Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Mini barn quilts pop up around Washington
WASHINGTON — After months of hard work, Washington Middle School has put up displays of various mini barn quilts around town, each modeled after a real version from somewhere in the county.
The effort was led by WMS ELP teacher Connie Svenby and Art Teacher Erin Almelien.
“Washington County is the barn quilt capital of Iowa … and she (Almelien) said, ‘Could we do something with this,’” Svenby said. “We drove around the county and took pictures of all the barn quilts that we could, and then had our students recreate them on 12x12″ boards. When we were all said and done … we had close to 100 mini barn quilts.”
While the project started small in early November, Svenby said it snowballed from there into a much bigger ordeal.
“We were not really sure when we undertook this project that it was going to be the magnitude it turned out to be,” she said. “I would drive around Washington County and I would find another one that wasn’t on our list yet … and we had kids taking pictures and being like, ‘Hey, do we have this one yet?’ and they really got into it, we’ve had great response.”
In all, the affair was one of the biggest endeavors of its ELP classes, eventually drawing in students that were not members of the program.
“I’ve been a teacher for quite a while, and the magnitude of this project, and what we asked the kids to do in this project, was so much more than I think we ever asked them to do,” she said. “I’m amazed at how some of these turned out, they’re just so, so cool. And I think we just were so excited about it, and our excitement gave them more excitement.”
The mini quilts are displayed on four walking loops around Washington, located at the square, the Halcyon House, the YMCA and UP Home. Each is a half mile or shorter, with the designs displayed on posts and the fronts of various businesses.
"Instead of having to drive around (the county,) which would take you all day, you can walk it, which would take you 20 minutes, scanning each QR code,“ Svenby said. ”When you walk it, you just follow the path. Each one is staked out, it’s pretty simple to follow where they go.“
Svenby said businesses were happy to participate.
"We, one day, went to the businesses and said, ‘This is what we’re doing, would you mind having a barn quilt in your store front?’“ she said. ”Most of them were like, ‘Yeah, absolutely, what a great project,’ we had a lot of great responses.“
The project entailed extensive research. Students wrote letters to the owners of the barn quilts they modeled, asking for details about each one’s history. Once gathered, they recorded that information on short audio files, and equipped each mini quilt with a QR code for passersby.
“If you scan the QR code up, you’ll hear the kid who created that barn quilt talking,” Svenby said. “They’ll give you their name, they talk about the name of the quilt, where the quilt is actually located if you want to go and see it, and then they give you a fun fact about that quilt or the farm that it’s on.”
Svenby said the project was educational in a number of unconventional ways.
“Fun fact that we learned, kids these days don’t write letters, so just getting them to write a letter was huge,” she said. “Everything we did, they chose the music they wanted for QR codes, and writing the script and speaking it, (and) the math that it took to grid out this quilt and then transferring that onto a board, and painting; it was educational in all areas … it covered every base.”
Svenby said the mini barn quilts will stay up until the week before the Washington County Fair, at which point they’ll be moved to a display at the fairgrounds. What will happen to them after fair week is less clear.
“We’ve actually had a lot of people ask if we’re going to sell them,” she said. “We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, we thought about auctioning them off, we thought about giving the parents the right to first bid on it, we’re not really sure where we’re at with that. Our big thing was we really wanted to get them out in the community, we wanted them out before Ridiculous Days.”
In any case, Svenby said she was proud of all the work students had done.
“We were putting them up yesterday, and it was emotional because we had worked so hard to get to where we’re at, and the kids worked so hard,” she said. “To finally get these out just really made me happy.”