In 2016, sewing machines are so far off the radar of most children in elementary school, that if you asked a child to identify one in a photo they would probably struggle with the answer. But that is not the case in art teacher Kelly Crayne’s class at Seabreeze Elementary. She and her students in Jacksonville Beach are transforming trash into high fashion. The project teaches creativity, sustainability and practical skills all-in-one. The results are amazing.
Crayne started the Trashion Fashion after-school program for fourth and fifth graders last year and its popularity with the students has soared. Over 50 students participated in this year’s program and fashion show. The students meet once a week and work in teams of three to design and create an outfit from any materials that they can gather together. Each team has two designers and one model. The designers build the outfit around the model, because they don’t have mannequins to work with. When the work is done, they hold a Trashion Fashion show.
“It’s outside the box craziness,” says Crayne. There are no step-by-step instructions. The kids just have to figure things out. And “these girls are insanely creative,” she says.
Their dresses are made with discarded materials like old shower curtains, table cloths and scraps of ribbon. They are held together with hot glue, staples and duct tape. Some of the students even learned how to sew.
Fifth grader Madison Aldridge sewed her dress together from Trader Joe’s brown bags. “Ever since I started designing here, I’ve had this urge to go home and start sketching out outfits,” says Aldridge. She’s hoping to get a sewing machine for her birthday. “I’m going to start designing clothes right away … it’s my passion now.”
“Their dedication has just been incredible,” says Crayne. They spend their free time at home coming up with new ideas to create. At school, they sneak into Crayne’s classroom every chance they get to work on their ideas. “During recess and lunch and before and after school,” she says.
Fifth grade designer Kirsten McClelland is so inspired by the project, she sees her future in fashion. “It has just made me realize that there is more to designing than just designing clothes. And it has made me realize that I can consider this to do something when I grow up. And it makes me want to do this for the rest of my life,” she says.
Every strong fashion collection needs to be photographed. Fifth grader Christopher Smith is their official photographer. Smith and Crayne, who happens to be a professional photographer in addition to being a teacher, took pictures of each of the models in their outfits at various locations around the Beaches area. “It’s affected me big time, because I see me doing photography in the future,” says Smith. “So far a lot of stuff for me has come out of photography … I’ve gone to places that I have never been before to take pictures. And I loved it.” One of the pictures he took last year of student model, Lucy Rhodes, launched her professional modeling career. She was in Miami shooting a Gap ad the day of the Trashion Fashion show and was not able to participate this year.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Education) is the buzzword of the 21st century American classroom these days. Kelly Crane’s curriculum in the art room at Seabreeze Elementary approaches STEM without a fancy science lab or standardized tests. It teaches environmental sustainability, math, design and construction, as well as how to sew a button on a shirt. The latter lesson of practical self-sufficiency will serve her kids throughout life, regardless if they become scientists or fashionistas.