Greetings, group members! As the holidays approach, I’ve been pulling out my knitting and needlepoint (to enjoy by the fire on my vacation!) and thinking about hobbies. It’s a topic we’ve been discussing here on the History Explorer team recently, as Jenny just used her knitting skills to create a replica sock for our Civil War object cart, a set of hands on materials visitors can use on the museum floor. In this blog post, Jenny shares how she made her sock and gives other ideas for creating their own replicas: http://blog.americanhistory.si.edu/osaycanyousee/2011/11/old-patterns-new-socks-a-diy-story.html
So, we wondered, what hobbies do you have that you’ve used to build your teaching collection (hands on items for the classroom) or to enhance your instruction? How have you built your teaching collection?
National Museum of American History
Well....I'm not so much a hobby person....I have very little creative talent in that area....all thumbs and artwork looks like pre-schoolers had a hand in it.....but.....my mother is an AMAZING seamstress. She has sewn since she was nine years old. About 10 years ago I asked her to make a colonial dress for me to wear each year during our colonial week celebrations. It is designed as a gentry woman's dress and I use it with the colonial middlin' sort dress I purchased at Williamsburg's millinery to compare and contrast. My mom's dress is not authentically constructed, but the look is perfect. I use it as a teaching tool to discuss how clothing may have prohibited or helped women of that time period in peforming daily duties. One day of wearing it each year (it weighs about 20 lbs) is enough to to help me demonstrate why gentry women sat around doing embroidery and fanning themselves!! :-)
Your question reminded me of this interesting 2009 TED talk by two women who started crocheting a coral reef. The full video is about 18 minutes long, but, as she says, the DIY project ties together mathematics, marine biology, environmental activism and "feminine handicraft".
You can skip ahead to 1:35 to see images of the crocheted coral. At 5:30 she talks about hyperbolic geometry, which crochet is peculiarly suited to model. Enjoy!
Harrow, that sounds wonderful! Thanks for reminding everyone, too, of other places to find great replicas; Colonial Williamsburg is a great resource for that. And thanks for mentioning the reef, Christine. It was on display at the National Museum of Natural History next door--truly amazing!
In my Humanities class I frequently ask students to try their hand at the various art forms we are studying in class to gain a deeper appreciation for them. There is typically some resistance from the juniors and seniors who feel like they are too old for arts and crafts, especially from male students. But once they get going, it all melts away and the students often create amazing pieces that they are really proud of.
Here's one of my favorite examples: When we study Persia, they read part of 1001 Arabian Nights and we discuss the role of textiles in Persia, how they are made and how the West came to fall in love with the flying carpet. Then I show them how to tie both Persian and Turkish knots and each student makes a little, mini rug. When we get started, many of them are threading a needle for the first time and are very hesitant to get started. The knots are pretty easy to pick up and soon they are all very focused and working away happily. It takes a single class period to learn the knots and complete a 1 inch by 1 inch "rug" made up of 16 knots. They are then shocked to learn that the real rugs have over 200 knots in that same amount of space. It's a quick lesson, but I love watching them handle these tools for the first time and create a finished product, however small. Frequently students ask if they can take extra yarn home so they can make a larger rug on their own.