Seventh-graders at Soehl Middle Schools created a “Piece by Peace” quilt as the final step in a research project studying famous humanitarians. It hangs near the school’s main entrance as an example to all students.
By Gary Miller
Hanging in a second-floor hallway near the main entrance to Soehl Middle School is a monument to those who have used their lives for the betterment of humanity – and who stand as an inspiration to students.
“Piece by Peace” is a patchwork quilt of 120 cards, each of which highlights the achievements of a notable humanitarian of the past or present – from Susan B. Anthony, to Rosa Parks, to Bill Gates. The cards were created and strung together by students in the seventh-grade language arts classes of Jennifer MacDonald and Jamie Pierson as part of a larger project.
“The ‘Piece by Peace’ quilt has generated a lot of meaningful discussion as it hangs proudly in our hallway,” said Principal Richard Molinaro.
The project got started around Martin Luther King Day, when students were discussing the civil rights leader’s humanitarian works.
“The kids were totally unfamiliar with what that meant and with what contributes to being a humanitarian,” MacDonald said. “So we thought it would be fun for them to become a humanitarian.”
The teachers came up with names of 30 humanitarians and students were randomly assigned one name to learn about.
“So the students did research on what they did, what their impact on society was, or still is to this day,” said MacDonald, who was named Soehl’s Teacher of the Year in January. “And students thought about what can we do to be a good humanitarian, without the fame, without the money? So the kids familiarized themselves with how they can be a productive humanitarian.”
Some of the ideas the students came up with were fundraisers around the school, collecting plastic to recycle, reducing use of paper, reducing food waste, and organizing clothing drives for the poor.
“It opened their eyes to how great an outcome it can turn into from something so simple,” McDonald said.
Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi was impressed by the work of everyone involved.
“It’s such a creative project, and teaches the students about these prominent figures a way that will truly stick with them,” he said. “Their ‘Piece by Peace’ display serves as an inspiration to other students and everyone who visits Soehl. Hats off to Miss MacDonald and Miss Pierson.”
Student Natalia Silva-Miceli said she learned a lot through the research and classwork.
“It really helped to show us that as we grow older we can make a change no matter who we are,” she said.
Natalia’s humanitarian was Mother Teresa. At first she considered trying to trade to get a different name, but she’s glad she stuck with her original pick.
“She was interesting to learn about and she did a lot in the world,” she said. “She helped those in poverty and she always fed people who needed food and tried to arrange clothing for them, and visiting them to bless them.”
Some of the names were more contemporary. Ezinne Amadi got Brad Pitt.
“Actually, I had never heard of him,” she said. “But he’s done a little bit of everything. He has like 36 different causes. He tries to use his fame and his money for the benefit of others.”
In some cases, the project helped change the students’ perceptions of some famous people. Jean-Charles Precois was assigned to research Bill Gates.
“I always thought he was just some rich billionaire, but I found out that he actually wants to help the world and make it a better place,” Jean-Charles said.
After students researched their humanitarian and did a classroom presentation, the “Piece by Peace” quilt was put together in mid-February as the final step. Each student created a card for their humanitarian, then everyone worked together to attach and hang the project.
The final piece is an impressive example that shows what can be accomplished when a class – or humankind – works together.
“It’s not just a few people who are helping out,” said Jean-Charles, “it’s a whole bunch of people that found a way for the better.”