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Designing for service: Students create garments for community members

Jennifer Carle, a student in Pasrichas Patternmaking II course, takes measurements of her partner on a visit to Childrens Hospital.
Jennifer Carle, a student in Pasrichas Patternmaking II course, takes measurements of her partner on a visit to Childrens Hospital.

Service learning has long been a part of Anupama Pasricha’s educational experience. Pasricha, assistant professor of family, consumer and nutritional sciences, first took part in service learning as a college student. Today, she keeps that tradition alive in the courses she teaches here at St. Kate's.

This semester, students in Pasricha’s Patternmaking II class participated in a Community Work and Learning project that directly met the needs of individuals in the community.

Together with Community Work and Learning, Pasrischa partnered with Ebenezer Care Center in Minneapolis and Children’s Hospital in St. Paul for a project that provided students an opportunity to design and create a custom, adaptive garment for a real-life partner.

The project involved three visits to each community site. On the first visit in late September, students met their partners to take measurements and find out what type of adaptive garment the partner was in need of.

At Ebenezer, the need was for clothing that could be taken on and off more easily for residents who are wheelchair-bound and have limited mobility.

The projects at Children’s Hospital included weighted vests and wrist weights for children in Occupational Therapy as well as a full-length bib specially made for use by children in the Epilepsy Unit during meals.

In order to ensure the final product was made with the partner’s preferences in mind, students asked their partners about favorite colors, styles and fabrics.

After taking measurements, students developed a muslin prototype of the garment. On the second visit to the sites in early October, partners tried on the prototype for size and made final suggestions about color and fabric.

At the final visit to the community sites in mid-October, students presented their partners with the finished product — beautiful custom-made garments designed to meet a particular need. There was much satisfaction on both the parts of the students and their partners, whose excitement and gratitude shown through large smiles.

In reflecting on her experience in Patternmaking II, one student said, “I learned from this course how to address partner needs and work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. I learned to adapt clothing as changes occurred within the creative and construction processes. I also built a relationship with a partner that entailed trust, care, comfort and friendship.”

Wendy Schneider is a St. Joseph Worker and staff member in the Center for Community Work and Learning at the College of St. Catherine. This story first appeared in The Civic Connector, newsletter of the Center for Community Work and Learning.

Nov. 26, 2007 by Wendy Schneider

See also: Liberal Arts, Students