Classroom Beading Workshop

Recently I did a bead bracelet making workshop with a class of 4th graders (30 10-year-olds). No, I am not crazy, yes I knew what I was getting into to.

I have volunteered in the school before, several times. Some of it I hated and wouldn’t do again. Other stuff was okay and I was happy to do it, but I can’t say any of them was as great as this.

I love to make jewelry, it has been a passion since I was their age. It can be an expensive hobby, so I used to gather old broken pieces from my mom and my friends and re-purpose them. I would spend hours fiddling with thread, glue, beads and other bits, making my own creations. I was always proud to wear them too.

Once I had my daughter, that went out the window, at least until she is old enough to have the patience for it herself. But I still wear my collection of necklaces and bracelets, and she loves them. And she borrows them and talks about them at school.

So when the one of the teachers asked if I could do a mothers day project with his class, I was surprised…, and pleased…, and nervous. 30 kids? with beads?  (Imagine cleaning up all the confetti after a party and trying to use it again.)

But I said yes, because right now I am trying to always say yes (within reason; I am a mom after all). And we sat down and planned it out.

  • What supplies did we need? I have a list below
  • What tools? Not much, I used crimp pliers to attach the toggles
  • What beads? The teacher wanted a tie in to science so we used natural stone.
  • What budget? We couldn’t afford all natural stone, so we used glass spacers.
  • What time frame? We didn’t have a lot of time for shipping, so I had to rush everything.
  • How long would it take? We did it in about 90 minutes. It would have been shorter if we had used elastic, as I wouldn’t have been the only one who could finish them off.

I provided the teacher a few samples I had laying around ahead of time, so that the kids could get an idea what we were doing.

The day of the workshop I came in at lunch and we laid out the supplies. We put together a buffet of trays (Chinese food take-out containers), stones and glass beads.

When the kids arrived, they grabbed a tray lid and selected their beads, then sat down and strung them. When they were done, we transferred it to wire with toggle closures. Next time we might use beading elastic and knots; we’ll see.

That’s the logistics, now here’s the rest of the story:

These kids were awesome. If all you ever see is the chaos of running and screaming in the playground or shoving and arguing in the halls, you wouldn’t believe me. They worked hard, and thoughtfully, all of them, no exceptions. No two creations were alike, and they were all beautiful.

They were kind, respectful and truly lovely. I was called talented, beautiful and told how lucky my daughter is. Forget a day at the spa, it was the most rejuvenating experience I’ve ever had. I don’t remember the last time I felt so good; I walked on a cloud the rest of the day.

The side benefit is that now every time I am at the school, one of these lovely kids says waves and says hello, and I get to remember how wonderful it all was. And my daughter is seeing the benefit too. These older kids know her and her mom, which makes her proud. Her homeroom teacher told me that she’s been telling her class all about it.

Total time: 6 hours

It took me 3 hours of my own time, in the evenings to prepare the project: one for planning, one for online shopping, and one for cutting the wire and attaching the toggles.

It took 3 hours at school; half a day off work. Half an hour to set up, an hour and a half to do the workshop and half an hour to clean up. The other half hour was letting my daughter play on the playground afterwards.

Big rewards for a relatively small commitment. So I would do it again. So my question is: How do you like to help out? What brings you joy?

Supplies Needed:

Stone Beads

And now for a word from our sponsor; just kidding. I do get paid if you use the links below, but these are the suppliers I used for the project and they were great. Especially considering I had a serious time crunch and no time to hit the beading store across town.

Other Supplies

I didn’t have to buy these things, because I had them around the house.

  • Beading wire, crimp beads and crimp covers, alternatively I could have used elastic beading cord.
  • Plastic takeout containers leftover from Chinese food.
  • 4mm glass bead spacers. I also brought some large seed beads.
  • Crimp pliers, wire cutters and scissors.

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