Provided photos: Students in Kathy Winans’ class are shown with their special edition Halloween masks.
Press Release, Albion Central School
ALBION – In a year filled with unprecedented challenges, two classes are working to make their school and their community a better place.
Two 12:1:1 classes, one at Albion High School the other at the Middle School, have been working to create unique face masks for their classmates, peers teachers and members of the Albion community.
Shari Berg, a teacher at Albion Middle School, says the program is the brainchild of Albion High School teacher Kathy Winans. According to Berg, it all started with a mask-making party that took place over the summer.
“There was a group of teachers and we had a little bit too much fun and we probably bought too much fabric, too much everything, and we made masks,” Berg said. “Then, when we came to school and things had changed, Winans came up with this whole idea.”
A student in Mrs. Winans’ class sews a mask together.
Winans’ classes have traditionally done other work-study and sewing projects like helping create the costumes for the high school shows, an activity that has been suspended due to the coronavirus.
“With the changes from Covid we tried to come up with something that would fit a need, which is the mask, and something that was a skill we could continue to sew and learn along the way,” Winans explained.
The key was to make sure all the students were safe and the classes were following Covid-19 safety regulations.
“They each have an envelope that’s theirs: their scissors, their pins, so that it is safe, and they work in their spaces,” Winans said. “We’ve only set up two [sewing] machines so they’re six feet apart so we can maintain the social distance, but still meet what we thought was a fun need.
According to Winans, the students love making masks.
“They like the opportunity to cut to sew to do all those skills that they’ve learned,” Winans said. “We employed Mrs. Berg’s class too, so now we’re a big team.”
A student in Mrs. Berg’s class uses a pattern to cut out the masks.
The work is split between the two classes: Mrs. Berg’s class cuts the patterns and Mrs. Winan’s class assembles the masks.
However, Mrs. Berg found that her students were missing an integral piece.
“About two weeks ago, I realized my kids were cutting out patterns, but they did not understand how the patterns were turning into masks,” Berg said. “We are just taking these patterns and cutting them.”
Mrs. Winans’ class came up with a solution: “Teaching Time” where Winans’ students invite Berg’s students to a Google meet and demonstrate their skills, ending the session with a complete mask.
“It gives the kids a chance to teach as well and share their skills and knowledge, which has been really cool,” Winans said.
This student in Mrs. Winans’ class irons in the interfacing.
Both teachers said that the design of the masks has been important, allowing the students to have some individuality, highlighting their personalities while staying safe.
“The whole purpose was that they’re two-sided, that’s the key because, when you wear it all day and the kids set them down, I wanted to make sure there was a side that they knew went against their face,” Winans said, explaining why the masks tend to feature two different fabrics.
Berg emphasized that it was also really important their students had their own, clean masks to wear.
“We made special, limited edition masks for our [Berg’s and Winans’] class[es] for Halloween so that we all match,” Berg said. “The students also got to pick out a purple mask they made to keep because our kids needed masks. Our kids physically were wearing the same masks daily and we just we didn’t want that.”
It wasn’t long before the classes began selling the masks to the community, presenting new options for customization and garnering an amazing response.
“The response has been overwhelming. People love them and are now donating fabric or donating the ear strings that are adjustable,” Winans said. “We’ve discovered different sizes now. We have a smaller size, we have sizes for children. It’s very funny how it suddenly has grown into something I never thought was going to happen.”
So far, the classes have sold over 600 masks.
“When we decided they cost $2 each, it was not about making a lot of money,” Winans said. “It was about filling a need that our school community had and the money that’s left over we will use for the club. Ideally, it’ll just be reinvested into the little business that we’ve started.”
Even if the need for masks begins to dwindle, Winans explained that the program will continue.
“I think we would hope to modify it as we need to and then maybe expand it,” Winans said. “Hopefully, if it’s not the masks, we’ll figure out something else fun to create.”
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