Fifth-graders' quilt traces U.S. history

May 02, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

When it comes to American history, the fifth-graders at Folger McKinsey Elementary School have got things covered.

The students at the Severna Park school have produced a 70-square quilt for future classes to study. The squares depict events and items significant in the founding of the United States, starting with Columbus' voyage. They show the Declaration of Independence, stars, stripes, the rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in air, even a redcoat waving a white flag.

"It taught us a lot about social studies -- that you can have fun," says Todd Soroka, pointing out his cannon-blast square.

The quilt was the idea of fifth-grade social studies and language teacher Bessie Forrester, who was searching for a group project.

"We had just finished the Revolutionary War. They had done their time lines, and I said I'd like to have a way to show these events on a very large scale," Mrs. Forrester recalls.

Each child got a piece of white fabric about the size of a sheet of typing paper, instructions to depict any noteworthy event in the start of the nation, and freedom to choose an art medium. Youngsters first sketched their designs for Mrs. Forrester's approval, then had four class sessions to do the rendering just before spring break. And then, all of those squares went to parent Debbie Reeder, who stitched them into a quilt more than 6 feet square, Mrs. Forrester says.

Most popular historical event? The "shot heard round the world" in the Battle of Lexington at the start of the Revolutionary War. It was depicted on no fewer than six squares.

Catherine Alley did one of them: a gun blast that circles the globe like a belt, done in fabric paints and marker.

Catherine, like most of the children, is taken by the scope of the project.

"We learned how they all fit together to make one big thing, and it was our freedom," she said.

In oil pastels and colored pencils, patriot Molly Pitcher is hard at work in Kim Fields' square. Pitcher, whose real name was Mary Ludwig Hays, carried water to forces at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey in 1778.

"She shot the cannon for [her husband] when he got shot," Kim said.

"There weren't just men that were important, there were women."

Pitcher is in a second square, shown by Emily Cornelius bringing water to a wounded soldier.

Chris Gregg's square features the British and Colonial flags crossed over the world.

"[Britain] was the most powerful country in the world. They brought the people here," he explained. "They [flags] are crossed because the U.S. was sort of double-crossing the British."

Some squares have captions, but others leave it up to the viewer's recollection.

In small letters, Bryce Harbertson wrote that his square shows George Washington crossing the frozen Delaware River and the surprise attack on the Hessians.

The quilt may be displayed at Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis before being hung on a Folger McKinsey wall, Mrs. Forrester said.

The children presented their "Birth of a Nation" quilt Friday to the school and showed it off to their parents at the fifth grade's social studies expo and -- what else? -- tea party.

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