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Supporting Our Soldiers and Inspiring Creativity

Students tell the story of history, sacrifice through an American quilt

By Cynthia McCabe

NEA member Lisa Fricke woke in the middle of the night a few years ago with an idea: She would have her students create something that would honor American freedoms won by the country’s soldiers. (Fricke admits to doing some of her best thinking in the middle of the night at that time thanks to a bout of insomnia.) She quickly settled on the idea of a quilt—something the language arts teacher had tackled in her first year of teaching when she had students depict parts of speech on cloth.

Fricke, an eighth-grade teacher at Lexington Middle School in Lexington, Nebraska, asked students in every homeroom at the school to select a freedom that they could depict on a quilt block--freedoms won thanks to the service of American military personnel.

It was a personal cause for Fricke, whose daughter, son-in-law, father, and uncle all served in the military. “If it weren’t for our soldiers supporting our country we wouldn’t have those freedoms,” she says.

The completed quilt will be on display at a military museum in Lexington, Nebraska.

Using the quilt project introduction in a manner similar to a writing prompt, Fricke encouraged her students to consider the freedoms granted by the Constitution. That led “to some pretty good discussions,” she says. Within weeks, the quilt blocks from homerooms around the school building began piling up in her homeroom.

But that’s when Fricke realized she had a little problem: she couldn’t sew. “’What was I thinking?’” Fricke recalls thinking. A contingent of fellow staff members and members of a local quilting guild who could in fact sew banded together to create the quilt from the students’ contributions. Grant money from a local foundation paid for the students’ art supplies and teachers chipped in for quilting supplies.

(It strikes Fricke that Lexington Middle School’s students worked on the quilt during homeroom because there simply isn’t time for such projects during class, due to test preparation and core curriculum mandates—something she laments.)

After stints on display at a local Nebraska museum and a Dallas/Ft. Worth military museum, the Freedom Quilt headed to NEA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. this summer. It heads next to the Lexington Military Museum where it will be on permanent display.

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