Milly – Part 5

In Part 4 the Peace Quilt became part of the permanent collection at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and Milly became an important part of my classroom.  Children adored her.  She loved singing, and Milly’s favorite song was our favorite song, too – “God Bless America.”

Part 5

“Jennie, can we sing again?  Can we sing “God Bless America?”  This was what I heard from children, every day.  I sing many songs with children, all kinds of songs.  So, why was this particular song the favorite?  I don’t know.  But, what I do know is to pay attention to children and what they gravitate towards.  My lesson plans might be terrific, but I know intuitively that what children are drawn to, is far more important.  I paid attention.  And it grew.  When children were in the playground they started singing on their own for other children.  They sang all the time for Milly.  She joined in, and she loved it!

I had to do more, because the children wanted, needed, more.  Veterans Day arrived and we invited soldiers into the classroom to say Thank You, and of course to sing.

Lizzie’s favorite book was an everyday staple.

Milly spent time at school making a red, white, and blue outfit for Gloria- at the request of children.

When the holidays were approaching, I had this pit in my stomach.  I just felt like I was giving hungry children little bits of food instead of a big meal.  So, I decided we would make a God Bless America book for families as a holiday gift.  This would be our own version, based on Lizzie’s favorite book.  What a treasure this book became!

We wrote all the words and made our own illustrations.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this book would have a profound influence and effect later on.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

When the holidays were over and we were back to school, things really hadn’t changed.  Children built a ‘hill’ in the snow as ‘their’ stage to sing.  They were often on the soccer bench at the far end of the playground.  I could hear their voices raised in song.  Everybody could.

Jennie, the children are trying to tell you they want more.  Pay attention.  Do something!  I called Milly.

“Milly, do you think you could make another quilt with the children?”  That was like asking a child if they wanted candy.

“Yes, of course!  What do you have in mind?”

“A God Bless America quilt.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

And so, we began another quilting adventure.  We already knew what we wanted to have on the quilt, as we had memorized the song – singing it a zillion times will do that.  We had also made our book that illustrated all those words.  But, we needed to put everything into one picture for the quilt.

Again, children made all the decisions as to what would go where.  Milly was there to watch.  They colored the big sketch, which reinforced the words to the song, and reinforced what they wanted.  It was their ‘statement’ and they were proud.

Look at Milly’s big smile!  Children couldn’t get enough of picking fabrics and watching everything come to life.  Look carefully at the quilt:

I didn’t notice it at first.  Do you see the large white center?  That’s the United States of America.  In New York, there is the child’s Statue of Liberty.  There’s “night” and the “light from above”, “mountains” and “prairies” and “ocean”, and of course “home sweet home”.  I wish you could see this in the flesh.

The newspaper wanted to do an article, and the Post Office wanted us to hang the quilt for ‘the world’ to see.

Milly was now quite well known!

“Jennie, where will the quilt go?”  People were starting to ask.  The Postmaster wanted to know.  Our school’s director wanted to know.  Milly hadn’t asked me…yet.  And then it came to me.  The quilt was museum-worthy, much like the Peace Quilt.  But, I wrestled with what museum would be best and most appropriate.  My first thought was the song, “God Bless America”, and I researched Irving Berlin and museums where much of his memorabilia is located.

An interesting fact about the song: Irving Berlin thought “The Star-Spangled Banner” was too difficult.  He was not a big fan of the song, especially as our National Anthem.  That prompted him to write “God Bless America.”

The museums, while wonderful, felt limited in the sense that our quilt was about far more than Irving Berlin.  It was more about patriotism.  Patriotism.  I had hit the nail on the head in defining the quilt and where it needed to be.

My husband immediately said, “Jennie, the most patriotic museum is in New York City.  It’s a restored aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid.”  Why did I not know this?!  I researched the museum (perfect fit) and immediately contacted the director, the ‘top dog’.  To my surprise she got back to me right away.  Boy, was she excited!  So, we were off – again – with families and children in tow.  Milly’s family made the trip, too.  The event was far more than I expected… and it took a major turn.  Stay tuned for Part 6.


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, art, geography, Giving thanks, Gloria, Inspiration, joy, museums, patriotism, quilting, School, Teaching young children, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Milly – Part 5

  1. Loving this quilting adventure Jennie!

  2. Dan Antion says:

    I love the Intrepid Museum. This is a great story, Jennie.

  3. beetleypete says:

    Great memories of another exciting time, and it was good to see Gloria’s patriotic outfit too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Norah says:

    I love this story, Jennie. So heartwarming and inspiring. Milly’s legacy lives on.

  5. I love everything about this post! *grinning from ear to ear*

  6. beth says:

    I’d love to see this

  7. quiall says:

    I wonder if other educators are paying attention. The children are our future and we need to guide them there. Just like you are. That is the future we want, we deserve.

  8. Darlene says:

    Another amazing quilt!! I love these stories.

  9. K.L. Hale says:

    Our country needs more of this! Thank you for being a shining light and example. You, Milly, the kids, everyone….thank you!

  10. Don Ostertag says:

    Just when I thought you all reached the high point in the year, you and your posse top it. What a school year you engineered, Jennie!

  11. So good to see you building patriotism when so many are trying to tear the country apart.

  12. Terrific Jennie. Can’t wait for part six.

  13. Now the ship-fun begins!!! (Trying to not be a ‘spoiler’!)

  14. Carla says:

    Another beautiful piece of art from the minds of the children in your class.

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    This story just keeps getting better and better. Isn’t it great when those in positions of authority, such as directors of museums, jump right into the spirit of things and keep a project going?

  16. TanGental says:

    You know how to draw us in, you know? I’m wanting the boxset to binge this story but you’re old school, Jennie and make me wait! I suppose that’s a good lesson, too!

  17. This quilt is wonderful! I can’t wait to find out what happened in NYC!!

  18. They are so lucky to have such an innovative teacher Jennie and a best friend like Milly…thanks for sharing.. a delight ♥

  19. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Thursday July 29th 2021 – #Olympics Pete Springer, #Patchwork Jennie Fitzkee, #Research Jacqui Murray | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  20. A simply fabulous post, Jennie.

  21. Jennie, you’ve had some wonderful stories and beautiful posts, but the story of the quilt was always my favorite. It’s grand to see it this way. Hugs on the wing!

  22. It’s a wonderful quilt. The time to make this was definitely something very special. I always have to smile when Gloria is styled appropriately. Thanks for sharing this great adventure, Jennie! Have a beautiful Friday, and a nice weekend! xx Michael

  23. What a great adventure, Jennie. You’re classrooms don’t just design and make quilts… you share them with the world. Millie and the kids did a beautiful job. On to the museum!

  24. Jermena says:

    This is really beautiful….❤️

  25. dolphinwrite says:

    Thanks for your post 🙂

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