Sixth-grade students at River City Scholars Charter Academy are learning to use soft, colorful, yarn as a mechanism to cope with anxiety, doubt, low self-esteem, and even “matters of the heart” at their weekly afterschool Crochet Club.“We pick two virtues to talk about each week,” said Susan Thomas, an at-risk social worker at River City Scholars, who began the Thursday club. “As the girls are learning to crochet, we talk about positive behaviors and coping skills as they interact together.”
All sixth-grade students were invited to the club at the beginning of the school year, but Thomas personally invited a few that she wanted to attend and encouraged them to join.
“We have a large at-risk population at this school, and we have to get creative in how we engage our students,” said Thomas. “I know some of the issues these girls are facing, and I wanted to give them some tools to use outside of school.”
For some, it’s the friendship that they enjoy as they learn to make pot holders.
“When I’m here (at the club) I get to be myself,” said Kavariyah Rainey, who picked her own bright blue yarn, as she joked with another club member about a boy she has a crush on. “I like hanging out with my friends after school.”
But, they are gaining more than crochet skills.
“I’ve learned when I get anxious to take deep breaths,” said Rainey. “And, I’m learning something new. I’m learning to be able to take a compliment.”
Club member Zaire Calmese had never thought about crocheting before.
“At first I was confused, but I’ve learned to have patience and keep trying,” said Calmese. “You just have to try new things sometimes.”
Thomas is hoping that attitude will stick with the girls as they continue persevering as they learn.
The club is intentionally small – comprised of 5-7 students – so they can create relationships within the club.
Thomas partnered with Shayna Medendorp, a recess aid at the school, who was looking for more ways to build relationships with the students.
When Thomas learned that Medendorp had a love for crocheting, she asked her to teach the club.
“I love getting to know the girls,” said Medendorp. “They all have such a loving nature and like to have fun.”
Sometimes the girls watch videos on different virtues while they are practicing crocheting. Thomas covers all expenses related to the club and hopes to increase it to two-days a week.
“The act itself of crocheting is therapeutic,” said Thomas. “During the club we keep the tones low – it’s a soothing environment, the attitudes are positive, the yarn is soft to touch, and it’s a skill that is transferable into adulthood.”