My daughter, McKenna (4th-Hoover), came home the week before last, excited about a project that she says has inspired her. She continued to tell me, detail by detail, what she had experienced in Laura Rehman’s Spanish class that day. There was talk of product apparel design, classroom visitors from VF Jeanswear, and the chance to create her own clothing line.
What does apparel design have to do with learning a foreign language?
Laura brings much more to the Canterbury learning experience than foreign language expertise. She is constantly finding creative ways to engage students and increase their Spanish proficiency.
One example is her “Create Your Clothing Line” project, in which she challenges students to come up with original ideas for apparel designs and present their “line” to a panel of judges by speaking only Spanish. Judges for the March 6 competition will be Assistant Director of Admission Libba LaFave, Middle School Spanish Teacher Janet Mintz, Lower School Director Carolyn Morazan and Administrative Assistant and Verger Betsy Raulerson.
Canterbury parent Aaron Duhaime (Griffin-5th,Hollyn 3rd-) helped Laura kick off the project. Aaron works as a national account executive for VF Jeanswear, a division of the world’s largest apparel manufacturer, VF Corporation.
“Last year, Mr. Duhaime was a member of the panel that judges the 4th grade presentations,” Laura says. “He mentioned the possibility of bringing in a ‘real’ designer to speak to the classes this year.” Georgiana “Georgie” Varzarus, a VF colleague and design specialist for Riders Female Denim/Wrangler, joined him.
The presentation was a hit. “The children loved learning about the process of fashion design,” Laura says. “My students asked great questions and saw that creativity and collaboration are very important in the real world.”
Aaron was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm. “At the end, we were overwhelmed when almost every hand shot up in the air to ask a question. Questions and Answers lasted longer than the presentation. We were thrilled that the students were so eager to learn more.”
Aaron guided the students through the “6 Steps of Fashion Design – Steps in Making Clothing” while Georgie shared how her day-to-day work involves the steps: inspiration, trend forecasting, translating to marketplace, sketching, prototyping, and developing focus groups for validation.
“As a former aspiring designer who has made it into a position in my field, it was a pleasure to come speak at Canterbury about my experiences,” Georgie says.
Aaron and Georgie arrived with plenty of visual aids. Trend boards helped the 4th graders identify different details of various trends. When Georgie showed sketches and prototypes and passed around a sample, she took the students through the complete fashion design process, from start to finish. They also passed around a catalog page used to sell the apparel and, finally, a piece of production that will be in Walmart stores this coming spring.
“We completed the visit by having the students show the designs they had come up with as groups, which I, myself, found inspiring,” Georgie says.
Inspiring, that was McKenna’s takeaway as well. “I like how this project lets us be creative and that we get to do what we want, but we learn Spanish at the same time. I listened to Georgie and I learned what you have to do in fashion – how you have to look at the latest trends, think about what colors would be cool, and brainstorm something that will be unique and your own,” she says.
After the students shared their designs, Aaron and Georgie gave them fabric for finishing their projects as well as advice on how to present their posters to the panel.
“It’s wonderful that Señora Rehman creates time to invite guest speakers into her classroom so her students can clearly see how their projects mirror the professional working world. What they are doing at school is real!” Aaron says.
Laura sees projects like these an expression of her value of education. “I believe that education is at its best when we make our community our learning lab and the members of our community our teachers,” she says.
Georgie felt honored to be a teacher that day. “It is so extraordinary to me that a design project would be merged with typical Spanish curriculum. This not only helps students learn Spanish, but gets their creative juices churning and, in turn, inspires their futures. It is very important for schools to partner with businesses in different fields and allow them to come speak about their professions because it shows students they have endless career possibilities.”
“As young people start to recognize their strengths, passions, and talents, having local business partners in the classroom can really help connect the dots from what they are learning in school to how it’s used every day.” Canterbury parent and volunteer Aaron Duhaime.
by Andrea Crossley Spencer
Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (4th-Hoover), a freelance writer, and a creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, chocolate peanut butter shakes and listening to all kinds of music, from Harry Connick, Jr. to David Gray.