Passion Project

AMPed: Welcome to my 2014-2015 AMPed page. Latest entry 8/30/15 – scroll right down to the bottom of this page: Felix Takes Service Learning a Step Further!

If you are new to SIS in this 2015-2016 year, I know you will learn much about this exciting piece of middle school life, as the year progresses. Whether you are new or not to this school, it is worth knowing that AMPed is SIS’s innovative answer to Google’s “Genius Hour” – it’s just that instead of adults having time to play and follow their passions to develop something interesting, it’s our MS students who get that chance. Isn’t that wonderful?
I am planning on continuing my work for the Syrian Refugee Children, but I expect that I will not have the same response from this year’s advisory group, as I did with last year’s group.
My Funky Twisters (Please refer to my Advisory Page for details) all completed at least one knitted hat, and one student completed FORTY! I was so proud of all of them, as this project of mine, became our advisory group’s Service Learning work for the year. Please read on and discover the journey that I took, and that my students from advisory took too. I will continue to add stories and images this year, of the tales that go with these hats.

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The boys below were all proud of the hats they knitted. Felix was the most successful, knitting two hats during school time and then 9 more during holiday time. I’m looking forward to getting those hats to Jordan.

PicCollage 2

When we talk about passion, we often think of something that is lively, hugely motivating and exciting.

But my passion is slow burning and long been a part of my life. I wouldn’t still be teaching if I didn’t love it in the way that I do. What it boils down to is making sure that children I get to take care of each year, get the best education possible, while they are in my room, and beyond that.

But what about those children that I can’t reach? What about children who have had a rough deal? Last year I watched a CNN reporter watching the traumatised children of Syria. “Don’t forget them,” she said. I haven’t.
10335161854_aa21191ab0 Syrian Refugees begging on the streets of Istanbul. October,2013
Photo Credit: Bünyamin Salman via Compfight cc

Take a pair of 9.0 needles and a ball of bulky yarn. Use an easy knitting pattern. Knit. Every hat has a story. Write it.

THE LINK BELOW leads you to the HAT KNITTING PATTERN: HAT AND SCARF: Use the first hat pattern with 54 stitches.

hat and scarf

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The Story of the Black Hat
By Rosana Walsh
I can’t say which Minnesota story I loved most, but this is about a boy who decided at some point, that he would stop writing. When he started again, he wrote a persuasive essay about his love for Minnesota. I said in passing that he had me convinced. When his mom (the music teacher here with me) drove up to Marilyn’s front door, he recognized who the “surprise” guest was, without me actually being there. Do Kiwi teachers still roll around their classrooms in bare feet? I always have. And not being a shoe girl, I have a very small selection of shoes! My kids last year knew them all, because I would always lose them and so there’d be a hunt on to find them. Back to the front door. I parked my bags outside the door, just after Marilyn had left early morning to catch her flight to Dallas. Oh, I thought, let’s see if a pair of shoes would signal a clue to a small ten year old boy. And so it was that I put my shoes on top of my bag, and as the car drove up to the front door, his face lit up, “Mom! It’s Ms. Walsh!”.

It could have been different. How many ten year olds are actually glad to see their old elementary school teacher? I’m grateful for a happy ending. We spent the day visiting the sites he had recommended – the perfect small zoo for children, a waterfall named after an Indian maid that I recognized – Minihaha Falls, and then finished with a visit to a real sports bar where not three or four but ten plus big screens showed the latest games in a range of sports. And where two boys showed me how to choose the right spicy sauce to accompany buffalo wings. I learned about the Twins and the Vikings – the best teams ever, and I learned about the hub of America’s wild rice crops, right there in many of Minnesota’s beautiful lakes. I also spent time sitting at a kitchen table, knitting a black hat that might be just right for another ten year old boy, somewhere on the other side of the world.

8660040329_9983a48aca Syrian Refugee Child at Dana/Jordan. January, 2013
Photo Credit: MaximilianV via Compfight cc
By Rosana Walsh
A Poem for Syria’s Forgotten Children

Children endangered
Traumatized and blinded
By dust and dirt and

Children broken, starved and
Wounded, frozen in a
landscape of ever present fear

Children without friends or
Futures or any kind of carefree play
Children whose lives are on hold with
Little hope or mercy at the end of each day

Children enslaved by adult unlawfulness,
Homeless, haunted and incredibly brave
Three years of hell for babies and brothers and
Sisters in Syria.

What happens next?

By Mick Krever, CNN March, 2014 from the CNN website, with thanks.

The plight of the 5.5 million children now affected by the war in Syria – more than twice the number than just a year ago – is a national security issue, not just a humanitarian one, UNICEF Executive Director and former U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.

“These are not statistics. These are human beings, and these are children. And this is, the governments should remember, a strategic issue,” Lake told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from the devastated Syrian city of Homs.

“So many of them have been traumatized by seeing things no child should ever see,” he said.
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Photo Credit: İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı/TURKEY via Compfight cc
Daily life in refugee camp in Atmeh village of Syria bordering Turkey, March 2013
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The Story of the Purple Hat
By Rosana Walsh

Not Black, but a Purple Blanket.

Sunset comes quickly to Kamalaya
The colours of the day shift
Nightsky moves in
From pink to cerise to
A deepening shade of blue

Not black, but a purple blanket
drifts into being, folding itself
around the edges of the earth
A sliver of warm light shows
below my balcony

The first line of stars appear
I thank the universe
For the gift of this perfect place
This small amount of time
in a place called Kamalaya

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The Story of the Green Hat
By Rosana Walsh

I love this little hat because it’s tiny compared to the rest. It was born on a schooner that was headed out to a place called Ahn Thong Marine National Park, and finished on the same day. I’m imagining it on the small head of a child that needs it and that’s what keeps me going with this project.

Today I watched the Seng Girls dance. I also watched the short video that was played before they danced. I sat on the top step of the amphitheatre seats, behind my students and was glad that my face was hidden. I know why I am affected by the sight of children in sad situations. My sister does too.

So while I have that little green hat, I will hold more strongly a memory of me and my sister, on a schooner heading out to Ahn Thong Park. She lies next to me, under the shade that keeps us safe from the strong rays of the sun. She’s knitting a lime green hat, one of two that she will finish on the boat that day. She has set her own goal for a hundred hats.

We were both children once. But our lives have been fortunate, especially when we think of those children born to face the terrors and miseries of a country torn by war.
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The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hats!
There’s more than one reason why I love my big sister. She keeps me motivated with this project – here’s a snippet of a letter that she sent, after parting with her precious hats:
Hi Rosie
Had a hiccup or two with trying to pack these little beauties, not to mention it was like having to let go of a special piece of me. But finally finally they are packaged, sealed, weighed, ticked off my to do list and given a great big cuddle, which was quite difficult considering the shape and a little odd in the middle of the post office queue!

I thought it would be a good idea for the children involved in your home base group to track the parcel. Here are the details:

Website is
Tracking Number is EP 406 701 696 NZ

Tucked in amongst the hats are 12 sets of knuckle bones.

Have fun and lots of love
Sharon xxxxxxx

The following photograph shows a peace sign created with hats and adds to a total of 50 hats made by my sister. I am completing my 25th hat. Funky Twisters (see the page called Advisory) are now tracking the package of hats from New Zealand to China.
Teaching Teachers to Knit! 04/20/15
An opportunity arose in November of 2014 to gather interested teachers together for a “Knitting Fest”! What fun – for many this was their first attempt at knitting. The deal was to learn to knit and then knit at least one hat for the refugee children of Syria.
Hats Arrive From New Zealand!
Nothing motivates more than to receive a parcel in the mail – students couldn’t get to it fast enough. Then the joy of opening the parcel and seeing all those hats. Students were even more motivated to keep on knitting…
We are several months on since that original box of hats arrived before Christmas. In fact, by the time December arrived, we had already packed up two parcels of hats, to be sent directly to Jordan, and our wonderful UNICEF contact, Jacky. A personal friend of a colleague, she has continued to support the HATS ON HEADS project, by receiving hats and taking or sending them on to the Za’atari Refugee Camp on the borders of Syria and Jordan. The two parcels amounted to 30 hats. Another 70 hats (including those in the parcel from my sister) were divided up into two bundles, and travelled to the United States, with colleagues returning home for their winter break. Mary headed to Santa Barbara, in California, while Mark headed home to Wisconsin. They then posted their parcels to New York, where a family moving to Jordan, packed those hats into their shipment. Why the convoluted journey of the bulk of hats? Personal connections seem to work the best, especially when precious cargo that took precious time and meant for precious children, are all involved. The parcels posted directly, arrived in quick time. The 70 hats arrived two weeks ago – mid April! But arrive they did. More on that to come….
A Spanish boy and his Spanish Grandmother
Once upon a time (in recent history) a boy named Pablo, lived in a seaside town in China. The town was named Shekou, and this boy went to Shekou International School. The School was well known to the international school world, as being a place where students could make, create and innovate. It’s also known for it’s mission to ensure that students know what it is to be a global citizen – someone who belongs to a caring society, where giving service to others is highly prized. Pablo demonstrated his understanding of what it is to be caring, when he told his grandma – who lives in Spain – that he was learning to knit hats, for the refugee children of Syria. It turned out that his grandmother has knitted forever, and because she loves her grandson, she promised to knit hats too. Pablo couldn’t wait to tell his teacher, and the next day when he did, she beamed from ear to ear! These hats, Pablo was quick to say, were not going to be just any color hat.
At least some of them were going to have the colors of Spain on them. Since Pablo has a passion for soccer, and his team is Barca, his hats were clearly going to have special meaning to him. Imagine though, having to give them away? That’s another reason why Pablo has the traits of a global citizen – he stuck with his plan to collect the hats during his winter holiday in Spain, and laid them out for all to see. Some are already in the refugee camp in Jordan. His teacher has kept one or two, in the hope that one day, they will be in photos that show they have landed on the heads of children who really need them – children who would love Pablo for his soccer passion and also for his enthusiasm about the HATS ON HEADS project.
I Heard The Owl Call My Name: The story of the “Owl” Hat.
It was a tattered paperback, hidden in a pile of class library books. It looked unloved. When I looked at the blurb on the back, I decided that this was the book for me. It arrived in my life at the point when I had to be reading on a regular basis. Sixth graders and their teachers were at the beginning of a “Beat the Teach” program, and so I needed to up my game and find something that would hold my attention. At that point, knitting was also in need of attention – by the winter break, my sister had made close to 100 hats and I needed to do my best and get to 50. Somehow I managed that, and was grateful to curl up on Sharon’s comfortable sofa, to read.
In the Native American Haida tribes of the Pacific North West, U.S.A, there is a belief that if you hear the call of an owl, that is a portend to your coming death. The story revolves around a young Catholic priest, sent by his bishop to an outpost north of Seattle, Washington State. It took him days to travel up a river by local boat to meet his new diocese.
A short novel, the reader learns in quick time about the hardships that the Haida people were enduring, in a time when many of their young folks were heading for the big city. That river and forest culture was still intact though, and as the priest adjusts to a basic life, he learns to love each of the colourful Haida characters that make daily living worth the struggle. Just above this story are images of two hats. The hat on the right, with it’s feathery look, symbolises the owl in this story, and the hat on the left has those earthy tones that connect me to a memory I’ll never forget.
Somewhere in my old backpack, in a closet at home in New Zealand, lies a photo of a much younger Rosana Walsh – wearing a sweater with the same earthy tones knitted into it. She’s leaning up against a native American totem pole, knowing that she was a match for the vibrant colors on the pole. That pole came from North America and can still be found in Rotorua, New Zealand. I want to connect the dots one day, and make my way to that place where totem poles are truly at home. And where some folks will truly understand what is meant when one of theirs says with full awareness, “I heard the owl call my name”.
Successful Teacher KnittersIMG_4646
There are two sayings or quotes that I really like:
“It takes a village to raise a child” and “Many hands make light work”
I like to think of Shekou International School as a village, a metaphor for making clear part of its mission statement, which points out that we highly value what is meant to be a caring community. Last November (see earlier “Teaching Teachers to Knit), on Thanksgiving Day, teachers did indeed learn to knit. Several have contributed to the growing store of hats here, ready for delivery next winter. Some of their hats are already at the Za’atari Camp in Jordan. A small group of teachers have quietly continued to drop their hats on my desk: Andrea, Mary, Eunice, Jessica, and Sophie have created their own style of hats, some using just plain stitch and others using both plain and pearl. I remind them that no matter if they think their hats are not things of beauty, those hats are going to keep the heads of very needy Syrian children’s heads warm.For these ladies who successfully made just one hat – they can be proud of the fact that they have contributed to improving the lives of Syrian children: Keeping warmth is pretty important for survival in miserable conditions. They have also benefited from learning a new skill too. These Teachers can now knit for their own families, perhaps finding more complicated patterns to complete: scarves, tops or even slippers!

Felix Takes Service Learning a Step Further!

It’s a sign of success, when someone continues on with a service learning experience and in essence, has taken it over for themselves, using their own “drive” to help others. Felix doesn’t ask for recognition, but it’s difficult for me to not have him here as a role model for those who aren’t sure about the goals of service learning. Here is what we believe at SIS:
Service Learning: Students and teachers working together to improve the lives of others and in so doing, improving their own.
Service Learning: Students demonstrating a commitment to helping others, through their own drive to do so. We believe that students should benefit from the work they do for others. Last year Funky Twisters learned to knit. They were overjoyed when hats began to pour in from overseas (New Zealand and Spain) and happy when we received photos of our hats arriving in Amman, Jordan and then at the Zaatari Camp. When a service learning experience makes us feel good, and we want to keep going with it ourselves, then that’s a caring community at its best and that’s service at its best.

Dear Ms. Walsh,

For my communications and media arts class at school, I would like to make to make a documentary about your project. If you’re ok with it, I would like to give a brief outline of your project to an online audience to raise awareness and encourage more global citizens worldwide to contribute to the project.

For this project, I hope to talk to you, advisory members, other faculty or even global helpers of your project over the weekend or on Skype. I would love it if I could be put in touch with the refugee camp for the documentary. I really think that this project is important and I hope to provide more awareness to it. I also think that I could showcase the scale of the suffering of refugees in Syria and contrast it to the lives of the more privileged. Do you have time for an interview and would you mind sending some photos of the hats?

Felix (7th grade HKIS student and sent 27 August, 2015)


Confirmation That Hats Arrived in Jordan: 12 January, 2015


Am sending the hats up to the camp later this week because there is a cold snap coming this week and next. Also, they SUPER bundle newborns here…when we would have them splayed out in onesies, they have them wrapped in wool blankets!…….

Hats delivered to Child Feeding center in Zatari in the afternoon. No moms and kids, but here is Lina handing them over to the head of the feeding center who will distribute them.
Smiles – J


Taking Action: A genuine response that grows from understanding.


See More from rosana walsh


  1. cgome1 says:

    The inspiration running through my veins at this moment has turned my heartbeat to a voice that will guide my project. Thank you Rosie, for sharing your passion and for redefining service learning 🙂 xx

  2. John says:

    I wandered past your class today and saw a bunch of boys busily knitting away. This is many shades of awesome! The authentic connections and ongoing learning (not to mention empathy) students will develop from your initiative will be life long. Love it.

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