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October 27, 2010 Hats for Humanity Project By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    "Say it. Mean it. Do it!" is a phrase I repeat on a daily basis in the classroom. A person is only as good as his or her word. Too often we say things we do not mean. Too often we make commitments and do not follow through. I believe that teachers need to act with the utmost integrity and model every action they suggest to students. So, when it comes to our country's Core Democratic Values (CDVs), we have our work cut out for us. This social studies lesson focuses on economics and the "common good," and has a little bit of math thrown in for some cross-curricular flavor.


    This post contains a video demonstration of how to make fleece hats.


    Around early October I wrap up our unit on the economy. Up until this point in Studio 24 we have applied most of our economic discussions to our classroom snack shop, set up during the first week of school. But once we have refined our entrepreneurial skills, we are ready to take on another business venture. This time for charity.

    I call this project Hats for Humanity. The students make quality fleece hats and sell them during parent-teacher conferences. Throughout the project we apply our economic vocabulary and knowledge as we calculate price points, discuss supply and demand, and polish our quality control process. When we have completed our hat production, we do some research on local charities to decide where our proceeds should go. One year we gave all the money from the hats to a battered women and children's shelter. Another year we donated to a classmate who had been diagnosed with cancer. This year, after some intense debate, we decided on Special Days Camps. This is an organization that makes it possible for children with cancer to enjoy summer camp.


    Fabric Cut Step One: About six weeks in advance buy yards and yards of fleece and some beads. Keep in mind that if you're selling them in school, most of these hats will be going to kids. Buy fabric they will like. Also, buy it on sale! Jo-Ann Fabrics offers discounts to teachers and seems to give out online coupons weekly. Take advantage of it. One yard makes four hats. If you are really good, you can get some of your fleece for $5/yard or less.

    Step Two: Have a parent(s) cut the fleece for you in 18" x 22" rectangles. Be sure to save the scraps as you will need them for ties.

    Step Three: Plan a couple hours to have a parent(s) with a sewing machine(s) to come in to sew the hats.


    See the video for an illustration of these instructions.

    1. Place the rectangle of fleece in front of you. The side that is 18" long should be vertical. I put the most faded part (a.k.a. "the ugly side") on top, as this will become the inside of the hat later.

    Vasicek Hat Measure

     2. Create a fringe along the bottom edge by cutting parallel lines about 1 cm apart. (A thicker fringe will make beading difficult.) Cut the fringe so it is 4" long. I usually have students draw a pencil line 4" from the bottom edge so they know when to stop cutting the fringe.  

     3. Fold the unfringed side up about 2 inches to create a flat brim around the hat.

    4. Roll the fleece into a cylinder. The inside of the hat should be on the outside so when turned inside out, the seam will be hidden.Vasicek Spartan Hat Sewing

    5. Sew a seam to close the cylinder.

    6. Turn the hat inside out so the seam is now on the inside.

    7. Take a matching scrap and cut it to about 12" long and 1 cm wide.

    8. Bunch up the fringe and tie the scrap strip around the pencil line you initially drew. 

    Optional: Add colorful beads on the fringe with the help of a pencil or paperclip to push the fabric through the bead.

        Vasicek Hat Bead Selection         Vasicek Hat Beading              


    If you are having difficulty watching the above video, you may also view it on YouTube.


    Discuss the social studies concepts of supply, demand, producer, consumer, expense, budget, credit, investor, incentives, quality control, profit, loss, income, etc.

    Have a discussion or debate on which charity will get the proceeds.

    What creative projects do you do to support your social studies economic or CDV curriculum?

    Hats off,

    Brent Vasicek




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