I recently spent a week in the town known as St. George's. The cozy little community was settled by the English in 1612 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was eager to volunteer at two of the public schools, for two reasons!
St. George's Preparatory School
Being in a small community gave me a bit of motivation. Everyone knows one another, so I could make a connection more easily.
Our innkeeper had a nephew at St. George's Preparatory, which was my first stop. Another big perk, was knowing that Bermudians speak English! That sounded so easy compared to some of my other overseas Quilt Adventures!
That doesn't mean I wasn't nervous as I approached the door to the formal looking school. I'm always a little anxious, not knowing what to expect. And Bermudians are very mannerly. I hoped I wouldn't break any rules!
Mrs. Foggo's Class
There were 22 children in Mrs. Foggo's L-2 class of 6 & 7 year olds. In my photo, they look very serious and orderly as they waited for turns with our activity.
Each child was given a fabric square and they took turns adding their squares, creating a sort of puzzle design. I wish I had photos of when they stood on the quilt, jumping and singing and pointing to the quilt patterns with their feet. And I wish I had photos showing animated expression, like when one little boy talked about the tee-shirt quilt his mother made for him. Or the quizzical look of one child who asked if you could make quilts with other shapes besides squares.
Making a Quilt Song
The kids were surprisingly curious about the quilt. We talked about how the quilt is like a sandwich with a patchwork top, plain bottom and cotton batting in the middle.
Our talk lead to a spontaneous song creation, about making a quilt. "Time to make a quilt now, Oh yeah... Time to make a quilt now, oh yeah..." We had to fit the words to the rhythm, the same way you fit pieces of fabric together. In fact, we ended up using the word fabric instead of cloth or material, to fit our first verse. "First we get some fabric, oh yeah..."
Claire's Smaller Quilt
This colorful piece of patchwork is always a hit with kids. We compared it to the big quilt. "It's smaller!" "It has lots of squares, too!" "It's brighter!" I had them guess which was older of the 2 quilts.
Most were sure that we were sitting on the older one, since it looked so faded. But I told them how my friend Claire made the small quilt 36 years ago, 10 years before I made the big quilt. It didn't take long for one child to determine, "I'll bet you had to wash the big one more. That's why it's so faded."
A Name for the Kids
I told the kids I wanted to add a fabric square to my new quilt, that could represent their group. They picked the material, but we needed to label the back with words to identify their group.
"What shall I call you? Mrs. Foggo's class?" We tried to think of something more clever, but couldn't decide. "Okay," I started, "I'll close my eyes and count to 3. When I open my eyes I'll see you kids and whatever word comes to mind, I will call you! I closed my eyes and counted, expecting to open and see their their gray and white uniforms, like an ink blot. Maybe they would look like a large panda or a spotted flower... But when I opened my eyes I gasped, "Bright eyes!" The kids had quietly crept forward as I counted and all I could see were grinning faces and 40+ big bright eyes! Mrs. Foggo's Bright Eyed Kids!
The group posed for a picture before heading off to lunch. Mrs. Foggo spoke to the kids and I heard their voices in unison, "Thank you, Mrs. Zienty!" What a sweet bunch!
In the afternoon, I headed past the first school, in search of the preschool. I got a little lost and a sweet woman walking down the road escorted me the rest of the way.
A Sleepy School
I knocked on the door of the school, then walked in cautiously. All was dark... it was nap-time! But Mrs. Pitcher greeted me warmly and woke the kids on their cots.
As they lifted their sleepy heads, she invited them to join me on the quilt in the other room. I expected those quiet little nappers to stagger in slowly. But they were quiet and shy for only a short while!
Pets and Games!
I had been told this group was doing a pet theme, so I came with a few pet songs and games. I brought fish, cat and dog Beanie Babies to help us sing a tricky pet song. The props were supposed to help the kids not get mixed up, but I was the one who kept calling the kitty a fishy.
They loved catching my mistakes. Then they shared about their own pets. The few who had no pets, got to decide what their dream pet would be. A soft spoken little girl dreamed of only a stuffed animal. A little boy wished for a horse and another for a mouse! By the time our 45 minutes was up, our little gang was all warmed up, but school was over.
Time to Head Home
Mr. Johnson who had been substitute teaching that day, handed out sweet treats as the kids lined up. He offered me one, as well as a ride back to the hotel in his taxi cab.
As we drove he told me some history of the island as well as his own history with teaching before he retired. He now does a little cab driving as well as sub-teaching in his spare time. As I sat in his immaculate cab I had to grin every other minute, when he waved through the window and greeted a local by name.
What Did I Learn? It was a treat to witness how respectful and gracious the children and teachers are in St. George's. The uniforms in the primary school made me feel like I was in a private school, yet both schools were public. If only I'd worked with the next grade up, I could have had children with blazers and boys in Bermuda shorts and knee socks! But i don't think the good behavior had anything to do with uniforms. The entire week, I felt like I was in a small community where people knew one another and looked out for each other. I felt it in the classroom as well!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.