Teaching Felt in Schools

Over the course of the last year, I’ve taught students of various ages how to make felt. The ages, schools and formats varied: private and public school; artist in residence, after school program and volunteer; preschool through 6th grade. We have worked with prefelt to create flat felt in ziploc bags, jellyroll beads, juggling balls, nests over bowls, needlefelt birds and much more.

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The students never cease to amaze me. It goes without saying that I learn something in every classroom. I am energized and yet floored by the experience. It is difficult to imagine the amount of energy a teacher expends in a day to thoughtfully engage, redirect and challenge the students.

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I have few photos of my class projects mostly because I’m too busy teaching to document our work, but also because of student privacy. It is not possible to obtain permission from parents in advance of working with students; as an outsider coming into a school this would be an unwieldy task.  Then there is the fact that students change their minds constantly. One day, my son doesn’t want me to photograph him under any circumstances and the next he is posing, begging for a picture.

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What doesn’t change is the enthusiasm with which the students dig into the process. Some are squeamish about the olive oil soap slurry and some would prefer not to get their hands too wet, but they all love to touch the mounds and piles of roving. They love to handle the different samples of wool locks I bring in a basket and they all love to hear the story Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep by Teri Sloat. There are plenty of moments when students squeal “look at what I made!”. When parents volunteer in the workshops, I hear the same comment over and over: “I had no idea that’s how felt was made”. For that alone, I jump at every opportunity that comes my way.

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