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Lessons in math and life

Some Thomson junior high students got a warm, fuzzy feeling while doing their math. And they're sharing that feeling with cancer patients.

Eighth-graders designed paper quilt squares using congruent pairs of right triangles cut from various sized squares. The math lesson was learned, and many others followed -- lessons of meaningful purpose, collaborative relationships, kindness and generosity.

As a result, 35 real quilts will be donated to the children's oncology floor at the Medical College of Georgia.

"I think they're pretty," eighth-grader Tierra Collins said. "And it's good to help the sick children."

Math coach Sonya Strong came up with the idea, which was inspired by retired teacher "Mrs. Nicholson" who made a quilt for Mrs. Strong's young daughter, Sky, when she was going through radiation treatments for brain cancer several years ago.

"This quilt is still very special to Sky today," Mrs. Strong said. "She still asks for it and uses it."

Mrs. Strong and history teacher Vicki Nicholson co-wrote a grant application for funds to make the quilts. The project was then approved by the McDuffie County Board of Education.

Making shapes and collages from cuts of colored paper is something teachers are accustomed to. Transferring them to cloth and running them through a sewing machine was unfamiliar territory.

Assistant Principal Neal Tam went to work and found some quilters called the "Busy Bees" at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Harlem.

"We are so grateful to Mr. Tam. Without his assistance and diligence, we would not have ever known about the Busy Bees," Mrs. Strong said.

Busy Bees Chris Miller, Janeth Hitt, Jana Kennedy and Roberta Harris made child-sized quilts, using the students' paper quilt squares as the patterns. The ladies brought several of the finished quilts to the school last week.

"When the Busy Bees brought the quilts in, the kids gave them a standing ovation," Mrs. Strong said. "The quilts exceeded anything we imagined."

Not only was the project used to teach math concepts, but it was incorporated into history class where the students were learning about slavery in America -- quilts were used as maps for escapes to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

"To help these kids understand the Georgia Performance Standards while building character is so special," Mrs. Strong said. "It was all inspired by Mrs. Nicholson. She is very much missed here (at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School)."


Web posted on Thursday, April 08, 2010

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