Quilting adds up for Long Reach High math students


January 02, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A QUILT designed by math students might conjure up images of addition signs and fractions floating on a field of Roman numerals. But the quilt made by a Long Reach High School math class is filled with traditional motifs.

Mathematics was used as a tool by the ninth- through 12th-graders to design the quilt, which they donated to an immigrant family before Christmas.

Math teacher Theda Mayer, a quilting enthusiast, said the colorful project was an example of the use of geometry, measurement and proportion.

"We had to measure out angles and perimeters of each pattern and cut them out," said 11th-grader Juannae Johnson, who designed one of the 20 blocks of the queen-size quilt.

Each student made a block, selecting quilting patterns such as stars, trees and animals. Mayer instructed them to use their math skills and graph paper to transfer and enlarge patterns from diagrams in a quilting book to pieces of fabric. The students sewed the shapes to 12-inch fabric squares and added personal touches such as handwritten messages.

"Each block looks like the person. I can tell you who made each block just by looking at the personality," said Mayer, who combined the blocks with a floral border.

"She spent hundreds of hours putting this together," said English teacher Shelley McPherson.

Mayer folded other lessons into the quilt project. She gave her students a taste of life in 19th-century America by showing the movie "Hearts and Hands," which explores the history of quilting in the United States. And she taught them the value of teamwork and helping others.

Their efforts were rewarded when they saw the finished product.

"The total impact of the finished quilt is greater than the sum of the parts," Mayer said.

Some students initially found quilt-making a challenge. "It was like a puzzle," senior Jennifer Randall said. "It was confusing at first, but it all came together."

Other student artisans were freshmen Heather St. Louis and Paola Marino; sophomores Luis Benitez, Ira Chapman, Osvaldo Medina and Astrid Rodriguez; juniors Hashar Abdullah, Michele Ephraim, Greg Matthews, Yarsin Mohammad, Abdul Vohra, Tabassum Vohra and Tom Zheng; and seniors Kate Critzman, Sajid Channu, Yasmin Ferguson, Senad Sirbegovic, Effie Koutsogiannis and Lji Ljana Maletic.

The class is a patchwork of countries and cultures, including Bosnia, China, Pakistan, Bolivia, Puerto Rico and the United States. The multicultural makeup of her math class inspired Mayer to turn to FIRN, the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network in Columbia, where volunteer coordinator Piff Fitting helped find an immigrant family to whom the class could donate the quilt.

Leslie Bilchick, FIRN outreach coordinator, said the organization selected Jorge and Beatrice Arnedo Sierra, who, with their two small children, fled violence in their native Colombia. They also came to the United States to seek medical treatment for their 6-year-old son, Jorge, who suffers from spina bifida.

At a small reception in Mayer's classroom, the students met the family members for the first time and presented them with the quilt. The teens looked as pleased to give their gift as the family was to accept it.

"I think we did it for a good cause," said Heather St. Louis. "I think we made somebody else happy, like a whole family."

Spelling bee

Jeffers Hill Elementary School was abuzz Dec. 5, the day of the school's spelling bee. Linda Mathias, secretary to Principal Steve Zagami, said 43 fourth- and fifth-graders participated in the after-school event.

"We had a big turnout of parents as well," she said.

Congratulations to all the pupils who participated, especially winner Jamaica Renner, a fifth-grader, and runner-up Andreas Mitchell, a fourth-grader.

Internet help

If your New Year's resolution involves becoming more proficient in using the Internet, the east Columbia branch library can help.

Hands-on, 30-minute orientation sessions called "One-on-One" are offered to adults and teens who would like to learn about searching the Internet and making use of the library's online catalog.

Information or to schedule a session: 410-313-7700.

Parting words

Owen Brown resident Anthony Compofelice, owner of Anthony's Mobile Dry Cleaning Service, has made his share of New Year's resolutions.

"The biggest one was getting into shape," he said.

He has made that resolution "at least four times," he said, and each time he started out with a newly purchased piece of exercise equipment or a pact with friends to visit the gym together regularly

But each time the resolution "falls apart," he said.

So what is Compofelice's resolution for 2001?

"I don't make them anymore," he said. Compofelice said he would keep his resolution about getting into shape if the opportunity was rescheduled for another time of year.

"We should have summer resolutions, when it's hot out, not in the winter when it's cold and there's so much food around," he said.

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