The 2009-10 eighth grade class of Cane River Middle School created the quilt square, Down by the River. It is the perfect example of cross curricula teaching, as it is the culmination of six months of geography, history, mathematics, and art. The school’s initials in Cane River’s red and black colors are hidden in the center of the design. The surrounding mountains reflected in the river are represented in shades of gray. The schools Indian heritage is represented by the red and black chevron feather. The square is hung on the front of the school gymnasium facing the highway.
Cane River Middle School has a long history going back to 1958 when Yancey County School System built it as a county high school on ground that hundreds of years ago was the location of a Native American village. The people who occupied the village over several centuries were ancestors of the present-day Cherokee Indians.
A portion of the site was excavated in early 1992 when work to install a new drain field for the septic system beneath the football field uncovered human remains and artifacts. Work was stopped while an emergency archeological dig took place to document the village. Archeologists from the state Dept. of Archives and History and from universities, along with archaeology students, and many local volunteers spent weeks working from dawn until dark to document Yancey County’s first residents. A sampling of artifacts from the site can be seen at the Rush Wray Museum of Yancey County HIstory.
The school is nestled in a valley near the Cane river for which it is named. In 1976, the county merged its two high schools, Cane River and East Yancey, into Mountain Heritage High School. Cane River, along with East Yancey, became award-winning middle schools.
Students were excited about the idea of participating in the quilt square project, and the administration and parents leant their enthusiastic support.
Kelly Boone, eighth grade social studies teacher, was awarded a grant from the Yancey County Schools Foundation to obtain the square. She has taught at Cane River for the last nine years and lived in Yancey County for seventeen. Boone said that she wanted “to provide students with an opportunity to not only learn about their community but to also create a visual reflection of [the school’s] students, community, and heritage.” After a series of lessons on local history, a lecture about the project itself by Barbara Webster, and a Quilt Trail scavenger hunt, ninety per cent of the eighth graders submitted designs. The winning design incorporated the ideas of Kaleb McCurry and Josie Honeycutt; it was titled by Sarah Presnell.
Cane River Middle School and Kelly Boone have added one more example of excellence to the legacy of the school.
I couldn’t help but notice the fantastically colorful quilt squares that were appearing on buildings all over Yancey County (North Carolina). My first thought about them was the realization of how much they enhanced the scenic beauty of this area. But I soon noticed that some of them had radial patterns on them that almost looked like sundials! At that moment I realized that a quilt square could be made that was also a functioning sundial! Most sundials are a combination of art and science, and it seemed to me that the art of those quilt squares could be a perfect match for the science of the vertical sundial.
So I called Barbara Webster, director of the Quilt Square Project, and told her of my idea. She was very interested, and I soon had a meeting with Barbara and her husband Martin to discuss the possibilities. That first meeting was many months ago, but since then our quilt square sundial project has grown and evolved far beyond anything we imagined at that first meeting. From then until now has been a long, interesting, and sometimes difficult adventure, involving lots of fantastic ideas and lots of wonderful people.
As a sundial maker and sundial enthusiast I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to help create a large public sundial such as this. It is my most sincere hope that this great timepiece will be enjoyed by all, and that it will serve as a landmark and point of pride for Burnsville, Yancey County, and western North Carolina for many years to come.
For those interested in learning more about sundials, the website of the North American Sundial Society (www.sundials.org) is a great place to start.