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Programs > Service-Learning > Docs > Archive > Sherry Unger > 2005-2006
Hats for the Homeless

December 2005

Cheryl Doughty, James M. Bennett High School Family & Consumer Sciences Students, Wicomico County, cdoughty@wcboe.org



The James M. Bennett Health and Human Services Technology Classes studied various issues regarding family needs.  Students applied this knowledge as they participated in an experience that taught them the basics of teamwork using Baldrige quality systems principles, and manufacturing technology in the textile field.  They donated over 100 fleece hat creations to the Joseph House Crisis Center. 


Best Practice 1: Meet a recognized need in the community


Based on local news coverage and personal anecdotal stories from some of my recent students, we realized the homelessness problem in the Salisbury area is growing.  The current needs exceed what the local shelters are able to provide.  Many of the homeless include the children and adolescents of families in crisis.  To help address the problem, students created more than 100 hats for a local shelters for distribution to young and old alike.


Best Practice 2: Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning


The primary course objective met by this project was:  The students will utilize the manufacturing process and principles of continuous improvement in order to produce a product that meets the needs of a family member.


Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the service-learning experience


Students were provided with a reading selection that described a homeless family situation.  Based on the selection, class discussion, and personal experiences the students were asked to write a poem or song, or to draw an illustration to depict what it would feel like to be in this situation.  As the reflections were shared, students were asked to imagine the feeling of receiving a hand made item that would keep them warm during this time of crisis and need.  One student created the following poem: 



By Rachel Whitney


500 dollar rent

Can’t afford

Get thrown out but hope for the best

Kids scared

Parents upset

Walk in a grocery store

Ask if we want our picture taken

We would love to

Can’t afford it though

Were invisible to the world

We act like you

Dress like you

But no one knows of our problem

Can’t go to mom

So we find a shelter

It’s 3 beds, 1 ½ baths

Kids get their own rooms

And yet they cling to one another

I dropped out

My husband dropped out

We want our kids to stay.

We want them to succeed.

But it will get better

I know it will

We can get back on our feet

But at least we have each other.


The Public Relations/Communication team was also charged with developed a survey to ask students to reflect on their personal efforts as part of the teams and the class goals as a whole. This information was used to help improve the teamwork process.


At the end of the experience students were asked to write about the experience and how their participation in this project had made a difference in the life of someone in need.  Comments included: “We are glad to be helping the needy.”


Best Practice 4: Develop student responsibility


Initially, the students were asked to vote on which agency to help with this manufacturing project.  They decided to help the homeless.  Each student had to “apply” for the team he or she wanted to serve with; teams included public relations / communication, sewing machine construction, creative design, resource management, inspection and distribution.  The Public Relations team led a class meeting approximately once a week to review how the “business” plan was working and to encourage student ideas for revisions. This team also collected data and produced information, including graphs, to demonstrate the impact of attendance and time management on overall product production.  Each student completed a daily work log, which required regular goal setting.


Best Practice 5: Establish community partnerships


All supplies were obtained through the local school system service-learning grant.  The Joseph House Crisis Center was the shelter chosen by the students to receive the hats.


Best Practice 6: Plan ahead for service-learning


I created a prototype of the hat to show the students, purchased the necessary supplies, and formulated a basic team structure and flow chart of the process of creating the product.  I facilitated the students’ success by providing instruction on sewing machine operation and troubleshooting, use of digital photography and PowerPoint creation, layout of the patterns, cutting, marking, pinning, and hand stitching.  I arranged for the visit to the shelter in order to deliver the donation and tour the facility. 


Best Practice 7: Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service


The students learned how to construct and evaluate a quality textile product and interact effectively in groups.  They also learned how:

§         to function as a responsible citizen both in the classroom and the community,

§         to think critically and creatively,

§         to explore independent and cooperative approaches to solve family and community problems,

§         to use technology to enhance personal and family goals,

§         to show sensitivity to others,

§         to apply concepts and skills from various other disciplines (including reading and math)

§         to solve practical problems,

§         to work safely and efficiently in a job like environment,

§         to apply problem solving principles,

§         to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning,

§         to solve problems systematically and rationally,

§         to gather, manage, and convey information using a variety of skills, strategies, resources and technologies,

§         and to use technology effectively for a variety of purposes and situations.


Students acquired and used skills in computer graphing, public relations, textile manufacturing technology, business management and teamwork to create a product that brought comfort to over 100 homeless individuals. As the classes competed to produce the most hats, they learned about efficiency of resources, calculating costs, recognizing quality in a textile product, and working together to use the strengths of everyone to meet a common goal.

Contact Information
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
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