For the past four years, Hillcrest Junior High sewing classes have made hundreds of 12-inch cloth dolls with hospital gowns for Primary Children Medical Center patients, as well as denim tote bags for Smiles for Central America.
“It’s a way students can use their sewing skills and talents and do something nice for someone else to make a difference,” family and consumer science teacher Sherryl Cowley said.
She estimates that 350 students in Family and Consumer Science Exploration and Clothing I classes have helped with these service learning projects as well as others, such as making toys for children out of scraps of material.
However, sewing classes came under review in the design of the new Hillcrest Junior High, Murray School District spokeswoman D Wright said.
“When the new career and college guidelines were released, and looking at the new junior high plans, it was decided that a lab dedicated to sewing wouldn’t be the most beneficial to the most students,” she said. “The trend is showing that only a small number of students are enrolling in sewing, where the best pathway toward career and college readiness is in the direction of computer skills.”
The Utah State Board of Education is currently reviewing the seventh-grade Family and Consumer Science curriculum that offers a segment of sewing. If the same curriculum continues, that will be the only sewing class at both Hillcrest and Riverview junior highs.
“Year in and year out, our sewing enrollment has dropped to 80 to 100 students,” Riverview Junior High Principal Jim Bouwman said. “But when we offered a Day of Code it was extremely popular, so we need to adjust to offer computer classes.”
Yet Riverview family and consumer science teacher Janet Wayman said she knows many students and parents are disappointed that they didn’t have a chance to express their opinions.
“Many of my students don’t own a sewing machine. So this is the only opportunity that they can try a new skill, one that is a life skill, and could be a viable career path in Utah where there is much interest in sewing, quilting and fabric arts,” Wayman said.
She said that junior high is a time where students can explore different fields and learn skills, such as how to use correct measurements and sewing techniques, which are invaluable as students become adults.
Wayman, who herself learned to sew in an eighth-grade sewing class, said many former students have told her the nine-patch pillows they sewed in her class are still on their beds now as parents. As adults, they continue to enjoy sewing and use their skills to create humanitarian projects for the community.
Wright said curriculum regularly changes to meet student needs, and Murray High has only offered sewing one year in the past four years. However, she added, there is an option for high school students to attend a sewing class offered at a high school in a nearby school district.