This fall, a co-worker and I read, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires to a classroom of second graders. It is a wonderful book about a little girl who has a passion to create the most magnificent thing but along the way she fails over and over, gets upset and wants to quit. However, with the help from a great furry friend, she perseveres and creates the most magnificent thing. It's a fantastic way to start a conversation with students about the creative process and being resilient.
Around the same time we read the book, I announced to my co-worker, also a friend and knitter, that I was going to start knitting again. I looked through some books, found a pattern, bought some yarn, and got started on a garter stitch scarf. With my friend just a phone call away, I was able to ask questions when needed and completed the scarf in a few days.
I enjoyed making the garter stitch scarf but I knew I was ready for a more difficult pattern. My wonderful friend and co-worker gave me a knitting kit for the holidays. The kit included a new pattern, expensive yarn, and needles. It was a perfect project but I knew I had some learning to do before I started this project.
I started a practice scarf and I was horrified by my efforts. It was a hot mess. I mean...look at it! But then I remembered it was a practice scarf. The purpose was to learn and I knew I had so much learning to do.
First and foremost, I needed practice working with the new needles. The needles were quite large. You can see at the bottom of this scarf where I was learning how to garter stitch with size 15 wood needles.
After I worked with the needles a little bit, I was ready to try the new stitch, the stockinette stitch. I went straight to Youtube and watched a handful of stockinette stitch tutorials. When I was ready, I tried the new stitch and went back to the tutorials when I needed help with a step. After some success, I took a break. You can see when I picked the practice scarf up a little later in the evening that I started on the wrong side. I was so frustrated with myself but I just kept knitting. As I continued, I noticed the sides of the scarf were curling. I didn't like that look at all and wondered if there is a way to try and stop the curling. So, I got myself back on Youtube and researched a little more about the stockinette stitch and how to stop the ends from curling.
I learned that you can create a border on your scarf that will stop the yarn from curling. So, for the last part of my project, I tried a slip stitch on the end of each row. It's far from perfect but there was a feeling of success.
It was at that moment that I saw my practice scarf as a beautiful visual of all my new learning. No more was it a hot mess but instead it was a summary of all the learning I had made along the way. I still saw all the flaws but I also saw improvement and little bits of success. This project did just what it was supposed to do and I knew I was ready to start my new scarf project.
Just like the little girl in "The Most Magnificent Thing" by Ashley Spires, I reflected on everything I had learned along the way, and with a little courage, I started my project. I had no intentions of finishing the scarf in one sitting but I couldn't stop myself.
Hours later, I had created my magnificent thing.
I can't help but think about my students when I complete these types of projects at home. I want my students to experience this creative process in school because I think it helps each student learn more about themselves as a learner and gives them a chance to find their interests and passions. I also want my students to be resilient. Mistakes are feedback if we let them be. We don't like making mistakes but we can always learn from them and when we do, we move forward. This is why a co-worker and I started a genius hour in her second grade classroom.
For this project, I researched books, Youtube and I had an expert at my fingertips. I also had time to learn, relearn and practice before I attempted a final product and it was all self-paced and planned by me. Reflection was, of course, a huge part of the whole creative process as well.
I plan to share my practice scarf with my students. I want them to see that I struggle, fall, and get back up again too. Learning needs to look more and more like this in the classroom. I've grown as an educator and I have changed my thinking and instruction for the better. Still, it is my hope that the more I experiment with genius hour, the more I will continue to find ways to better the learning experience for my students.