Back in March, my 7 year old niece was with me when I purchased my new sewing machine. At the time, I was so surprised at her interest in using the sewing machine. In fact, I thought it was a fascination that would wane. That night we went out to dinner, and I asked what she wanted to do when we got back. She said to me, "I thought we were going to go home and use the sewing machine." So that is just what we did. Her first project was creating a small pillow that would match the quilt that I was making my mom. She even did the hand-stitching to close the pillow. After this, we made a plan to make a quilt for her American Girl doll the next time she came to visit.
Well, last week she came to visit. We selected some fabric, and we looked at making half-square triangles. After talking about all of our different pattern options, she decided she wanted to make pinwheels. We started sewing the basic pieces together, but her attention was fleeting during the cutting and measuring. For those of you who don't know, quilting requires a lot of measuring, as well as squaring up of quilting blocks. Since I was using a rotary cutter, I did not let my niece help with this step. This, of course, meant that she quickly lost focus during these in-between stages. So what happened?
Basically, she started working with fabric while she waited on me. She did some practice sewing, then on her own she created a pocket for me. As I watched her create this pocket, it was interesting how my thoughts emerged. To be honest, my first instinct was to redirect her back to our original project. In fact the words were right on the tip of my tongue, and I had to catch myself from uttering those words. What was really important here? Was it important that she make this quilt? No, that definitely shouldn't be the objective for our day. What mattered was that she wanted to explore and create! Instead, I just let her design and develop her own project.
Next time you are faced with a similar dilemma with your students, really think about what your objective is for your students? Do you want a cookie cutter product or something that students had to problem solve to create? Just sit back and let students explore the endless possibilities.