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Fraser Woods Montessori Students Craft 'Pouches For Australia’



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As three Fraser Woods Montessori School students huddled near a sewing machine on January 24, other students used chalk to outline patterns. Soon “Pouches for Australia” will ship from the school to help volunteers feed motherless baby marsupials saved from that country’s ongoing bush fires.

Fraser Woods Montessori School Director of Technology and makerspace teacher Danielle Ulacco and art teacher Jennifer Reid oversee the STEAM course together, and they shared that their STEAM students complete many projects that center around empathy for themselves and others.

Ms Ulacco said they came across a news article in January that explained the Animal Rescue Craft Guild was looking for volunteers to sew pouches for orphaned baby marsupials, like kangaroos and koalas, in Australia. The teachers then shared information about the Australian fires and impact on animals with their eighth grade students. When the students learned about the devastation and how crafters were being asked to provide pouches, they wanted to help.

One student, Ms Ulacco said, told her, “We want to show them kindness from halfway around the world.”

While Ms Ulacco and Ms Reid said the pouches are less in demand now, the school has continued working hard to help provide different sizes of pouches for volunteers addressing the orphaned animal issue in Australia. The many pouches created at the school will first be shipped to Maine before eventually being distributed where they are most needed in Australia. The pouches help replicate the feeling of “mom” when the joeys are being fed, according to Ms Ulacco.

Before students could begin making the pouches, Ms Reid said they first had to learn how to stitch a French seam. Exterior and interior pouches were needed for the effort, and it was important that the interior pouches had no exposed seams that could be caught by claws. While sewing is part of the school’s makerspace classes, the French seam, which does not have a raw exposed edge, was new to the students.

Ms Reid said each exterior pouch needed multiple interior pouches that could be cleaned if the animals make them dirty. The interior pouches also needed to be made from 100 percent cotton. Chintz-N-Prints in Newtown helped the effort by donating over one dozen yards of the necessary fabric for the interior pouches.

Ms Ulacco said the eighth grade students also decided to open the project up so other grade levels at the school could participate. Some students brought fabric from home to create the exterior pouches, and other fabric came from the school’s makerspace stores. Students in first to eighth grade contributed to the school’s “Pouches for Australia” campaign.

“They knew each pouch had to be strong and safe,” said Ms Ulacco.

Ms Reid explained some students became extremely focused on the effort, and she enjoyed watching the students collaborate to play off each other’s strengths.

Watching the students become passionate about something and what they can do was one of Ms Ulacco’s favorite parts of the effort.

One eighth grader, Zach Cecere, created a video tutorial so “it would be easy for anybody to make” pouches in the future, he said. Zach added that he feels the project was “very important,” as it brought everyone together for a common goal.

The completed pouches are expected to be distributed from the school during the week of February 3.

Ms Ulacco and Ms Reid are now planning to make “Global Giving” part of the school’s annual STEAM curriculum.

Fraser Woods Montessori School eighth grader Rania Parikh sews an interior pouch on January 24, for the school’s “Pouches for Australia” effort, while Ashley Kessler, center, and Sankalp Ojha work next to her. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
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