The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 3

In Part 2, after the song had become all-consuming for children, I told Naomi about the one time this had happened before, eight years ago.  A song was  beloved to children.  They couldn’t get enough.  And so, we made a quilt.  That was a lightbulb moment, and sparked another quilting journey.  Milly the quilter had died, yet she made her presence to give approval to this new venture and to handing the reins over to Donna.  Children began to design the quilt by listing all the parts of the song and the book that they felt should be included.  This was the most important part of all!

Part 3:
We made a giant sketch.  This was hard, as we had to put children’s ideas, that whole list of important parts, onto paper.  Every component was important, from footsteps (“I followed my footsteps”) to the Redwood Forest, Gulf Stream waters, and the church on the ‘sad page’.  Groton Community School and Gloria are included.  She’s flying a kite.  The Statue of Liberty is prominent, and the central figure in the quilt is a home with the American flag.  Woody’s guitar will rest along the house.

Children were insistent on including Woody’s guitar.  They are fascinated with Woody, and ask questions about him all the time.  “Jennie, does Woody have children?”  I explained how he was a little older than my mother, so his children were close to my age.  That took a while to sink in.  The Woody questions haven’t stopped.

After the sketch was complete, children colored it in.  In that way, it solidified all their ideas and dreams about the quilt.  Coloring is a soulful experience.


After the sketch was complete and children were satisfied, the next step was selecting fabrics.  What a glorious adventure!  Those days were like being in an open air market, full of colorful items.  Really, it was like Christmas morning with more than the eye could see.

Once children finished exploring all the fabrics, it was time to settle down and do some serious selecting.  This process took two days.  Every part of the quilt required a choice, from the chimney of the house to fireworks to the ‘sparkling sands of the diamond desert’.  Everything.

When Donna finished many of the parts on the face of the quilt, she brought in all the pieces, and children watched as she placed them together – like a jig saw puzzle.  If something was put in the wrong spot, children immediately knew.  “No, that’s not where Woody’s guitar goes.”  Donna asked the children. “What’s missing?”  They knew – the apples on the tree, fireworks, and more.  There’s no tricking these children.  The song and the quilt are far too important to them.

This is a very rough initial placement for children.  It’s not the quilt. 

Once every thing was sewn into place, we had one last look before it headed to the ‘long arm machine’ for the quilting and intricate stitching.  But first we still had to choose fabric for the border and for the lettering, THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND.  That was the hardest choice of all.

Stay tuned for Part 4 and the unveiling of the quilt.  It is far different than what I imagined.  I cried.


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, American flag, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, patriotism, preschool, quilting, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 3

  1. beetleypete says:

    I bet you cried! I would have too. So great to see Gloria included, flying her kite.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. I was thrilled but not surprised that the children wanted to include Gloria. I still have a lump in my throat when remembering. This final quilt was ‘close to home’. Roots. Milly’s quilts were wings, and soaring to places we never imagined. I’ll post her series after Part 4. We’ll go back to 2009.

  2. So wonderful. Thats a community i always had missed in my Kindergarten and early school time. xx Michael

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Michael. Creating a community with young children is a foundation for growing up with humanity and kindness, and giving. You certainly have that, Michael. If you didn’t get that in kindergarten, you got it along the way. That’s a good thing!

  3. quiall says:

    In many years the children of these children will be able to look back and see what their parents created! What a wonderful legacy.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pam. This was a final quilt and a wonderful legacy. As I said to Pete, it was the roots of home. On the other hand, Milly’s quilts were soaring to places that we never imagined. I hope you will follow this journey.

  4. Carla says:

    This is such an amazing process Jennie. I love that they wanted to include Gloria. I can’t wait for the unveiling.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Carla. This was our last quilt, and including Gloria was just perfect. Long before this was Milly. Hold on to your hat for her journey.

  5. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful collaborative effort. What a great way to teach teamwork, a valuable skill required for future employment.

  6. This is so precious, Jennie!

  7. Don Ostertag says:

    Delightful, Jeanne. Too bad Woodyh can’t read this.

    • Jennie says:

      I contacted the Guthrie Center in VT, and heard back from Arlo’s daughter. That was exciting. I hoped to have Arlo come to school so that the children could sing to him his father’s favorite song. Then, I would have had Arlo sign the quilt. I never heard back, which was a shame. On a side note, that summer Arlo was a guest at the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert. Yes, he sang “This Land is Your Land” with guest singers. I was waiting to see if he was brave enough to sing the ‘sad verse’. Nope! I think his dad wasn’t happy.

  8. Ritu says:

    Wonderful, Jennie!

  9. I am enjoying a description of the process, Jennie. Well done. 😁

  10. I bet you cried, I have goosebumps!! It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see the quilt finished. What an amazing project. ❤😍

  11. Wonderful and precious… ❤ xo

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    I wouldn’t expect it any other way from you, but what makes this project special is how involved the kids have been involved throughout.

    • Jennie says:

      They really were completely involved, Pete. It was very satisfying to be able to give them ‘more’, as they loved the song and book so much. When all was said and done, I contacted the Guthrie Center here in New England, and they put me in touch with Arlo’s daughter. My plan was to invite Arlo to come to school so the children could sing to him his father’s song. Then, have him sign the quilt. Wouldn’t that have been cool? But, after the initial contact, I never heard back.

      • petespringerauthor says:

        Aww. That would have completed the circle. Perhaps he wasn’t well enough. Looking forward to the next installment.

  13. Jennie says:

    That could have been the case. Thanks, Pete. Final part tomorrow, then onto Milly.

  14. Dan Antion says:

    This was such an amazing project, Jennie. I always enjoy reading about it.

  15. Norah says:

    What a lovely community project.

  16. I remember this one! It was a memorable project.

  17. What an extraordinary journey you and the children have been on, Jennie.

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