A longtime “Star Wars” fan, Altimira Middle School English teacher Bridget Paul had been planning a class project in which her students would use their critical thinking skills to design and sew a Jedi robe.
Eric Jackson, the new creative programs manager at the Sonoma Community Center, offered to host the students and provide them with everything they needed to make their projects a reality.
Jackson has been tasked with coming up with new and creative ways to get more people into the Community Center art studios. To that end, six months ago, he launched the weekly Fiber Arts Studio “happy hour” on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The Community Center provides the fabric, cloth, yarn, tools and sewing machines, Jackson said, as well as light refreshments. And he is usually on site to help facilitate.
“There are also a core group of attendees who show up every week who share their expertise,” Jackson said. “Over time, we’ve attracted a fun group who bring their projects and socialize while they work.”
Last month, Bridget Paul stopped by the happy hour because she was interested in learning how to knit.
“After an hour, she was hooked,” said Jackson, and the two got talking about how the Community Center could share its resources with Sonoma classrooms and, in particular, Paul’s seventh grade students.
“They must problem solve, struggle and put together their best efforts to complete a Jedi robe,” she said. “There are three main writing pieces that go with it, a presentation and a pair of outings where we will showcase our robes.”
Each of her students has a “Star Wars” character identity and their robe will reflect that character. No experience is necessary and they can choose to use fabric glue, with or without patterns, or sewing machines.
“It is their special project to first design and then make a three–dimensional robe,” she said. “I believe that art and creativity is not used enough in schools. We’ll talk and write a lot about failure during this process and even celebrate the mistakes made in order to learn.”
Paul doesn’t want students to be afraid to make mistakes and, in fact, will not grade their final product.
Paul admitted that she herself doesn’t know much about sewing.
“But I love the idea that my students can learn sewing in their English class,” Paul said. She describes herself as both “excited and grateful” about the connection with the Community Center.
“Another goal of the project is to show students how many wonderful activities and classes are available to them at the community center,” she added.
“My goal is to get the community into the Community Center,” Jackson said. “We have so much to offer here.”
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Happy hour in the Fiber Arts Studio
When: Every Wednesday, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Where: Sonoma Community Center, Room 201
Ages: Open to all