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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The only thing more challenging than Sadie Richter’s recent reading assignment is the project she chose to show what she’d learned from reading the book.

Sadie, a Central 8th grader, selected George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a dark novella about a group of barnyard animals who plan a revolt against their vicious master. Her project was a large, 30-block quilt with each block representing a different scene from the book.

“I got the idea from the list of projects we could choose from, which included making a paper quilt on poster board,” she explained. “When I saw that I thought, ‘Why not a real quilt.’ My mom encouraged me to do it so I went ahead.”

Sadie, daughter of Natalia Blaskovich and Robert Richter, got some input from her dad on her reading choice. Their father-daughter book club has covered other weighty tomes including Lord of the Flies and Gone with the Wind. They moved ahead with Animal Farm with the full support of Sadie’s teacher, Alison Gunderson.

“Students get to choose their own books for outside reading,” Gunderson explained. “They do have to have them approved to make sure they’re appropriate for their age level and reading level.”

In addition to book choice, students can select from a list of five projects applicable to any reading assignment. The list of possible projects is refreshed quarterly.

“I try to include projects that appeal to the different ways that students learn and like to express themselves,” Gunderson continued. “Examples of other possible projects are a dossier of the main character, a newspaper created by the student, a mobile of symbols from the book, and a picture book based on the original book.”

In addition to a completed project, students have a one-on-one book conference with Gunderson.

The overall design of Sadie’s quilt reflects the tone of Orwell’s book. The top and bottom blocks are black and white, reflecting the hopelessness at the beginning and end of the story. The midsection of the quilt features more colorful designs, which, again, is consistent with the tone of the middle of the story.

“Coming up with (30 different designs) was the hard part of the project,” Sadie admitted.

With great attention to detail and an artistic talent that belies her years, Sadie drew 30 scenes freehand. Her images were scanned into a computer and then printed on fabric to create an iron-on applique. The blocks took about three weeks to complete. Since this was her first quilt, Sadie got some help from her mom, who is an experienced quilter, in putting the pieces together.

After the quilt has been graded and returned, it will hang in her father’s chambers. Sadie said. Her dad is a Dubuque County judge.

Sadie enjoyed the process of creating the blocks and seeing all of the pieces come together. But she’s not likely to do another quilt project for school.

“I think it was a great project,” she said, “but there are some other things I’d like to try. I might do another quilt but not for school and not on a deadline.”

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