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Classroom Superhero Uses Crafts to Engage Students

High school teacher Ranada Young has found an unorthodox way to connect with her struggling students—she teaches them to knit.


By Staci Maiers

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean smart boards, computers, or the latest tech gadgets. It can be as basic as needle and yarn, along with a desire to weave success into students’ academic lives.

Many of the students attending Roberts High School have been expelled from the district’s traditional schools, often for behavior issues.  They find an academic home and a welcoming attitude at Roberts, an alternative school in the Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon.

One teacher with a mean cable stitch found a somewhat unorthodox way to connect with her students—she teaches them to knit.

“We had students who were a little more difficult behaviorally,” says Ranada Young, an English language development specialist who teaches English Language Learners. “I sometimes have a hard time staying focused, and since knitting has always helped me, I thought maybe it could help my students, too.”

So Young volunteered to pilot a knitting program. Pooling donations from other teachers and calling in favors from her family and friends, Young was able to build a treasure trove of yarn, hooks, looms, and needles for students.

Young was surprised at how appealing knitting was to her students—even the boys. “You can watch their brains calm down, and it’s been a huge transformation.”

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It’s that out-of-the-box approach to education that has helped students soar at Roberts. As a result of this creative idea, behavior incidents in Young’s class have dropped sharply, and her students started paying attention in class. For some students, test scores were even going up.

The knitting program became so popular that hats, scarves, mittens, and other knitwear started piling up. So the group decided to donate their handiwork to a teenage pregnancy program and a local homeless shelter.  

Alonso Correa, a sophomore at Roberts, agreed that the knitting program has had a positive impact on his academic studies.

“I felt pretty good because I finished making hats for the babies and my family,” says Correa. “I had never made them anything before.  It makes me want to do more.”




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