November 29, 2023

Coastal Climate Solutions – via quilt

Posted by Laura Guertin

I have been generating science-themed quilts since 2018, and I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing these quilts with audiences ranging from garden clubs to quilting guilds. Frequently, I will be asked if I have my students generate quilts. My response has always been no, the quilting is an activity I do for science outreach and communication, that I don’t involve my students – until this semester.

I decided – why not have my students make a collaborative quilt? When I went out to sea on JOIDES Resolution in 2022, I brought along blank fabric squares and fabric markers and offered the scientists and technicians on board the opportunity to contribute to a group quilt for my Stories from the South Atlantic Ocean quilt collection. This fun, creative activity was a welcomed distraction from the frenzy of end-of-expedition report writing and preparation to depart the ship after being at sea for two months. Their work resulted in the Team Effort quilt.

In Fall 2023, I taught two in-person sections of a course titled Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society (EARTH 107N). In Week 13, the week before Thanksgiving break, I could see that overall my students were struggling to make it to their first break from classes for the semester. I was giving a quiz in my final lecture period before the break, and instead of diving into more course content, I decided to follow through on a message I had been sending my students all along – if what happens in TMZKO 101 (our classroom) stays in TMZKO 101, and your new knowledge is not shared, then how does this benefit our communities and Planet Earth as a whole?

The students had recently finished a class project where I challenged them to learn more about climate solutions framed around the coastal/ocean sinks sector of Project Drawdown. They learned about current efforts to utilize the coastal zone to “drawdown” existing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by sequestering carbon dioxide. Instead of having students write a report, each student was assigned to write their findings in the format of a story that can be shared, utilizing the And-But-Therefore (ABT) template.

But back to their quiz on the last day of lecture before Thanksgiving break… once the quiz was over, I surprised the students and said that we would engage in a project to allow our group to disseminate what they had learned. I brought in my leftover fabric squares and markers that I had brought on JOIDES Resolution and had each student draw an image relating to their climate solution story. Every student took on the task and produced a drawing on a square, sketching first on blank paper before drawing on the fabric. The students were so quiet during this task, drawing so intently and with such focus! I then stitched the squares together over the Thanksgiving break, resulting in two quilts (one for each class section) on Climate Science Solutions.

Each quilt is laid out where each row across addresses one of the solutions defined by Project Drawdown for the coastal/ocean sinks sector. The top row are the squares for the student stories around the coastal wetland protection solution. Going down the quilt, the remaining rows are for coastal wetland restorationimproved fisheriesmacroalgae protection and restoration, and seaweed farming. I generated a website for each class section that includes the stories the students authored with an image of their corresponding square (website for Section 01/Volume 1 quilt, website for Section 02/Volume 2 quilt).


Hanging quilt with 20 white squares with hand sketches of coastal scenes

Quilt squares completed by the 19 students enrolled in EARTH 107N, Section 01, Fall 2023. The squares were stitched together by the instructor, Dr. Guertin.


Hanging quilt with 20 white squares and hand-drawn sketches of coastal scenes

Quilt squares completed by the 18 students enrolled in EARTH 107N, Section 02, Fall 2023. The squares were stitched together by the instructor, Dr. Guertin.


The big reveal of the quilts and website was made to the students when we returned to class after Thanksgiving break. Their reaction? Smiles! So many smiles! Some students took photos, some told me that they would be sharing the website with family members… I was happy to see their reaction. I hope they continue to share about the quilt and the stories they wrote, well beyond the end of the semester.

Quilt details – The border fabrics are Moda-Interstellar Batiks purchased at Homesewn (Media, PA). Each quilt measures 37 inches across by 44 inches in height. The quilts were completed November 25-26, 2023.