HALIFAX -- Using recycled material, students made a quilt that will adorn a wall where they will not miss it upon entering the school. As they go down the first staircase, the quilt will remind them of their own input to the project.
"There were folks who wanted to know who Halifax is and what Halifax is all about. We talked about how we're this small, rural school, where we do a lot with a little whether that is with teaching or the variety of learning we do," said Halifax School Principal Sandy Pentak. "That's where the idea for using recyclables came from."
Plastic bottles from home and school were used to make the quilt. Each student made a square and painted their own bottles, which were cut apart then woven together.
Local artist Linda Whelihan had experience with using such materials. She had launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for a project that taught women in Kenya how to make products by weaving together plastic bags. That project was meant to draw attention to the problem of plastic bag pollution, which was a particular concern in Kenya, where cows were dying because of it.
Halifax students spent four days with Whelihan throughout May, making the quilt while learning more about how to make art and handicrafts.
"She was a wonderful addition to our faculty," said Pentak. "It was a lot of fun having her step in. We had a taste of the world around us and I think we got to create this unique quilt that really does represent how the student body is tied together and how they become one."
Approximately 50 students attend the school. They range from kindergartners to 8th graders.
For Pentak, the permanent nature of the quilt and how students were proud to know it would still be there when they left had reminded her how meaningful and powerful a project of this kind could be.
"I think I had forgotten that until I had this experience again. I think they get to leave a piece of themselves behind," she said.
The project was able to be funded due to a last minute increase in the school budget at Town Meeting 2013, which would affect this current fiscal year. The extra funding was requested by a parent so the school could expand science and art programming.
Pentak told the Reformer that Rashelle Ackerman, a parent involved in art and theater at the school, had done all the "leg work." She discussed the opportunity to host a visiting artist with the rest of the staff and developed a list of possible artists before Whelihan ultimately was selected.
In addition to the quilt, Whelihan had children bring in cracker and cereal boxes that were used to make notepads. Students also made toy bugs out of bottle caps while others made bracelets with leftover materials.
Seventh and eighth graders made sculptures with glitter inside plastic bottles, which were similar to snow globes. According to Pentak, the younger children enjoy playing with the sculptures when they need some time out to relax.
This being her first year serving as principal, Pentak hopes to raise more funds to support similar activities in the future.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.