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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Thread of innovation: Cottonwood High’s sewing program shifts to Sports & Outdoor Design

Nov 06, 2023 02:46PM ● By Julie Slama

Cottonwood High student Carley Stephens practices sewing skills in the Sports & Outdoor Design class. (Zahaia Donner/Cottonwood High)

Cottonwood High’s sewing classes have a new focus.

“My sewing class curriculum changed to Sports & Outdoor Design so we are focusing on outdoor products,” teacher Zahaia Donner said.

With a growing industry in outdoor apparel and product design education, it’s becoming a trend to shift curriculum to that focus along with the desire to sustain secondary schools’ textiles and apparel curriculum.  

“The Sports & Outdoor Design curriculum focuses more on product development. A few years ago, we went to USU (Utah State University’s) outdoor product design showcase and saw all the senior students’ final projects, so that may be the route we’re going toward,” she said. “Hopefully, this gets kids more inspired in product design. We’re wanting to take the kids on more field trips so they can see what options they have the college level and professionally.”

The curriculum change already is attracting new students. Donner said she’s seen an increase in male students.

“I did get a lot of boys that signed up for the class because it was called Sports & Outdoor Design. They were very surprised on the first day of school when I told them it centered around sewing, but I encouraged them to stay. The students definitely were more excited when I told them our new updated projects. I have gotten more buy-in with the class,” she said.

About 30 students in the Sports & Outdoor Design I class are starting with making joggers.

“They’re going to be learning some basics with those, but with a few more skills. Then, we’re going to be making a duffel bag and a pullover sweatshirt,” she said, saying that those projects replace pajama pants, aprons and quillows. “My second-level students will make an outdoors shirt, a more complex sports bag and another project working with specialty fabrics.”

Donner said that the curriculum change is districtwide and that together, the teachers are brainstorming ways to deliver and enhance the curriculum. They’re also creating an advisory board of local companies to help with the direction of the program as well as potentially serve as guest speakers or be able to give students’ tours of facilities and possibly, internships.

Donner said she has an “amazing TA who is helpful assisting students” in senior Sara Sandusky, who may work with one student altering a pattern while she helps others who are designing their own patterns.

Through this curriculum change, she said students are realizing that the course is more than traditional sewing.

“I want them to realize that sewing isn’t just something for grandmas,” Donner said. “They create lots of cool projects and skills that they’ll use for their life—and now we’re appealing to students who normally wouldn’t see us on class but are more creative and are interested in product design.”λ