Link to this article on the American Tapestry Alliance Website
Teaching Tapestry in the Elementary Grades
By Lynda Brothers, Los Angeles, CA, USA
I have been teaching tapestry to adults for almost 50 years, both in the United States and in South Africa, where I lived for seven years. Teaching children in grades K-8 in a school environment has been a very different, enjoyable, and rewarding challenge. I have found there are age specific projects within the school curriculum that enhance the learning experience and enthusiasm for tapestry.
In 1994 I was approached by an adult tapestry student of mine, a principal of a Los Angeles public elementary school, to see if I might be interested in teaching weaving and possibly tapestry to her classes, K-5. Before that time I had only taught weaving as a volunteer in my own young son’s 2nd grade class. It was quite a daunting task as I would be mostly alone with 20 to 25 students for 45-50 minute classes throughout the day, moving from grade to grade. After the first year of trial and error with class management and age appropriate learning possibilities, I was approached by a parent association of another school who had heard about my classes and wanted me to teach at their school as well. Since then I have taught weaving and tapestry during the school year and at summer camps that were privately organized or in public schools or art centers. The students include kindergarten age through high school children, as well as adults (including teacher training classes). I have also been the all-around art teacher in those schools, camps, and art centers.
There are several talking points to encourage administrations to include weaving and tapestry:
- include the program within the art classes;
- include hands-on weaving and tapestry within the cultural and history scholastic classes;
- include tapestry with math and computer classes;
- integrate all classes through a weaving and tapestry unit;
- the program helps to promote focus, patience, and perseverance;
- the program is beneficial for students with special needs;
- the program has a small material cost.
In the school system I start the K-2 grades with a basic notched cardboard loom. Weaving is done with a 6” plastic needle using various yarns, metallic fibers, and textured materials, including found natural elements such as thin bamboo sticks, bark from trees, other plant forms, large feathers (Peacock eyes are great sticking out of the selvedge edge!), leather strips, fabric strips, paper strips with words, and anything else that adds texture and color. I also bring in examples of different fibers, e.g. cotton plants, samples of many different animal fibers, silk and silk worms, etc. and explain where they come from. When I am sure that students understand what they are doing, the looms stay in the classrooms. Teachers find it beneficial to allow students who are finished with other work to reward them with free time on the looms. I usually display the students’ final weavings on the cardboard looms, so they are stretched and somewhat framed by the background of the loom itself, which is sometimes decorated as well in art class.