A stuffie bond: Arts collaboration brings high schoolers, kindergartners together in Amherst

Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst  high school student in a fiber arts class, talk about the project the  two collaborated on where Bereolos drew a fictional animal and Arguin then sewed it out of cloth. Bereolos described her drawing as a Unicorn, Turtle, Dolphin,

Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst high school student in a fiber arts class, talk about the project the two collaborated on where Bereolos drew a fictional animal and Arguin then sewed it out of cloth. Bereolos described her drawing as a Unicorn, Turtle, Dolphin, "A Turtlecorn we call Pearl," said Arguin. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

A drawing made by Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and a fiber sewn stuffed animal inspired by Bereolos' drawing made by Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst High School student in a fiber arts class.

A drawing made by Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and a fiber sewn stuffed animal inspired by Bereolos' drawing made by Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst High School student in a fiber arts class. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst High School student in a fiber arts class, talk about the project the two collaborated on where Bereolos drew a fictional animal and Arguin then sewed it out of cloth. Bereolos described her drawing as a unicorn, turtle, dolphin, “A Turtlecorn we call Pearl,” said Arguin.

Areli Bereolos, a kindergartener at Crocker Farm and Ivorie Arguin, an Amherst High School student in a fiber arts class, talk about the project the two collaborated on where Bereolos drew a fictional animal and Arguin then sewed it out of cloth. Bereolos described her drawing as a unicorn, turtle, dolphin, “A Turtlecorn we call Pearl,” said Arguin. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Jessenia Coolong hugs the creatures she inspired from a drawing that Allie Osman made then sewed together as part of a project between the Crocker Farm kindergarteners and the high school students in a fiber arts class.

Jessenia Coolong hugs the creatures she inspired from a drawing that Allie Osman made then sewed together as part of a project between the Crocker Farm kindergarteners and the high school students in a fiber arts class. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2024 7:45 PM

AMHERST — Featuring a horn extending from its violet-colored head and a lower body resembling that of a lobster, with elements of a dolphin and turtle thrown in for good measure, the creature is quite a sight in its doll-like form.

“It flies. It has wings,” Crocker Farm School kindergartner Arieli Bereolos exclaimed as she examined the soft sculpture made by Amherst Regional High School senior Ivorie Arguin and which is based on Arieli’s own water color illustration of the imaginary and fanciful animal.

The kindergartner and her teen buddy then decided to name the creation Pearl, in part because its home is underwater.

“A Turtlecorn we call Pearl,” Arguin said.

Pearl was one of about 40 real and fictional animals brought to life, or least three-dimensional representations, by high school students in Fiber Arts classes over the past three weeks, using water color drawings done by the kindergartners.

On Thursday, on a field trip to Crocker Farm, the high schoolers came bearing gifts of the “stuffies” for each of the kindergarten students.

High school art teacher Kristen Ripley said the Fiber Arts class students get a lot out of the project. The students, she said, are learning how to sew for construction and embellishments, facing challenges as they try to replicate the water colors with fabric.

“They often are having to do major problem solving to make it look right,” Ripley said. “They also had to devise a strategy to make something that would withstand being played with.”

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“There was an authentic deadline to complete this, and attention to detail,” Ripley added. “It’s also good practice to put a lot of time into something and then give it away,”

Ripley said it is important students in her class make connections with other schools and the real world. “Because it’s also really important to get out of the high school,” Ripley said. 

The students got to choose which drawing they would recreate, and would then be paired with the students in the classes taught by Kara McCloskey and Amy Coulthard.

In Coulthard’s class, the water color drawings are part of a unit on animals, where students are learning about wildlife.

“It’s a great collaboration,” Coulthard said. “That they’ve come out so well is remarkable.”

McCloskey said her children use pencils, markers and then water colors to make fantastical animals, and there was great anticipation over what the stuffie sculpture would be. “Kids were really excited about that,” McCloskey said. 

The students, she said, will also come away with a better understanding of geometric shapes and how their two-dimensional drawing on paper can be translated into a three-dimensional object.

Arguin explained that Fiber Arts students were given scraps of fabric and tried to make the colors and elements match the drawing. She used a sewing machine after putting foam inside the stuffie. 

“The soft sculptures had to look like the picture,”  Arguin said.

At another table in the room, Jessenia Coolong was playing with two stuffed creatures based on her drawing, one appearing to be an ice cream cone made from scoops of different colors, and the other a carrot.

Allie Osman, a junior, made the ice cream creature.  “I looked at colors and then sewed different materials together,” Osman said.

It was a similar process for Olivia Didonna, a 10th grader, who sewed the animal and then added little things, like buttons to create eyes. Didonna also was careful to get the details just right, such as adding stripes shown in the illustration.

When making a cardinal for his kindergarten buddy, junior Cai Lawler aimed to make it as realistic as possible, though put more blue through its midsection because not enough red cloth was available. Outside of class he completed the project so his buddy would have a durable doll.

“I took it home last night and then worked on it all night,” Lawler said, adding that for him it was a matter of getting used to operating a sewing machine.

The second year of a partnership between the high school students and Crocker Farm kindergartners, Ripley said the interaction is beneficial. While the main purpose was to show how they created a stuffie, the students could also sit together and do drawings, play games, or just talk.

Lu Hantzos, a senior, worked with kindergartner Naya Court on drawing stars and waves and then giving Naya a high five. Hantzos had made a stuffie with a round face and large floppy ears, almost like a rabbit. “I like it,” Naya said.

Ripley said the students can connect, build empathy with a younger generation and perhaps have a reminder of their time in elementary school.

Osman appreciated being in a classroom with kindergartners. “It’s wholesome,” Osman said.

In fact, Osman said her own kindergarten class was in the same classroom, though she remembers it having significantly more space.  “It feels a lot smaller now,” Osman said. 

Scott Merzbach can be  reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.