that tenfold.

I remarked to Naomi, my assistant teacher, “The last time children were so vested in a song and couldn’t get enough was eight years ago.  I had to do something, do more.  Milly the quilter made a quilt.”

Lightbulb moment:  Of course, a quilt!

I told Naomi all about the quilting adventure with Milly eight years ago.

“But Jennie, Milly died.  We don’t have a quilter.”

“I think we might.  Remember Donna?  Years ago when she came into the classroom to make pasta with the children I asked her if she would be willing to be a Milly, a grandparent figure, if and when Milly was unable to do so.  She is wonderful.  And, she’s a quilter.”

“Donna really is wonderful.  I had no idea she was a quilter.  Wow.  That would be awesome.”

Naomi took the children to the hallway to get their coats and get ready to go outside.  I was in the classroom, feeling like I had found buried treasure, or solved the mysteries of Stonehenge, or something like that.  And then I was hit by a tidal wave of feeling, not by me – by Milly.  For a moment she was there, and I knew she was giving me her approval.  I could feel her smiling.  It was time to move forward and pass the torch.  And then she was gone.  Just like that.  Well… I just said under my breath, “Thank you, Milly.”

This just doesn’t happen to most people.  But it did to me.

Naomi came back into the room.  “Jennie, what happened?  Are you okay?”  I said, “Milly was here.  She gave me her approval.  She was happy.”

Next, I needed to call Donna.  Her first words were, “When Milly died, I was waiting for you to call me.  I thought you would ask me.”  I told her everything.  Donna knew Milly and always remarked about her quilts.  Then Donna said, “I’ve never done anything like that before.  I’m up for the challenge.”

Those were exactly the words Milly had said to me many years ago – was that an omen?

And so, we began a quilting journey.  First, we gathered the children, and Donna, in a big meeting.  To my surprise, Donna asked if ‘Gloria’ could come, too.  Gloria was thrilled.  So were the children.  We sang the song while holding the book.  Then came the big moment to introduce a quilt.  I don’t tell children, I ask children, and I asked them if they would like to make a quilt about their favorite book.  That was like asking them if they wanted to help Santa Claus deliver presents.

“Donna can sew the quilt.  What should we have in the quilt?”  Every child couldn’t wait.  They had to shout out their ideas.  They were so excited!  Here is their list:

American flag
Gulf stream waters
Statue of Liberty
Our school
Ribbon of highway
Foot steps
Sparkling sand
Wheat fields
Dust clouds

The list is a wonderful collection of both the song and the book.  The children were spot on!

Next, we made a giant sketch of all our ideas.  Pen to paper.  Ideas to paper.  Heart to paper.

Stay tuned for Part 3.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in America, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, geography, Gloria, Inspiration, music, picture books, quilting, Singing, The Arts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 2

  1. Norah says:

    This is wonderful. I’m so pleased that Milly was willing to pass the torch and that Donna was willing to take it. Such a marvellous experience for everyone involved.

  2. beth says:

    I love, love the quilting tradition and happy donna took it on

  3. sjhigbee says:

    As ever, inspirational and moving, Jennie. How wonderful Donna felt able to take on the tradition started by Millie…

  4. Dan Antion says:

    A remarkable journey for you and these children (and Milly and Donna).

  5. quiall says:

    One of the most precious things about situations like this is that it is not just the children that are affected. Their enthusiasm, their innocence affects all those around them and it becomes a domino effect. I look forward to reading more.

  6. This a lovely thing to read of, I’m looking forward to the next pasrts, and hopefully seeing the final quilt!

  7. Oh man, this gave me goosebumps!! It’s a wonderful project and experience for you all. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story and seeing their class’s quilt.

  8. Ritu says:

    You know I love this 🥰

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    God bless the Milly’s and Donna’s of the world who come through for teachers. I have to believe that most people would jump at the chance to help children and a caring teacher like you, Jennie.

  10. beetleypete says:

    Hooray for Donna! Looking forward to seeing what happens.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  11. Great ideas take on a life of their own. Another lovely post, and another amazing quilt on its way. 🙂

  12. Very Exciting, Jennie. Looking forward to Part 3. 😁

  13. P.S. Just sent THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND to my Great Grand Girl in New Mexico… It’s a perfect way to celebrate America every day. Thanks for the reminder, Jennie! xo

  14. Darlene says:

    I love reading about these wonderful projects you do with the students. Bravo to Donna for taking over Millie´s role.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Darlene. I’m glad you enjoy these projects. That means a lot. Yes, hats off to Donna! I hope you enjoy reading about Milly, too. 🙂

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I love that she was just waiting to be asked. That happens a lot I think, but our hesitancy can prevent us from asking.

  16. Harshit says:

    You are making a strong foundation for children.
    Strong Foundation is an indication towards higher dreams building.

  17. This is so exciting, Jennie. I do miss having small children with all their enthusiasm.

  18. I cant say often enough, the Anglo-American style of teaching and education is much more oriented on the human behavior. 😉 Here – so my experiences – its more a commanding to tell the duty, law and order. Thank you for giving me hope, Jennie! In future we will have it too. xx Michael

    • Jennie says:

      Michael, I think you have it backwards- you are the one giving me hope. Knowing how education seems to be in Germany (law and order vs human behavior), I am inspired to keep teaching what I feel is the right thing. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s