Last spring Rebecca participated in a local contest sponsored by a reuse sewing shop to create something out of recycled materials. The creation had to include denim. What started as a creative endeavor grew into an opportunity for many new authentic experiences.
The Original Design Project
The original project, called Denim Plus, required participants to refashion old denim into something new. Rebecca took the challenge head on and came up with a dress which was nearly entirely made from reused or recycled materials.
- Eco-Fashion Design Project – This is the story behind the making of the dress. There are layers upon layers of tulle in a skirt attached to a denim bodice. Cyndi Lauper would have paid for this garment!
- Eco-Fashion Runway Show – The story of how the designer got to be a model in the fashion show which featured the finished pieces from the Denim Plus contest along with the results of the contest. The show featured how to have a nominal number of clothing items in your closet to pair and wear over and over. The emphasis was on less is better and letting go of “throw away” fashion we’ve all become accustomed to.
The Invitation to a Curated Exhibit
At the end of the runway show, the director of the show told us that a local gallery curator was interested in having her dress for an upcoming show last summer. We worked with the curator to prepare the curated display of Rebecca’s dress.
- The show was called, The Common Thread: To Sew or Not to Sew, and was a collection of garments and fabrics which highlight change in the fashion industry.
- Rebecca’s dress was chosen to represent the reuse and refashion of many materials into one garment.
- The show was all about change in the fashion world, moving from one-at-a-time garments made with scissors, needles and thread, to unlimited quantities produced by industries that cut with laser beams and held together with seamless seams.
- The question for us is: do they have anything in common?
- Rebecca brought the dress in and helped to set up her exhibit.
- Her dress was in a great spot between the adult & children’s sections of the library within the gallery and had great traffic potential!
- The documentation she provided for the fashion contest was included in the exhibit.
- She was the youngest exhibitor, chosen to be among well known local designers and Cornell Fiber Science & Apparel Design students.
Going More In Depth with Project Based Learning
Lots of homeschoolers talk about project based learning, but what does it really mean? To me, it means involving our students in authentic learning experiences that go beyond traditional schooling activities. Part of this is moving past the superficial parts of learning a topic or skill and going to the next layer and the next so that a student uncovers new meaning and applies new knowledge in a meaningful way. What does that look like?
- Share Work with Others– Find ways for your student to engage others with his or her work. It could be as simple as showing off for neighbors and friends to setting up a community gathering.
- Help Your Student to Set Goals– The project belongs to the student. The best ones have the student in the driver’s seat on the leading edge of where to go next.
- Make Plans– Have your student make plans to reach his or her goals.
- Compile Resources– Can your student identify what he or she will need to meet these goals?
- Make Decisions– Along the way there will be decisions to make. Help your student to get past any bumps in the road while leaving them to be the one in charge on the project.
- Take Time to Discuss the Work– Find out how it’s going. Check in on progress. If something seems stalled remind your student of his goals.
- Make Time for Project Work– This is essential to being successful. Often as our children get older, we think their time is better spent doing more traditional academic work. Fight the urge to regard project time as less important! Large amount of uninterrupted time for doing project work is necessary for going deeper into projects.
High School Credit with Project Based Learning
As our homeschooled students approach high school many of us who have always done unit studies & other, more relaxed forms of learning begin to think it’s time to “get serious” about academic work and we believe that “nose to the grindstone” is more appropriate. How can a student obtain high school credit for project based learning? I think this topic deserves a whole post, but here are a few thoughts for now.
- Determine the Course– Based on your student’s area of interest.
- Discuss Goals– Meet with your student and talk about the skills & concepts they would like to cover during the class.
- Remember Skills & Concepts– Which will be necessary to learn in order to achieve the goal. Make a list of the areas your student will need to cover.
- Consider Resources– What resources do you have available to begin working toward the goals the student has set for himself?
- Start Making Plans– Where does the student want to start?
- Time– Once again, large quantities of time to explore are best for moving toward an authentic & independent learning experience.
- Record Keeping– Students will want to keep track of goals met and different avenues traveled based on decisions made. Remember that a 1 credit high school course is roughly three hours of work per week.
Lessons Learned with the Eco-Fashion Project
In the end, what lessons did Rebecca learn doing the Eco-Fashion Project? The dress took her about 8 weeks from just a thought in her head all the way to the finished dress (considering she did work on other school work during this time). The process was invaluable.
- Design Work– Especially design for the human form rather than a doll
- Construction– Sewing new fabrics together like denim with tulle. She had to push through some obstacles to complete her vision.
- Sharing– Through the contest judging, the fashion show, and the curated exhibit. Sharing also happened in mentoring moments when she needed to discuss her work along the way.
- New Experiences– Like fashion show culture & being an artist featured in an exhibit
- Preparing Work for Exhibition– It’s not always about what you like or who you make the garment for. There are other factors and criteria. This was true for both the contest and exhibit.
- Exhibition– When the time came for the opening night of the gallery, she was on hand to talk with visitors and answer questions about her work.
One of the things Rebecca enjoyed the most about the curated exhibit at the library was the chance to talk with others about her work. They were interested in hearing about her design and the process. She spoke with an art reviewer (see review here) from the local paper for about 20 minutes and she loved every minute of talking with another artist and learning about his work.
As a homeschool teacher, this project took a lot of her time but it was worth every moment to see her solve problems on her own and come up with a design that was whimsical and met all the requirements. Rebecca loved the chance to have her work displayed alongside well known local designers and Cornell Fiber Science & Apparel Design students. Would she do it again? Absolutely! This project experience was a win in every way!