URBANA — Studying dozens of mounted quilts boasting colors bold and delicate, squares both breathtakingly real-looking and delightfully abstract, seventh-grade students studied and discussed them carefully.
The students, seventh-graders from Monticello Middle School, were at the Spiritual Life Center at Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana, finishing up a lesson on quilts that incorporated math, social studies and poetry.
The quilts are on display for Cunningham's Festival of Quilts on Friday and Saturday.
The 120 students also picked out their own squares on three quilts they made that are on display for the festival.
Monticello math teacher Pam Householder started teaching the students about quilts after winter break.
She had students in pre-algebra design 6-inch quilt squares as a way of learning about the properties of triangles and quadrilaterals, which are any shapes with four sides.
Then, students had to scale their design up into a 10-inch square, which involved proportions and scale drawings.
Students who take Math 7 also designed squares and found the perimeter and area of each shape in their designs. The students cut out the fabric to create their designs and sewed them together.
With the help of some students during study halls, Householder assembled the squares into three quilts. (Parents also donated fabric, let Householder borrow sewing machines and ironing boards and volunteered in the classroom while students were sewing.)
To incorporate social studies and poetry, Householder borrowed a display box from her mother's quilt club that shows how escaping slaves in the 19th century used quilts in the Underground Railroad to show each other how to get from one area to another.
Householder's goal was to have the quilt lesson incorporate nonfiction in literature, social studies and reiterate that "math is everywhere," she said.
"It all ties together," she said.
Householder assigned her students Thursday to come up with 10 of their own Underground Railroad navigation clues, written in free verse and using 10 quilts on display for the festival. Before the trip to Urbana, the classes talked about the kinds of geographical features they might see and need to overcome on their maps.
Thursday, the students worked in groups, each assigned a part of an Underground Railroad map, carefully studying the quilts' names and designs. Once they're back in the classroom, Householder will put together their maps to create complete Underground Railroad routes.
Some crowded around a quilt called "Entrancing Geese," which also featured triangles that could be interpreted as arrows. Other students scribbled furiously while looking at quilts featuring barns.
A group made up of Amy Love, Westin Perrero, Madison Mesplay, Paige Meece and Grace Terstriep had to write a clue about how to cross a body of water.
They found a quilt called "Jumping Fish," so their clue started, "Find the pond with jumping fish ..." and finished with instructions about which way to turn after crossing a bridge.
They used a quilt called "Sweet Dreams" to indicate a safe place to sleep.
Love said she liked seeing the quilt containing her square on display.
"It looks better when the entire thing is together," she said.
Householder got involved with the Cunningham Children's Home when she started looking for a place to donate the class' quilts to children. The parent of one of her students is on the board at Cunningham Children's Home, which offers residential treatment and other services to children with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Householder said she knows a quilt can be "a safe harbor for students going through difficult times."
Two twin-size quilts will be given to residents at Cunningham Children's Home, and the middle school will display a smaller quilt that features Monticello's colors, purple, gold and white.
Winnie Crowder, Cunningham Children's Home's director of advancement, said since the home opened in 1895, every child who's lived at Cunningham has received a handmade quilt.
"In many cases, it's the first time something has been given to them that's theirs to keep," she said.
Cunningham's Festival of Quilts celebrates that fact, she said.
Seventh-grader Mica Allison said making quilt squares was "challenging but fun," adding that she thought scaling up her original 6-inch design was the hardest part.
She liked the fact that the seventh-graders' quilts will be given to a resident.
"I really think it's cool that the kids here get one of these," she said.
URBANA — Cunningham Children's Home is hosting its annual Festival of Quilts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The festival is in the Spiritual Life Center on the campus of Cunningham Children's Home, 1301 N. Cunningham Ave., U.
The festival includes a quilt exhibit featuring dozens of hand- and machine-quilted pieces. The show will include contemporary designs as well as antique quilts, some of which are family heirlooms on loan for the show.
Professional quilt judges will award ribbons to the best quilts in various categories.