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John Jay Crochet Club Has Children In Need Covered

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In a small classroom, students are spread out across tables and in groups on the floor. Some are laughing and joking quietly, others are standing next to computers with their teachers, who point at the monitor and explain. Others have their brows knitted in concentration, peering down into their laps. And everywhere you look, you see evidence of work in progress.

Balls of bright colored yarn. Crochet hooks. Small, carefully built squares that will eventually become larger. And a bag that features the proud result of the students’ time and efforts – completed blankets, ready to be donated.

Welcome to Wednesday afternoon at the Crochet Club at John Jay Elementary.

The crochet club was started by John Jay teachers Laura Castro and Karina Chitman to share their own passion for knitting and crocheting, and to provide the fifth grade students the opportunity to learn it before middle school. Originally, the teachers had planned on just teaching the basics. However, since the students were catching on fast, they decided it might be a great opportunity for a service learning project.

Both teachers and the fifth grade students began researching various causes they could assist, and eventually they decided to donate their handiwork to Project Linus, a not-for-profit organization that donates homemade blankets to children in need in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, and other locations. All blankets are new, handmade, and washable, and are donated to seriously ill and traumatized children aged 0-18. The students quickly embraced their role as “blanketeers,” as Project Linus volunteers are called, and had a school-wide fundraiser to raise money for the yarn and crochet hooks. They collected over $170 for materials.

Students meet once a week to participate in the club, with some children coming only when they need help and others coming to help other students. Some students have already finished more than one blanket and have also learned to make scarves and hats.

Castro said learning to crochet can help teach her students perseverance and patience. “Learning to crochet can be a cool skill to learn, but it can also be something that allows you to create and give,” Castro said. “By learning to make a blanket and dedicating many hours of time on a blanket they won’t even keep, I hope my students learn that there is joy in creation. Part of the joy comes from knowing your creation will bring joy to someone else.”

The teachers also point out that crochet is a skill that the students can use throughout their lives and continue to grow on their own as they choose, both as a relaxing exercise and for gift-giving opportunities.

On June 8, a representative from Project Linus will come to John Jay to receive the finished blankets during a small ceremony, and students who have completed a blanket will receive a certificate.

Both Castro and Chitman said they are very proud of the students. “It’s difficult to learn, and they’ve only had one chance a week to receive support in the club – but they’ve persevered,” Castro said. “They’ve overcome the difficulties, frustrations and obstacles that come from learning any new skill and, instead of making something for themselves first, they’re creating something for kids in crisis.”

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