Twenty-seven students in grade 6 at Calvin Christian School (CCS) in Hamilton formed a knitting club this past year, and recently they chose to use their knowledge of knitting to make a difference in the lives of others. The participants gathered in the front foyer of McMaster Children’s Hospital last week to donate knitted hats to some of the thousands of babies that are born at the hospital each year.
Starting a knitting club for students has always been something that first-year teacher Rachel DeWeerd has been interested in initiating. “My goal was to teach a small group of students how to knit, because knitting was a passion of mine when I was younger,” she shared. The club, which began in October, was initially offered to her own grade 6 class, but it quickly became bigger than she anticipated as students from other classes asked to join.
“I really like knitting because it relaxes me, and it’s a great skill to have,” expressed Sydney, one of the earlier students to join the club. “I’ve always wanted to learn to knit, just like my grandma. So when I found out that there was a knitting club starting up, I jumped at the opportunity!”
Ally, another club member, agrees that knitting is something that helps her to unwind when school becomes busy. “I also like knitting because when you finish a project, you feel proud of what you have done and made.”
The club meets once a week during lunch recess, and members sit together to knit and share conversation. “The club has taught me a lot about myself, but also about the power of conversation,” Ms. DeWeerd conveyed. “The conversations that students have while sitting together on the carpet at the front of the classroom to knit has opened my eyes to the opinions of such young minds. Although it wasn’t a goal at the beginning, I believe a positive outcome from the club is the knowledge we have learned about one another through the conversations.”
“I love hanging out and talking to the members in the knitting club,” shared Ally. “I find it so fun to laugh with them.”
Sydney agrees. “I love the warm welcoming of fellow knitters in the knitting club. I have gotten to know some people that are in this club while I was just simply knitting, laughing, and talking with them.”
The first few months of the club were spent figuring out what levels the students were at, and working together to learn different stitches and knitting techniques. Some students had never knit before, others had learned finger knitting, and a few had practiced at home before the club began.
“I’m not going to lie—knitting is hard!” admitted Sydney. “But Ms. DeWeerd has done a great job of teaching us things like casting on and off, purling and knitting. I still have troubles with purling—sometimes I purl too loosely and other times too tightly. But, like all other things, the skill comes with time and practice.”
The first project that the students tackled was an infinity scarf, which they finished in February. Soon afterwards, they started discussing what they could do for their next project—and it became evident that they wanted to do something that would be a blessing for others. The group decided on making hats for babies, and they chose to contact McMaster Children’s Hospital because it is located close to their school.
“Being in the knitting club gives you many opportunities to branch out and help others,” explained Ally. “It feels really good to be able to use something we’ve learned to make a difference in the lives of someone else.”
Parents in the community joined in the project by donating the yarn that students would need to make the hats. With the help of Ms. DeWeerd, students learned to use round needles, and also how to make and attach the pom-poms to the top of their completed hats.
Ms. DeWeerd connected with the public relations representative at McMaster Children’s Hospital and was put in contact with Tija Praulins, a Certified Child Life Specialist there. Ms. Praulins is in charge of donations, and she arranged for the students to come to present their knitted hats at the hospital when they were finished.
As the students gathered in the hospital reception area, Ms. Praulins explained to them that approximately 3000 babies are born at McMaster hospital each year, and donated hats are given to nurses on the Labour and Delivery Ward to be distributed to the babies. “When babies are born, it is difficult for them to regulate their own body temperature so wearing hats can really help,” she shared.
Giving hats to newborns has been a tradition that has been carried on since the Women’s Reproductive Health and Newborn Care program was opened at McMaster University Medical Center in 1972. “Some of the students that I spoke to from Calvin Christian School still have the hats that they were given when they were delivered,” Ms. Praulins added. “It goes to show how special they are to parents!”
[caption id=”attachment_13335” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] From left to right: Tija Praulins - Certified Child Life Specialist at MUMC, Ally - CCS student, and Rachel DeWeerd - Grade 6 teacher at CCS.[/caption]
CCS principal Ted Postma admits that when his new teacher started talking about the idea of a knitting club, he was uncertain of what that would look like. But he is thrilled by the amount of students, both boys and girls, that have shown an interest in learning to knit, and that they have discovered a way to use this opportunity to serve others. “Having a chance to learn a knew skill and to use that skill to help those in the community ties in very closely with the mission of CCS,” Mr. Postma affirmed, “that all of God’s children are ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ By taking the finished products to the hospital, the students are simply adding an extra dimension of serving and giving.”
Ms. DeWeerd believes that it is important for her, as a teacher, to show her students that they aren’t just learning for the sake of learning, but that their learning can help others and can spread the work of Christ. “It’s valuable for the students to know that everything they can do for others, whether big or small, can impact those around them,” she said.
Ms. DeWeerd added that it was very exciting to see the impact that her students were making in the community in the first year of having the knitting club. “Being able to give something away that they made to benefit someone else is a life lesson that can only be learned by doing,” she conveyed. “I’m proud of each of them for the amount of time and effort they have put into these hats, with the intention of giving them away and making a difference.”
“It was really exciting to go to the hospital,” Sydney remarked. “But I think the most exciting thing for me is to feel like I’ve done something special for someone. I know that I have the pink baby hat from when I was born, and it’s really special to me and to my parents. I hope that when these babies are grown up, they will also cherish the hats that they received from me.”
Special thanks to Tija Praulins, Certified Child Life Specialist at McMaster University Medical Center, for her contributions.