Monster Makenna likes to eat grapes and has a yarn smile with two red-heart dimples. Monster Gray Scar likes meat and is afraid of the sun, but the winged, fire-spitting character with a zig-zag mouth loves to fly.
There’s nothing scary about this collaborative project designed to reconnect students after the pandemic. Rocky River High School’s family and consumer science teacher, Kristen Kalinowski, came up with the idea. She suggested that her fashion students fabricate monsters for the children at Goldwood Elementary School. Since the elementary school encompasses about 600 students, the school decided to make a monster for each kindergarten through second-grade class.
“They had to communicate, collaborate and compromise to make one classroom monster — and compromise is a tough one,” says Erin Pontikos, school counselor at Goldwood Elementary School. “Not everyone is going to win.”
Students came up with silly monster names and participated in activities such as writing stories about their monsters. Then, the high school fashion students used their drawings as patterns to craft stuffed animal replicas.
“Not only were students here working as teams, the high school students discussed the designs with the kids — ‘Did you mean this to be antennas or wings?’ It was cool to see how they made their K-2 dreams a reality,” Pontikos says.
Felt, thread, buttons, yarn, pipe cleaners and other materials came together as funny, squeezable monsters. Then, the fashion students visited the elementary school to present them to the classes.
“The high school students loved it, too, and they got a huge kick out of spending time with the classes,” Pontikos says, adding that the elementary school students read the high schoolers their monster stories, and the April 4 reveal became a celebration.
The project aligned with Goldwood’s March theme of teamwork. April was sportsmanship and included “games and grains,” highlighting how board games can teach academic skills. “We want to bring students back together again,” Pontikos says.
“Our second graders have never had a normal school year, and this is the first year they’ve been in the building five days a week in-person,” Pontikos relates. “So, being able to collaborate like this is something they have not had a chance to do. That’s why these enrichment projects where they work together are so important.”
The project hit home with the high schoolers, too.
“They were even making little monsters for their cars,” Pontikos says. “This is definitely an idea where we decided, ‘We’re doing this every year.’”