Knitting for Wellness in Health Education

Imagine a classroom full of 8th graders knitting.  I realize it’s a tough picture to visualize, but it’s a reality in my classroom.  Read on for my story of bringing knitting to my 8th grade health classes with a curricular connection and how you can bring your passions to your health classes! 

My Story – My Why: 

I learned to knit when I was a little kid, but didn’t get really into it until the COVID-19 pandemic and then I started knitting with fervor! I found such joy in knitting during the time of separation from others; it gave me something productive to do in the frequent downtime; it was simple and challenging at the same time; it connected me with knitters in my community and across the country and world. Basically, it enhanced all of my personal dimensions of health  — even my physical health because well…um…I sat outside and knit — yay for fresh air and Vitamin D creation…and I was working on fine motor skills! My husband would argue that it harmed our financial health because I tend to purchase lots of pretty yarn from indie dyers…but I think of it as supporting the economy and small businesses!!!  When we went back to school after shut down and summer, I found myself longing to knit during the school day and so I found myself also sharing my knitting stories and creations with my students.  We were also constantly on screens in school with hybrid learning and I was craving time for my students OFF screens. I was determined to figure out a way to get knitting into my classroom. And so I started reviewing standards and looking for connections (I realize this is a bit backward…usually you look at standards and design learning…but I’m taking some liberties as a veteran health teacher!) One of our National Health Education Standards is practicing healthy behaviors ::: KNITTING IS A HEALTHY BEHAVIOR (see above and Project Knitwell, too!).  And thus I began planning to teach my students to knit.

My How: 

Getting Materials: I posted on social media about my need for yarn and needles and my virtual community responded! I ended up with lots of great yarn and needles that were just sitting and gathering dust in many people’s homes. I also reached out to yarn companies and ended up getting a fabulous donation of diverse and fun yarns from Berroco (@berrocoyarn).  I was still a bit short on needles, so I connected with my school district’s educational foundation for funding to purchase needles…and they came through! 

Fitting It into Class: Those days before vacations are always a struggle for students and teachers to actually focus and be truly productive, so I decided to use the few days before a vacation week to teach the kids to knit.  Knitting is actually quite simple and with small classes due to COVID style learning, it was a great use of our time.  I followed the tried and true “I Do – We Do – You Do” model to introduce it. First though,  we explored the health benefits of knitting.  Then, I did a quick demonstration using a document camera so everyone could see how to complete a knit stitch (for those of you who are knitters, I use the phrase “in-around-through-off”).  Next, I gave each student a knitting project (yarn & needles) that I had already started with about 20 stitches and we went through the knit stitch together a few times.  Finally, I let the kids give it a shot on their own, with me circulating to support as needed. I posted video tutorials on Google Classroom and gave each student pictorial directions from WarmUpAmerica. Once we took care of this initial instruction, they were off! Whenever students finished work early, they could knit.  Some days, we spent some classtime knitting all together. 

The Outcome: 

Because of knitting, my 8th graders experienced the immense benefits of:

⭗Productive Struggle

⭗Growth Mindset

⭗Collaboration

They certainly struggled with knitting, but they worked through it independently and with the help of their classmates (and me!). They learned the power of perseverance; the power of learning from mistakes and failures. Some of the students that I least expected to even like knitting, ended up being rock stars and totally shining during our knitting sessions, flying through row after row and helping others when they got stuck.  I saw kids who don’t typically work together start working together because of knitting.  I witnessed kids who typically struggled with work completion, motivated to finish their required class work so that they could knit for a few minutes before the end of class. There were kids who ended up taking knitting projects home to work on during the evenings and over weekends — and some even taught their families! Some students even knitted during their down time in lunch and study hall. Some students have asked for knitting supplies as gifts for holidays and birthdays from their families because they enjoy it so much, because it is a stress reliever for them, because they are proud of what they can do with some yarn and needles, because they want to make gifts for their friends, families and pets!  

You may wonder what the kids actually created during knitting in health class. When I posted about needing yarn and needles for my class, a friend reached out and asked if the kids could make blankets for the residents that she works with at a local nursing home since they never have enough blankets! So, that’s what my students created — each student created one (or more!) small knitted squares that we’re working on stitching together now into lap/should afghans.  Soon we’ll deliver them to the residents and my 8th graders couldn’t be more excited to be able to help out.  

My Takeaway and Send-Off:

Through knitting in health class, my students are practicing a healthy behavior, they are learning about the learning process, they are developing a potential lifelong skill, and they are helping people in need in our own community. These are invaluable lessons and my students are getting them because I decided to bring one of my passions into my classroom. It was a risk – I was worried that it would totally flop – but it didn’t! I challenge each health educator to explore your passions and figure out a way to get them into your classroom.  Teaching is a human profession, humans have passions and it’s healthy to share those passions with people who are important to us, including our students.

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Lindsay Armbruster, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com

Pair this blog post with the following:

Health Class + Fiction = A Perfect Match!  by Lindsay Armbruster

Growing Democratic Socialism Through School Gardens by Stephen Michael Buller

Haiku in Health & PE: Mindfulness in Motion by Allisha Blanchette

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