3rd grade knitting club enters 11th year

In Lifestyle by Reporter News

Westwood-Bales’ third grade Knit-For-Service club is starting its eleventh year.

The club invites third graders to knit; fourth and fifth graders who were in the Club as a third grader are invited back to mentor.  The club has a handful of volunteers from the community who help unknot unruly yarn and teach the young knitters the garner stitch. Group meetings are on Tuesday morning before school in the Westwood-side library.

For  students, the weekly time together allows time to visit and socialize as they sharpen their social skills and seize a vital relationship-building opportunity. They persevere through knitting a product from start to finish, a valuable life skill.  Then, they give their handiwork away and learn to share their time and their talents for a greater good, to help people whom they may never meet, with needs greater than theirs will ever be.

After they successfully knit a bookmark, students will move on to a bigger project-the patch for a blanket or a little cap for a preemie.  Last year the students took a vote about what they wanted to make and whom they wanted to send their handiwork to.

In its infancy, the group was featured on the Houston news twice, on the frontpage of the Houston Chronicle, and in Highlights magazine.  They have also been to Washington DC three times to help in the fight against infant mortality and lobby on Capital Hill to help Save the Children.

There is a page on the school site dedicated to the group’s efforts: http://www.fisdk12.net/wb/character/knitting.html

Students bring their own needles, though scholarship needles are available as needed.The yarn they use has all been donated from the community and beyond its borders by people whose hearts have been touched by their story.

Past projects include their first patchwork afghan, part of  Warm Up, America. It seemed do-able for eight and nine year oldknitters.

Basically,the students would knit 7 “X9” patches that they would bind together to end up with a patchwork afghan. The first club sent out a call for knitters and volunteers, and, that spring, each of their thirty club members learned to knit and made a patch for their first character quilt in patriotic colors.

The students were delighted to present their afghan to Harold, King of the May Day Dance at his retirement home; he was tickled to be the recipient of that labor of love, according to club founding sponsor Barbara Gruener.

The next year they doubled their membership, then doubled it again the following year. About that same time, Save the Children was callingfor knitters around the world to help reduce the infant mortality rate.

So,the group cinched their patches at the top and stitched them down the side to create caps to help out with Save the Children’s ”Caps To TheCapital” Campaign.

Two years later, the knitters partnered with them again and, as a reflection piece,they made a Knit One, Save One video.

“Utilizingan old-fashioned craft instead of new-fangled technology, thisintergenerational service-learning opportunity has generated a synergy ofcaring and compassion that has rippled out to connect our students and our community to others across the world,” Gruener said. The children in Friendswood loved making caps for infants in third world countries to keep their heads warm and give them a chance to survive at such a tiny age.”

Elizabeth, just a third grader was invited to the White House along with Gruener to represent the group who made the caps. She left one of her baby hats with the First Lady’s staff.  When asked in an interview how she felt about her handiwork making it into the hands of the First Lady, she replied, “It was okay, I guess, but I really made that cap for a baby.”

News about the knitting group seemed to make magic happen. After reading about the group in the paper, a man in the community gathered up the supplies that his wife, Anna, left behind when she passed away, and he donated them for theWW-B students  to use.

One man in Illinois saw their story online and twice a year sends the young knitters the yarn that is donated to his church’s garage sales. The group has also donated patchwork baby blankets to the Center for Pregnancy. Knit forService clubs have been started after hearing about this one. California and Canada Clubs have off-shoots.

Gruener is proud to see the club’s direction and what its impact is on children.

“A project with a purpose that has circular momentum; when good goes, it always comes back around. As they knit, students use both sides of their brain,practice their math skills and fine-tune their fine motor coordination. There’s actually some research that suggests that knitting has therapeutic benefits,” Gruener said.

“Their empathy grows with every stitchas they realize that their gift is a life-saving measure to an underweight babyin a third-world country. And the best part may very well be when they come back in fourth and fifth grade as mentors to the novice knitters,” Gruener said.“Caring, simply defined, is thinking with our hearts.  Our knitters are leading by example.”

Sandra Miller is the new main sponsor for the club’s eleventh year. Miller is a speech teacher in FISD.  Gruener is still part of the group whose first meeting was Sept. 24 to begin their eleventh year.

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