It’s Friday afternoon at St. Charles Elementary School in Pierrefonds and students are scattered all around Kristy Westlake’s Grade 3 classroom.
With their paper bags filled with colourful yarn, each child is quietly practicing a newfound skill: knitting.
“We taught all of my students in Grade 3, all 22 of them plus myself, how to knit and we are making scarves for Dans la Rue.”
The students have been gradually knitting scarves for homeless youth since November and are getting close to gifting their creations to people they’ve never met.
A few years ago, Westlake starting doing acts of kindness during the holidays with her own children. She felt like her family was getting lost in the commercialism of Christmas and she wanted them to learn the true meaning of the season.
When it came to her students, however, she struggled to find a way to incorporate the same lessons and action into the classroom.
She came up with the idea to teach her students to knit after a conversation with the school’s spiritual animator, Patricia Aldred, who is an avid knitter.
Westlake had no clue how to knit, so Aldred taught her basics and then helped her to teach the kids.
“They really took to it well,” Aldred said. “They're quick learners and I told them it's just like riding a bike. Once you get it you'll know it for life.”
The students were excited to learn a new skill and have understood that what they are making could have a positive impact on the lives of other young people.
“They are very excited to see what it will look like at the end and they can at this age imagine what another child in need would look like, sound like, and feel, in a moment when they receive a gift that's made out of love.”
Westlake says knitting has also helped the children to focus and relax.
“There was a peace that overcame the kids,” she said. “My special needs kids who never stop moving—stopped moving.”
“I have parents telling me that their children don't get on their devices at night. They knit. They're so motivated to knit they don’t have needles but they go to the dollar store and buy yarn and use chopsticks or pencils.”
For now they only know the basic knit stitch, but once their scarves are complete Westlake said they’ll try to advance to the pearl stitch.
She’s hopeful her students will continue to pay it forward in the years to come.