When Kathleen Norman designed the Sew Creative program for the Sisters of St. Joseph, she had no idea she would find herself in a high school classroom, teaching students to sew.
And when teacher Jordan Champlin dreamed up a sewing project for her “Jobs for American’s Graduates-Kansas” class, she had no idea that Kathleen Norman would be available to provide all the materials and then teach the students how to complete it.
But last month Norman was in Champlin’s classroom at Concordia High School, teaching two classes to create “fidget blankets” that will be donated to Sunset Home for residents there.
Fidget blankets, also called activity or sensory quilts, are lap-sized, colorful mats embellished with different textured items like fake fur, corduroy, yard, ribbons, buttons and lace. The idea is to give people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia something to keep their hands busy while occupying their mind to reduce the potential of agitation.
Norman originally contacted Champlin last fall to learn more about JAG-K, an elective offered to seventh- through 12th-graders to teach life and leadership skills. In that conversation, Champlin told her she wanted to have her students learn basic sewing skills and then create fidget blankets as a community service project.
“Given that I already teach basic sewing in Sew Creative, I offered to help her,” says Norman, who serves as director of the sisters’ Neighborhood Initiatives office.
And the students learned more than just basic sewing, Champlin adds. “This has helped them learn the value of working on and finishing a project.”
This was the first project for JAG-K students this year, Champlin said, but in the past they have assisted with food drives and done various volunteer work throughout the community.
JAG-K, which is funded by a grant rather than school district dollars, has been active in Concordia for four years with success in leading students to graduation and on to secondary education, both college and vocational as well as joining the military, Champlin said.
Across Kansas for this school year, there are more than 2,700 students involved in JAG programs in 29 school districts.