This semester, a group of Franklin Community Middle School students has been working to put thousands of plastic bags to good use.
The project, being done in coordination with Church of the Lakes in Nineveh, aims to have at least 100 mats and pillows made out of plastic bags ready to be distributed to homeless people in Indianapolis in November.
For about a half-hour each school day, about 20 students sit around tables and desks, either crocheting mats and pillows or cutting and tying the plastic bags into lengthy strips to be used later. Most of the students first learned to crochet when their class began a couple of months ago, but they’ve already gotten the hang of it and have since completed dozens of items.
“From an early age they need to learn how to help others,” said Melissa Tunis, a foreign language teacher at the middle school.
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The idea for the project came from a similar effort being done by Church of the Lakes in Nineveh, which Tunis’ mother attends.
Students at Franklin Community Middle School with good grades have the option to choose an enrichment class, which gives them an opportunity to give back to the community. This class was the top choice for several enthusiastic seventh-graders.
“You get to help other people but have fun and learn at the same time,” seventh-grade student Bella Street said.
This class was her first time crocheting, but she picked it up quickly and already has made a pillow. Several women from Church of the Lakes visited the class to teach them the basics of crocheting, Tunis said.
While plastic bags may seem like an unusual choice of material, using them has many benefits. When crocheted, the plastic is sturdy, doesn’t stay wet and isn’t inviting to bugs, Tunis said.
It is also another opportunity to recycle and find a new use for the bags, she said.
Students use the bags to make plastic yarn, or plarn, as they like to call it. About 100 bags are needed for a pillow, and a mat can require around 500, Tunis said.
Students and teachers have donated bags, and they’ve also received them from area stores, Tunis said.
While some of the students are busy crocheting, others worked to convert the plastic bags into a more usable form.
To turn the bags into strips of material that can be crocheted, the bags are first flattened and then folded into a vertical strip. The handles and seams at the bottom are cut off. They then cut the bag horizontally into four to five pieces. Those strips are knotted together until a whole ball of plarn is created.
It takes just as long to create the plarn as it does to crochet a pillow, Tunis said.
“It has been fun and interesting to learn,” said seventh-grader Abbie Henderson.
Henderson, who said she always loves doing crafts, has already made five pillows herself.
The 35-minute class period is a nice break from lectures or test taking, seventh-grader Gabi Sherry said.
“It helps me forget some of the stress from school,” she said.
The project also is a reminder that there are people who are less fortunate than she is who need help, Sherry said.
“I think about how I sleep in a bed and how other people have to sleep on the sidewalk,” seventh-grader Rose Yang said.
Want to help?
You can donate plastic bags by dropping them off at the front office at Franklin Community Middle School, 625 Grizzly Cub Drive, Franklin.