Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Redefining Sewing as an Educational Experience in Middle and High Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Redefining Sewing as an Educational Experience in Middle and High Schools

Article excerpt

Sewing is a traditional educational experience in family and consumer sciences (FCS) education in middle and high school. Learning sewing skills, however, is not as relevant today as it was in the past. To better prepare adolescents for life roles, FCS education needs to reflect the changes in society and focus more broadly on the work of the family. This article (a) contrasts the traditional or technical science-based curriculum model (which emphasizes sewing skills) with a critical science-based model (which emphasizes the work of the family), and (b) proposes that the critical science approach is more relevant for today's individuals and families. In addition, significant questions that need to be addressed are identified in order to examine sewing as an educational experience in FCS.

Sewing is a tradition within home economics and family and consumer sciences (FCS) education. A century ago, sewing became part of home economics programs-developing sewing skills, whether they were for fancy work or utilitarian purposes, was viewed as important to assuming domestic roles (Burman, 1999). By the 1960s, learning clothing construction skills was an important part of preparing young women for occupations related to clothing as well as for homemaking roles. In the 21st century, an emphasis on sewing skills has continued within exploratory or introductory courses at middle and high schools, and in advanced or career development courses at the high school level.

Families and society have changed, however, which calls into question the need to learn sewing skills. For example, although women once made much of the family's clothing, now ready-made apparel is available and accessible in neighborhood stores and from catalogs and internet-based retailers. Most individuals and families can obtain clothing and textiles to meet their needs without knowing how to sew.

In addition, financial and human resources are limited both within families and society. Individual students, families, or schools may or may not be able to purchase the sewing supplies, kits, or equipment needed for sewing to be cost-effective. Public schools, as well as colleges and universities, are experiencing a reduction of financial resources. Human resources are limited as well. In many areas of the U. S., FCS teachers are in short supply. Due to limited resources, families, public schools, including colleges and universities, are forced to make difficult decisions regarding educational priorities.

Although families and society have changed, and despite the desire of the profession to eliminate the stereotypical image of "cooking and sewing," sewing, from a technical perspective, continues to be a predominant part of FCS classrooms. It is essential, therefore, to reflect upon how learning experiences such as sewing support educational goals and the enduring understanding of concepts important to individual, family, and community life (Eisner, 2003; Harrison, Andrews, Saklofske, 2003; Shumer, 2001; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). To begin this process, two curriculum models are examined: the technical and the critical sciencebased curriculum models (see Table 1) (Plihal, Laird, & Rehm, 1999). The premise of each model is briefly described related to the view of the family, focus of learning, and role of the teacher and students. It is proposed that a shift from a technical science-based curriculum model to one that is more critical science-based will help improve FCS education and redefine the role of sewing as an educational experience.

TECHNICAL SCIENCE-BASED CURRICULUM MODEL

Technical science is the dominant curriculum model that has guided sewing activities or clothing construction courses in both middle and high school. The major premise of this model is that families sew in order to produce their own clothing. The family is perceived as engaging in primarily technical or "how to" actions related to clothing and textiles, such as how to make clothing or how to do laundry. …

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