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Pillow project has Pine-Richland elementary students focused on education

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Catrina Knox, teacher Lisa Burnsworth and Ava Boyd pose for a photo.
Catrina Knox, teacher Lisa Burnsworth and Ava Boyd pose for a photo.

The whir of sewing machines could be heard emanating from Lisa Burnsworth's classroom at Hance Elementary School on Friday morning as parent volunteers sewed panels of fabric into pillow shells.

For the past six years, students in Burnsworth's third-grade class have set goals and written them down on pillows, reminding them of what they wanted to accomplish that year.

Parents volunteered last week to help cut and stitch fabric for the students, who have to then stuff and hand-stitch the pillows shut.

Justin Bogacz and Landon Katic, both 8, said their favorite part of the project was stuffing the pillows.

“And getting to see it after it's all done,” Justin added.

Logan Kusar, 9, said he has been looking forward to this project since the beginning of the year.

“We're the only class who does this, so it makes you feel like you're special,” Logan said.

The project began in September when the students chose their goals. After making sketches on paper, they wrote their goal and illustrated it on a white panel of cotton fabric that would become the center of their pillow. The students then chose the fabric to surround their goal from an array of color and pattern choices.

Burnsworth said the project has become a favorite for the students and the parents, because it brings together the school and community and lets parents get involved.

Jenny McGrath has been helping Burnsworth with the project since it began six years ago, when her child was in her class.

“I can't say no to these lovely teachers,” McGrath said.

McGrath said she is more than willing to lend her sewing skills to the school.

“It's a good way to give back,” she said. “You ask me to bake a cookie, I'm going to grumble. But you ask me to bring in my machine and sew, and I'm good to go.”

Jean Wannemacher, 88, of Lancaster, was planning to visit her daughter, Cathy Demos, when she heard about the pillow project. Her great-grandson, Austin Kruljac, is in Burnsworth's class.

Austin was out sick on Friday, but Wannemacher and Demos — both lifelong seamstresses — volunteered with the class anyway.

“I enjoy watching the kids, and I enjoy doing this,” Wannemacher said.

Many of the students' goals reflected the popular third-grade science and chemistry unit. Burnsworth said they get to study live crayfish and beetles in the fall, and study solutions and chemicals in the spring.

“They hear from their friends and siblings that they get to do this,” Burnsworth said. “So that's the big thing in third grade.”

Ava Boyd, 8, said her goal was to learn about crayfish. They learned about the anatomy and structure with live crayfish in mid-October, which Ava said she enjoyed.

“I liked holding them,” she said.

Others goals were a bit broader, like 8-year-old Emma Wild's goal to “get smarter and learn more.” Emma said she felt she could accomplish this goal easily over the course of the year.

Once completed, the pillows will stay in Burnworth's classroom for the remainder of the year. Students get to sit or lay on the pillows when they have individual reading time.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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