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Not a Yarn: Students Learn Knitting to Enhance Education

The click of knitting needles could be heard amid chatter in teacher Joanne Anderson’s fourth-grade classroom, where focused students settled in for a half-hour of creating cozy items out of yarn.

Surrounded by balls of yarn, students sat on the floor to stitch rows into scarves, hats and potholders for East Grand Rapids’ Breton Downs Elementary School Knitting Club.

Fourth-grader Kai Manspeaker works on a scarf

“You wrap your yarn around the needle, come over and slide that stitch off the needle. You keep doing that,” said Kai Manspeaker, a fourth-grader demonstrating how to knit a blue and green scarf. Kai used to attend Waldorf, a private school where first-graders are taught knitting, so he’s known how to knit for years.

But Anderson has kept kids in stitches for many years herself. She has spent about a session a week on wintry afternoons for the past 20 years teaching girls and boys the time-honored skill of transforming textiles into warm and wooly items, a craft she says benefits them in many ways.

“I really think it’s important for kids to learn that eye-hand coordination in a different way,” said Anderson, a longtime knitter.

Fourth-grade Breton Downs Elementary student Avery Van Hekken knitsStudents use math to count stitches and learn patterns, reading to follow directions and practice patience to create their pieces. Fine motor skills develop, and they see how following a process leads to a product, Anderson said.

Grandmothers, aunts and community members volunteer their time to help teach knitting.

Fourth-grade student Avery Van Hekken worked on hot pink ear warmers.

“Knitting is fun,” she said. “You can make stuff and if you mess up on a stitch you can take it out.”

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Knitting at Waldorf School

Knitting and Intellectual Development

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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