School's practical side
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 15, 2013 1:46 PM
Gabby Santibanez, 11, and Nicholas Combs, 11, watch as their teacher, Darlene DeBruine, guides a pillow through a sewing machine in the Family and Consumer Science class at Rosewood Middle School. Mrs. DeBruine recently received a grant that is allowing her students to make pillows that will be given to residents at Willow Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Schools used to offer home economics class to cover bases not found in other academic classes -- cooking, sewing, even learning how to sign a check.
A variation on that theme was "Exploring Life Skills," which was renamed this year to "Exploring Family and Consumer Science."
"The state recommends the course for middle school grades," said Darlene DeBruine, Family and Consumer Science teacher at Rosewood Middle School.
It could more aptly be named "real life" because of its practical application component, she said.
The sixth grade, for example, will study relationships and conflict resolution as well as nutrition.
"We talk about the fact that families are blended nowadays and sometimes they have difficulty getting along because they don't know each other as well," she said. "(We discuss) ways to alleviate tension. We have case studies -- what would you tell your best friends? How would you handle the situation?"
Seventh-graders will study babysitting and home interior design. For the former, Mrs. DeBruine said she is pursuing Red Cross-approved training and her students will be taught a variation of that. For the latter, the unit covers things they will need to know when they get their first home or apartment.
Curriculum for the eighth-grade features personal finance, safe food handling and sewing.
"Students this semester completed a course called 'Vault It,' a personal finance course recommended by the state," she said. "It's all computer-generated, about house payments and interest. It's extensive and it's fun. Everyone did an excellent job with that.
"All the students completed this course and are now certified. It's valid for a lifetime. I could not be prouder."
Mrs. DeBruine is also certified in North Carolina's eFoodHandlers, a state-of-the-art food handler training and testing.
"They learn about time and temperatures for food to be kept safe," she said, admitting it is a bit more comprehensive than some of the other units studied, and also encompasses food-borne illness and symptoms.
The hands-on aspects of the course perhaps pique the most interest, especially when there is something to show for it at the end. Mrs. DeBruine has been fortunate to obtain grant funding to provide materials for students in her three classes to accomplish that.
"I have won materials from Donors Choose, this is like my seventh win, to do basket weaving," she said.
The project involves making an authentic Cherokee basket, she said. Students in the "smart block," a 30-minute extra curricular enrichment period, are currently working on the project, but eventually all of her eighth-grade students will get to do it.
"I had the idea from a visit to our North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT)," she said. "I spent a week there learning about the Cherokee people and thought it would be a great idea for my students to learn about their culture. Many of my students have Cherokee in their ancestry, and I am Native American as well."
Every year, her students participate in a service project, the teacher said. In previous years it was primarily seventh- and eighth-graders but this year grant money allowed her to expand it all three grades.
"At (NCCAT) they were talking about the fact that there were ponies out there in Ocracoke. They need to be fed," she said. "I brought the idea back to my class and asked parents during open house if they would be interested in doing this, never thinking that they would do this."
Now, her students are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Adopt-a-Pony Program. Funds collected help pay for veterinary care, feed and hay. A photo of "Sacajawea," a bay mare born in 2007 and part of the Ocracoke herd, is on display in Mrs. DeBruine's class.
Another community service project this year was made possible through a $400 Bright Ideas grant from Tri-County -- making pillows for residents of Willow Creek.
Eighty-four students in her three classes took part, she said.
"(The grant) covered all the materials. I was able to get the thread, all of the fabric and all of the filling for 84 pillows," she said.
The project gave students an opportunity to learn how to use a sewing machine, some for the first time.
Sixth-grader Laine Marak came with a little experience.
"My nana sews and knits," she said.
"I can like weave with a needle," said sixth-grader Nicholas Combs, whose grandmother also taught him some of the basics. "Whenever I was little, I had like Curious George monkeys that were ripped and I put them together."
Sewing on the machine was fun, said classmate Gabriela Santibanez, although the tricky part was "not to put your finger too close to the needle."
Seiya Smith admitted it was a challenge not to push down too hard on the sewing machine's floor pedal, which guides the needle.
"I just floored it," he said.
Hannah Adams said her favorite part was putting the stuffing in the pillow. She said she enjoyed the project and wouldn't mind sewing other things.
"I would make more clothes for my stuffed animals," she said.