UNIS students bring warmth to those in need

Solal, one of the students who knitted scarves that were left by the East River this winter (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

One fourth grade class at the United Nations International School is learning how to give back to the community through crafting. Humanities teachers Áine Feeney and Idoya Tapia helped their students put together a project to leave handmade scarves along the East River Promenade during a cold spell last December for people in need to pick up and use.

The project, first noted by local blog EV Grieve last month, made its debut along the East River on December 15 and Feeney said that when they went back to check on the bags about a week later, all of the scarves were gone.

“It’s possible that someone who didn’t really need it took one of the scarves, but we were also trying to teach the kids that it’s worth that risk,” Feeney said.

Feeney said that the project came about because she and Tapia wanted to do a service learning project and some of the students had learned to do finger knitting in first grade.

“Knitting was something they could do that was different from raising money,” Feeney said. “These were people they see on the way to school and thinking about how they can help gave them the idea for the project. We didn’t advertise the project because we wanted the kids to be aware of the idea of doing it just to do it and not just to put it on your resume.”

The students said that one of the things they learned through the project was talking about what it means to be empathetic, but also that good deeds don’t always require a thank you.

“It’s not a good habit that you should be thanked and rewarded for doing the right thing,” said Raphael. “It should be more of a habit to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because you want a reward.”

The fourth-graders, all ages 9 and 10, helped each other get the hang of the knitting, which the students did on their hands without the help of needles. One student, Solal, said that a helpful YouTube video with a cat helped some of the students learn. Some of the students who had trouble at first persisted with the help of other students and ultimately kept knitting even after the project was over.

Teachers Idoya Tapia and Aine Feeney

“When I first was learning, I couldn’t really do it but once I figured it out I ended up making decorations for my Christmas tree,” said Elliott, another student.

A number of the students said that the most rewarding part of the project was seeing that the scarves had been taken.

“It’s nice to think that we helped all those people,” one student named Liv said. “It’s making a small change for someone who really needs it and it’s important to do a project that would help in a small way.”

Another student, Theo, said that after the scarves had been taken, the project made him think about what the people who had taken them might be going through.

“It’s important to help and to feel what other people feel,” he said.

Solal, who was finger-knitting another scarf while discussing the project in the class with a reporter from Town & Village, said that the project had inspired him to teach some of the younger students how to knit as well. He said that he and Amaia, another student who is also in his French class, are putting together an “action project” to teach first graders how to do the craft.

“It inspired us to do more for the community,” Solal said. “It taught us that we shouldn’t be complaining that our parents got us the wrong snack when other people need basic things more than we do.”

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