Jefferson ENL Students Share Their Culture Through Class Quilt Project
“My family is important to me because they show me my beautiful culture and the food, dance, music and animals – what we celebrate,” said Jefferson Middle School seventh grader, Elianelys Gascot Cruz. “And I love that I can speak two languages.”
“I am from Puerto Rico,” said Jefferson Middle School eighth grader, Anisvette Vellon. “The Spanish food is an important part of my culture. My favorite food is rice beans and fried chicken. I was born in Humacao Rio Piedras.”
Elianelys and Anisvette wrote about their culture as part of a bigger “Culture Quilt” project with English as a New Language (ENL) teacher Iris Gonzalez’s class. For Hispanic Heritage Awareness Month, Gonzalez wanted to try something new to highlight her student’s different heritages. Each student brainstormed what was important to them about their culture and drew on paper the different ideas before they transferred them to fabric. Each student’s fabric square was hand sewn together by volunteer Memory Kolasa, into a class quilt, which now hangs in the main office for all to see.
“My language and family is important to me,” said Jefferson Middle School seventh grader Gamaliel Figuerea Perez. “Basketball is important to me because I like it. It’s a fun sport to play! I like that I can talk two languages and I will never forget my heritage, Puerto Rico.”
Students also created posters with important aspects of their culture to present in class. Gonzalez knew the project would be important. “This idea came from my graduate program. I wanted to do something with my kids that shows our diverse cultures and different backgrounds but also that it’s okay to talk about them and educate others on where you came from. The Culture Quilt shows other kids and staff in the school the different heritages Jefferson students come from. All of them are proud of their heritage and it is a great way to share that with their school.”
The Culture Quilt will also be displayed at the school’s Fall Fest and the students will have fabric squares available for families to make their own Culture Quilt square. Jefferson Middle School also has a Culture Club, which meets two times a month after school where the students do more projects about their heritages.