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Nevis students learn knitting to reduce stress

'Knit gnat' Gavin Hitchcock took his needles and yarn on the bus rides to football games, earning raised eyebrows. "It's fun." (Jean Ruzicka/Enterprise)




Nevis sophomores striding into Janet Golden-Landquist's health classes are gaining an understanding of healthy stress reduction - a stitch at a time.

Armed with yarn and needles, the 10th graders were introduced to the intricacies of turning yarn into blanket pieces, while learning the ancient art is a tangible means to reduce stress and increase self-esteem.

It's taking a risk - mastering the craft - while gaining relaxation and peace - a positive outcome, Golden-Landquist explained of the psychology behind this bit of curriculum.

"This is not for anger management," was Skyler Kennelly's first impression of her assignment. "This is a reason to be treated for anger management!"

But her opinion quickly reversed, as she achieved digital dexterity.

"Now it's my life," she said. Bedtime has been pushed back a bit.

"I bring it home," said Cody Arvik, an affable, burly fellow who doesn't fit the needle wielding profile. "Grandma and I knit together. Now she wants me to learn how to make socks and mittens."

But he finds the curves intimidating, a Christmas stocking not on the immediate agenda.

"I'll probably just hang a hat upside down," he said of Jolly Old St. Nick's gift repository on the mantel.

"I do it on my way to football games," Tiger running back Gavin Hitchcock said.

He admits it raises some eyebrows, "But it's fun."

"It's part of the team's success," education assistant Cheryl Carlson joked.

Arvik recalls returning from a game in Onamia in the dark of night, needles in hand.

"It's kind of like Braille. You feel it with your fingers," he said.

Samantha Wormley recalls picking up the needles briefly at the age of 6. "But I forgot."

She's now creating a baby blanket for a family member.

"Our generation just sits on the Internet," she said. "Instead of just browsing the Web, we're getting something out of this."

And for most, the television is silent when the needles are at work.

Golden-Landquist was inspired by memories of a blanket she'd made as a child. "And I saw stacks of them in buses in Washington, D.C. for people in need."

She headed in to propose the idea to principal John Strom, who endorsed the plan. He will be a "student" in the class next semester.

In addition to relieving stress, research, she learned, shows knitting helps those suffering from chronic pain and depression by inducing a state of "mindfulness" as well as releasing the body's own feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin.

The mind-hand exercise can improve problem-solving abilities. With the development of dexterity and mobility, the cellular brain development is stimulated, improving kids' ability to learn.

The boys - and some of the girls - admit to groaning when they first heard of their assignment. Hitchcock "hesitated at first. I almost gave up."

But within about two days, most of the class had mastered the art.

Gender was not a factor, Golden-Landquist said. "Some of it was attitude, the perception that it was for grandmas.

"But that's not a perception anymore."

A few stitches were dropped, initially.

"Now we know what we're doing, and how to fix it," Arvik said. He plans to bring his needles and yarn to the fish house this winter, to wile away the hours.

As for the students' creations, the squares will be crocheted together by Pat Roehl and the finished work will be donated to an area organization.

Knitting has been found to be the "best medicine" in this health class.