Robbinsdale Area Schools

High school students sew ‘coping monsters’ for first graders

High school students sew ‘coping monsters’ for first graders

For young children, understanding their little (or big) emotions can be scary. That’s why a group of students at Armstrong High School decided to focus on a project that could help young learners at Neill Elementary School.

To create a project that would have a big impact, students in Armstrong’s Design Construction and Technology course created a social-emotional learning project using monsters. 

You read that right: monsters.

The sometimes scary creatures were sewn together – once the older students had mastered their sewing skills – last semester. First graders at Neill were able to choose the design and color for the monster doll.

They specified: 

  • The monster’s name
  • What the monster likes to eat 
  • Their favorite color
  • What the monster is afraid of 
  • The monster's favorite thing to do.

“The first graders were so excited to create their monsters and it was especially meaningful to them that high schoolers would be making them. The littles really look up to older students,'' said Sarah Jaremko, a first grade teacher at Neill.

“This is about so much more than creating a monster,” said Misty Maruska, teacher of the Design Construction and Technology course. “I want students to know the joy of giving to others, of creating something for others, and how a little thing can bring joy.”

Three classrooms of first graders received monsters after returning from winter break. 

One goal of the project was to create a connection between the younger and older students, to build community and a sense of belonging. First graders across the district participate in programming designed to teach emotional regulation skills, including Second STEP and the Zones of Regulation. The monster dolls support emotional awareness and act as an additional coping tool.

Jaremko said, “These students know that when you feel big emotions, there are tools you can use to help you regulate yourself. Their monster can be one of these tools.”