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Linda Mah
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Extra Credit Gift at Maple

An extra-credit project turned into a classroom effort.

Every year, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts social studies teacher Noah Coston allows his advanced sixth-grade world geography students to create their own extra-credit projects.

“Students often present on different countries they have visited, different cultural experiences they have had and/or different customs in their own families,” Coston said. Students have presented on world cultures such as Latvia and Brazil, shared language lessons and introduced fellow students to activities such as cooking and capoeria, a Brazilian martial art.

Last school year, Abigayle Smith, who is now a seventh grader at Maple, asked if she could tell the class about her family’s tradition of quilting.

“My grandma, (Marilyn Smith), she taught my dad how to quilt. All my aunts know how to quilt. My dad taught my mom (Laurie Smith),” Abigayle said. “Since my dad’s sewing room has like everything, I used to go down there and help him do some quilts. He gave me a little sewing machine to practice on when I was younger.”

Gary Smith said the tradition started with his mother about 35 years ago, and he picked up the art about 10 years after her.

“I learned how to sew back in high school but only took up quilting to produce a better bed cover that would be beautiful and last much longer than any bed topper you could buy in a store. Next thing I knew was I found quilting was fun and very relaxing,” he said.

For her project, Abigayle and her father brought several quilts that they’ve made, told about the family tradition and shared the process of quilt-making with her classmates.

“I told them what quilting is and the different things you can do with a quilt and how you start a quilt,” Abigayle said. “After that, my dad and I went to the office so he could sign me out and we brought the quilts with us.

“The ladies in the office said it would be so cool if you made us a a quilt. I thought about it for a few days and I decided I wanted to make one for Mr. Coston. He’s is one of my favorite teachers and he’s a really great teacher.”

Abigayle and Gary Smith returned to the class with plain white squares and invited students to use Sharpies to decorate the material with their names and drawings of things that help identify them, like soccer balls, musical notes or baseball bats. Then they gathered the squares and took them home, where they pieced the squares together over the summer, added a colorful border and quilted the wall hanging.

“My favorite part of quilting is putting the quilt together, picking out the fabrics and seeing what goes together,” she said. “It’s all in your eyes and about what you think makes two colors or patterns go together.

“I like that when you quilt you can do anything you want. If you like something, you can put it into the quilt, so the quilt has meaning to it.”

The Smiths spent about 50 hours on the quilt and presented Coston with the finished work in September. Coston said a number of his students have returned to the class to see the finished product, but he still plans to invite students back for a small celebration of the quilt.

“These lessons enliven our conversations,” Coston said. “I like it when the students share things from their own culture. Each one of us has a culture that draws from different parts of the world, is brought to the States, and continues here.”


Maple Street social studies teacher Noah Coston poses with Abigayle Smith in front of the quilt that Abigayle and her family made for Coston’s classroom.

The class members worked on individual squares, and Abigayle and Gary Smith created a group square. 

Abigayle Smith poses with her father Gary Smith in front of the quilt they made for Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.
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