Discovering New Passions: WinterMission 2024

During the pandemic, some people baked bread to pass the time. Upper school Spanish teacher Allison Eggleston cooked up a different hobby: learning all about sustainable fashion.

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“Over the past few years it's just something I've tried to be mindful of. Whether I'm thrifting things or when I buy something new, I'm always trying to support sustainable independent brands,” she said.

Eggleston found like-minded faculty with sewing backgrounds: Stella Carey, upper school math teacher; Cheryl Hajjar, chair of the visual arts department; and Ellen Cowhey, upper school history and journalism teacher. Together, they formed a sewing “supergroup” when they designed the WinterMission 2024 course #MeMade at Masters: Creating Radical and Responsible Fashion.

In its second year, WinterMission is a week-long program that gives students the opportunity to dig deep into an area of academic interest or pursue a new area of study. 

Eggleston, Carey, Hajjar and Cowhey asked community members to donate clothes for students to work with in class. After learning about fast fashion and how it contributes to climate change, students were encouraged to exercise their creativity through sewing, designing and thrifting. A trip to the Eileen Fisher Renew store in Irvington will allow students to see how the company extends the life cycle of their clothes.

The course was tailor-made for Nathan Lothian ’24. “My brother Aidan and I started an online vintage resale business called Camino Threads where we find clothes in thrift stores and sell them,” he explained. “When I read the class description it seemed perfect, because if I get something at the thrift store that is almost good enough to sell, now I can learn how to sew and alter it a little bit, and even learn how to put patches on them.”

A novice to both sewing and WinterMission, Dani Carias ’27 soon discovered that she enjoys sewing and the mission behind WinterMission: “It's a way to give yourself a break from school and then get back on track the next week, so it really helps you in the long run.”

While ripping the seams of a pair of khakis to begin widening the legs, Elijah Brooks ’24 explained “My mom is big into sewing. I’ve wanted to learn that skill for a long time. I knew how to use a sewing machine because my mom taught me, and this is more hands-on experience.” 

Learning about the impact of fast fashion has been eye-opening for Brooks: “It's not something I usually think about when I wake up in the morning and put on my clothes. But I realize now that something as simple as that has such a huge impact on the world around me.” 

Bonding with classmates is a highlight for Adara Levey ’27, who studies costume design. “It's interesting because students from all grade levels don't really mingle that much but in WinterMission we do, which I like,” Levey said. 

Benji Edelson ’26 loves woodworking with his dad, and that drew him to The Shelter Project course with Paul West, upper school English teacher, and Gilles Pugatch, upper school music teacher. With saws, drills and chisels in hand, the students have been buzzing with activity in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center atrium. 

Their goal? To build functioning dog houses to donate to animal shelters if possible.

“Mr. Pugatch and I wanted to build a large structure in various forms, and getting something to build with 8x8 timber was hard in this area,” West said. “What we decided to do was scale down and use the 4x4 dimension. In order to do that we decided to do something smaller and came up with dog houses.” 

Lylah Kelman ’26 has always loved woodworking and is using this opportunity to learn more: “I've built things with my mom before but I've never built a dog house, so I thought it would be cool to try this out.”

Pugatch said the students are doing an amazing job. “They’re deeply engaged, and now they’re practicing the skills and putting them to use,” he said. “Everyone’s working at different paces. What's great about that is that it can scale up in complexity if necessary.” 

Sparked by headlines related to recent cases of art repatriation, Brittany Farrar, middle school languages teacher, and Jillian McCoy, head librarian, have joined forces once again to teach Who Owns Art?: Ethical Art Consumption in the Modern Era, a class replete with Harkness discussions and field trips with their inquisitive students.
“We are taking a trip to Tarrytown where students will engage with the owner of artisan cooperative Maker Central, a furniture restorer and woodworker at Tarrytown Woodworks and a private fine arts gallery owner at Canfin Gallery,” McCoy said. “Then we’ll be heading to the Brooklyn Museum, where students will meet with the Provenance Team to learn about their work, and on to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit to learn about art crime. We’ll also view Eduardo Kobra’s public art murals, and visit Sotheby’s to learn how they handle art acquisitions and sales.”
Those students seeking an outdoor experience signed up for Ice Fishin’ WinterMission with Linden Jones, upper school science teacher, and Meghan MacWilliams, associate dean for ethical leadership. The duo planned a session that includes a presentation from the Department of Environmental Protection, discussions about the topography of lakes, safety lessons on ice and outdoor activities, time for ice skating and fire building, and if the weather cooperates, ice fishing.

“Linden has been ice fishing most of his life,” MacWilliams said. “He has family from Maine, and it was a large part of their lives. He was taught by his grandfather when he was younger, and it has been something that he has become passionate about. My background is in outdoor education — although I have never been ice fishing. It felt like we could partner and create something fun to get students outside. Regardless of the weather, I am always impressed with how much students learn when they are outside.”

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