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Special needs students learn by making scarves
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Martinsville High School students Lavar Fitzgerald (left) and Shequia Hairston (right) learn how to dye silk scarves with help from visiting Mathews High School teacher Cathy Walker (second from left) and Martinsville High School teacher Ann Hundley (second from right). (Contributed photo)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Special education classes at Martinsville High School and Martinsville Middle School have been hand-dyeing colorful silk scarves in a project called “Dyeing to Learn.”

The project gives special education students an outlet for their creativity, and they learn about business and practice independent living skills such as following directions, communication, math, color coordination and dexterity. They also gain household skills, such as ironing and washing fabric.

The idea came from local volunteer Rebecca Crabtree, who works each week with Ann Hundley’s Martinsville High School special education class. She purchased a similar scarf and saw that it had been made by Mathews High School students.

“They were beautiful,” Crabtree said.

She contacted Mathews special education teacher Cathy Walker, who brought a small group of teachers with her to Martinsville recently to share the process.

Walker’s students hand-dye the scarves and sell them at their local visitor’s center. They also do other business-related projects, such as a school coffee shop and a thrift store, which is “doing extremely well,” she said. However, “we don’t do it to make money; we do it to provide skills to the students.”

Working with Walker, each Martinsville student got to pick out two different dye colors and apply them to the silk. The secret is adding salt, she said, which makes “drip” patterns on the scarves. Students squirted the dye and shook salt onto the silk.

“You can’t make a mistake. They all turn out beautiful,” Walker said of the scarves.

The scarves are on sale at Reflections Salon and Day Spa, Pieces and the Southern Virginia Artisan Center for $17.50, payable by cash or check. Each one includes a card signed by the student who made it, and the proceeds will support the special education program.

They also will be on sale in the lobby of the Martinsville High School auditorium Saturday before the Roanoke Symphony Holiday Pops Spectacular concert at 7 p.m. The event is part of Piedmont Arts Association’s On Stage! series.

“I think it’ll be something really good for the students to try selling them,” Walker said.

“My students enjoyed working on the scarves, and it was meaningful to them because they did it themselves,” said Martinsville Middle School teacher Martha Lambert.

“They really enjoy doing it. It’s something they can be proud of,” said Hundley. All of the students, regardless of disability, can participate in at least part of the scarf-dyeing process.

Scarves were made by Martinsville High School students Lavar Fitzgerald, Shequia Hairston, Ryan Bodirsky and Ricardo Zavala and Martinsville Middle School students Laney Moran, Eric Trotter, Jasmine Argueta and Citlally Chavez.

(This article was contributed by Kim Buck, community outreach and grants coordinator for Martinsville Public Schools.)


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