Assiginack Public School students gifted quilters and now also published authors

Ms. Pennie’s Grade 5/6 class of, back row, left to right, Gregory Mishibinijima, Ella Stewart, Jasmine Hrynyk-Seabrook, Nathan Janoki, Keadeez Peltier, Mya Otosquaiob, Lauren Ferguson, Connor Phillips, middle row, Hailey Van Den Heuvel, Jordan McLean, front row, Emma Cassidy, Peyton Pitawanakwat, Von Clayton, Jessica Elliott, Braiden Phillips, Rachel Deforge and Aaron Leeson pose with the latest edition of The Canadian Quilter, which includes an article written by the students themselves on their adventure in quilting. Missing from photo is Skye Setterington. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

MANITOWANING—The students of Heather Pennie’s Grade 5/6 class at Assiginack Public School were eagerly awaiting this reporter’s arrival on Friday of last week. As published authors themselves—the students’ writing is featured in the latest edition of The Canadian Quilters magazine—they were anxious to swap tricks of the trade in the writing biz.

Since last November, the students have been learning the art of quilting and sewing thanks to their own seamstress teacher, Ms. Pennie, and Jackie White—avid Manitowaning quilter. According to Braiden Phillips, the project got underway when Ms. White, a volunteer with the school, approached the class asking if they would be interested in learning to quilt so they could enter the Youth Quilt Challenge hosted each year by the Canadian Quilters’ Association. She then mentored the class, sharing with them the basics of quilting, as well as quilt patterns.

Von Clayton explained that both quilting and sewing were new skills for everybody.

Jessica Elliott said that the first project was to be designed around their favourite movie. While it isn’t her favourite, Jessica chose to create her quilt around the hit horror flick ‘Insidious.’ To go with the scary theme, Jessica used plenty of red and black material in her project.

Nathan Janoki said that each student had to first sketch out their design on a piece of paper before turning it into a quilt, likening the process of sewing two pieces of material with batting in the middle to “make a sandwich.”

While working on the project, students were not allowed to receive help from adults. Their quilts had to have three layers—the top, the batting and the bottom—and a special green dragonfly fabric in keeping with Youth Quilt Challenge regulations. They also had to submit a photo showing all four sides of their quilt in order to demonstrate that they had closed off all of the edges. The quilts could be any size.

The class explained that the quilted products ranged from pillows, blankets, t-shirts and, now, reusable shopping bags. The students have even moved on to learn how to use a sewing machine to further their knowledge of needle and thread.

Throughout the process, the students documented the project in a series of journals.

Each member of the class said they hope to carry on with their newfound skills, even after class is out.

“Now we can quilt at home and make gifts for our family and friends,” Rachel Deforge added.

On top of learning through art and math, the kids also learned to write an article which has since been published in The Canadian Quilter.

Ms. Pennie explained that the students decided what needed to go into the article (the who, what, where, when and why) and then broke into groups. Rachel and Mya Otosquaiob were tasked with coming up with a catchy lead to lure the reader in, Connor Phillips with the headline, more with the body of the article, the conclusion as well as the photography, with an entire photo shoot planned by the students themselves.

When the class received the first copy of their published article, they were over the moon. “It was great!” one student enthused. “It was cool,” another added. “It was awesome!” another student shared.

The class is looking forward to the individual copies that The Canadian Quilter will be sending to them before school ends this month.

With some students now considering a career in journalism, they took the opportunity of having a reporter in their room to turn the tables on and, with pencils and notepads at the ready, fired away.

The students were interested in knowing what a day in the life of a reporter at The Expositor is like (never the same day twice, long hours but fun too), the strangest story ever covered (no comment), favourite book (I just remembered, ‘The Thorn Birds’), whether this was a ‘dream job’ (of course!), how many stories have been edited at this writer’s desk (too many to count) and many other great questions.

“I thought this would be an exciting learning opportunity for my students with a real-world application of skills,” Ms. Pennie, Rainbow District School Board’s 2014 William N. Roman Teacher of the Year Award, said of the project in a board press release. “The project allowed students to put literacy and numeracy skills to work on a valuable project that was a lot of fun.”

Margaret Stringer, principal of Assiginack Public School, commended students on their efforts. “Not only did it call on their creativity, it also gave them an opportunity to learn about submission requirements and firm deadlines. While the students did not win the challenge, becoming published authors in a highly respected national magazine was a reward in itself. I am so proud of our students as well as our community partners and teacher Heather Pennie for giving our students this tremendous learning opportunity.”

Before the interview’s end, Rachel thanked Ms. White, her aunt Denise Deforge as well as Northcott fabrics while Greg Mishibinijima thanked the Island Quilters Guild for their role in this almost year-long adventure.

For more information about the Youth Quilt Challenge, and to see pictures of the student submissions, visit: