Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Memories and Malaguzzi Monday: Gramma Mickey's Chair Pockets

This week, my post is about some wonderful memories of my grandmother and some handmade items she helped me to design and make for my classroom way back when I was a first year teacher.
Sorry, no true Montessori tie-ins for this week, although if you use Montessori in your homeschools or small in-home programs and you are looking for an idea to help you to store materials in a small space, hopefully, you will enjoy this post.
There is a Malaguzzi tie-in, though, so if you are wondering more about Reggio Emilia and Malaguzzi, please continue reading...
If you like to sew, then this could be the perfect project for you, as I never got a patent for these...but if you would ever make some like what I made with my grandmother, I would love to see how yours turn out and if you would be so kind as to give a nice shout out to Gramma Mickey and to me, that would be all that I would want.


My maternal grandmother, affectionately referred to by all of her grandchildren as "Gramma Mickey", was a wonderful knitter, seamstress (way, way back before those who like to sew became known as sewists...since she was old school, I will say seamstress), and all around artsy-crafts-y sort of grandma.
Over the years, she made many wonderful things...from mittens attached with strings so we wouldn't lose them in the snow to purses that converted into doll beds made out of Ivory dish soap bottles...from cool ceramic roosters to water color paintings of the different seasons.
She was a very versatile artisan and generally, a fun grandma.

Am pretty sure that if Gramma Mickey and Loris Malaguzzi would have ever been in the same room, they would have had many ideas to discuss and share, as two of the metaphors commonly associated with Malaguzzi and his philosophy of early childhood would have resonated to a degree with my grandmother, namely:
 ...the educative process as the tossing of a ball back and forth between child and teacher, an exchange in which both players are equal and in which they cooperate equally in the play and development of ideas. *
and
...teacher and child embarking together on a journey downriver, rather than standing on opposite banks watching the river flow.*
 * To read more about Loris Malaguzzi, please visit this link where I found these Malaguzzi metaphors...


During my first school year, I came home for Christmas from where I was teaching in Virginia to my family's home in Pennsylvania. 
My grandmother lived in the same hometown as my family, so we spent much of our time together over my break.
Told my grandmother how I wanted to have some pockets to go over the backs of my classroom chairs like the teacher next to me had, only instead of just having cute pockets that would be for decorative purposes to make the room look more neat with matching colored seats, I wanted mine to be functional.
Wanted to somehow integrate the idea of a pencil pouch into the chair pocket.
So, Gramma Mickey asked me what sorts of materials I was envisioning that could go in these pockets and said that ideally, would like a space for glue, child sized scissors, markers, colored pencils, crayons, and a journal. 
Also said that it would be nice to be able to have a little space to place a tiny mouse, as I used little mice as gentle reminders to the children that they needed to work quietly "like a little mouse".
Some of Our "Work Quietly as a Little Mouse" Mice
So, we began to come up with a design for my chair pockets. 
Mind you, we did not have much time, as I was only home for a couple of weeks over break...
Plus, my grandmother was in her eighties, had advanced rheumatoid arthritis, and had cataracts...
In addition, I wasn't 100% certain as to the measurements of the child sized chairs in my classroom...It was all by what I could tell my grandmother by comparison...
Went something like "Well, the chairs are wide enough for a small child, but not wide enough for an adult to sit on them comfortably, maybe as wide as a book bag, as I have seen kids rest their book bags on the chairs."
Despite these challenges, we plodded through and within a few days, I had some fabulous chair pockets to take back to Virginia with me at the end of my break.
First, she asked me about the material that the teacher next to me had used for her chair pockets. Jenny, the teacher next to me, had used lightweight, bright cotton and although they really made her room look cute and inviting, they were not holding up all that well and she had to make replacements often. 
My grandmother suggested that we use something that would be both durable and stain resistant, plus that would feel soft against a child's hands and backs, as they were to make the seats more comfortable for the children, too.
We came up with the idea of using heavy denim. 
Together, we went out and got the heaviest, most durable bolts of denim we could find.
Then, my grandmother asked me to get the approximate dimensions of each type of box that would need to fit in the chair pockets. She did not need the actual measurement in inches, but rather, we went and got the actual boxes and then, just eyeballed each one to make sure that everything would fit.
Gramma Mickey whipped up a paper template for the chair pockets using pages of her Sunday newspaper. 
Then, we got right to work. 
Her design was awesome and efficient, as part of the beauty of the chair pocket design was its simplicity...
We folded out big pieces of denim, then, flipped part of the denim piece back on itself.
The piece that flipped back on itself created a nice, big pocket that was perfect to hold a folder and journal. There was even ample room in this pocket to hold a show and tell item, which was a bonus...
Onto the one pocket piece, she then affixed the pouch piece that held the smaller supplies on the outside. 
And voila! 
Nice looking, but also very practical and durable chair pockets!

How long have these lasted? 
Well, let's just say a very long time...nearly twenty years and counting!!!
They have been used by a countless number of my students, as well as my sons and their friends when they come to our home. 
The little "please work quietly" mice have also held up equally as well...


This week, I am starting to do a Reggio Emilia inspired book study where we will read a lovely book called The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings by Ann Pelo. 
Here is a link to this wonderful book.
This is such a cool book. It goes over how to set up a studio, as well as how to explore texture, color, and 3D media with children. It also highlights how to do representational drawing and painting with children. Having a child do a self portrait is a powerful learning tool, as it gets them to examine themselves and to share how they view themselves.
The book also discusses how a "Culture of Inquiry" grows through art, as well as how to use art media to "grow long-term investigations."
Just love when art is used as a tool for higher order thinking in young children, so this book and its concepts are right up my alley, as it is something we already strive for here at Sunrise Learning Lab.



Different people from our book study group have been toying with the idea of how to set up a studio in a small space and that is what made me reflect upon my chair pockets. 
Ideally, in a very large space where you have ample space to store art materials or school supplies communally, it could work well to store them together in bins or baskets like you do either in a traditional art class or a Montessori classroom. 
In an art room, typically you would have the room to have big bins filled with paint brushes, watercolors, pastels, crayons, and glue.  
In a Montessori 3-6 room, typically you would have a shelf dedicated to nice little pencil holders for all of your colored pencils, as well as your metal insets and paper.
However, when you are in a smaller setting where you only have a few students and maybe your work space has to also double for your dinner table, or your play room seating, then these chair pockets can really be a wonderful solution for you and your family. If you have a small in-home educational program of some sort, or if you do art camps or Scouts out of your home, these would be great for you as well...

This week, we are going to do a Lego Summer Camp.
Little Bro's Lego Doggie, Made with a Little Help from Dear Daddy

Big Bro's Lego Star Wars Ship
Little Bro's Lego Ostrich and Trainer
The chair pockets are once again proving to be invaluable, as all of their little Lego creations fit nicely into the chair pockets, too. The pockets have proven to be versatile over the years, as I have used them when doing writers' workshops, art camps, as well as for their originally intended use in the classroom.
Although the rest of our neighbors who attend public school started back to school today, we are not officially starting until after Labor Day weekend. 
We are having a much later start because of a few different reasons, namely:
  • Want to have more time to get into The Language of Art and really have time to reflect upon how doing more of a studio approach this year is going to impact our day-to-day...
  • Want to have time to have Big Bro and Little Bro transition from our current routine into our new one...we are still going to do the Montessori inspired work period in the morning, but this year, the day will extend much longer into the afternoon. Our afternoons will be more of a mix than last year, as we are doing co-op classes with a couple different co-ops, plus, we are adding in studio days and lab days, so it is more varied and longer in length than last year's schedule. 
  • Want to have time so that if we feel like adding an end of summer road trip into the mix, we will be able to do that as well, whether it ends up being a day trip or a few days...
So, not much to share related to Montessori this week, as it is more of a summer camp week.
But, if your family likes all things Lego, please pop by later in the week, as I will have some nice Lego pdfs to share.
Happy Monday!
 This post is linked to Making Memories Monday Links at Adventures in McQuill-land.

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8 comments:

Jennifer said...

I LOVE the chair pockets. I have been wanting to sew something similar for the boys' chairs. I was looking at heavy-duty felt, but denim is a great idea.

Ryan is at LEGO camp this week, too, but not at home - it's at the library in my parents' town. This is his third year attending. Connor can't wait until next year when he's old enough to attend!

Thanks for linking up to Making Memories Monday. What did you think of the thumbnail linky?

The Sunshine Crew said...

I liked the thumbnail linky. Makes it nice, as I am a visual person and like to look at the thumbnails.
Hope that you are having fun and that your son is having a ball at his Lego camp, too:)

Discovering Montessori said...

You have a very talented Grandmother. Can't wait to read about your lab days.

Mommy Moment said...

The lego pdf's will be cool to see! Good thing you posted about the chair pockets! They are even better to see in person :)

Talk to you soon!
Jody

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littlewondersdays said...

The chair covers are great. What a special memory to have and to still have the covers to share with your children.

Leann said...

Love the chair pockets! How cute!!! I only wish I was as crafty as your grandma, so I could sew something like that. Maybe I can coerce my step-mom to make something like it for our kiddie chairs.

... and I was thinking about doing some legos creations this week too. Can't wait to see what else the boys create.

Juliet Robertson said...

The chair pockets are beautiful and special. In Scotland there is a company that sells "Smartsacks" for children's chairs which is a similar idea...but not as precious as yours. www.smartsack.co.uk

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