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Algonquin-based School District 300 students learn alpaca felting

Dundee-Crown, Hampshire, Jacobs high school students participate in grant-funded workshop

Students from Dundee-Crown, Hampshire and Jacobs high schools learned about the ancient art of alpaca felting this week via grant-funded workshops.

The grant was provided by the School District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence.

The Waldron Alpaca Farm, 39W856 McDonald Road, Campton Hills, hosted 60 students from all three District 300 high schools over the course of three days. The workshops were led by fiber artist Susan Waldron, who taught students about raising alpacas, how to harvest wool and the process of making textiles and artwork through alpaca felting.

“Alpaca felting is a cross between 2-D and 3-D art,” Waldron said. “And instead of using oil or a pastel, you pick fibers of different colors.”

Students were shown how to use different felting techniques, including one that involves using hot soapy water to pull the fibers closer together. Each student was first instructed to draw out their idea before bringing it to life. That way, they had an easier time planning what they wanted to create.

“The kids have been so wonderful, and they get so involved in this,” Waldron said. “I love watching them get to into it. That’s what makes it all worth it.”

On Thursday, it was Jacobs High School’s turn to experiment with alpaca felting.

Jacobs senior Rachel Shields, one of 20 students from the Algonquin school who came out for the workshop, said she was using the opportunity to create abstract art.

“This [workshop] is allowing us to get even more creative and try new things,” Shields said.

Jacobs senior Alyssa Navarra said the workshop showed her and her classmates an art style they were previously unfamiliar with.

“Felting is telling us that there is more than just coloring, painting and finite drawing out there in terms of art,” Navarra said.

Jacobs art teachers Kristin Hilton and Tisha Ellis also came out to help supervise the students.

“I’m so thankful the foundation has allowed the students to come out here and be able to do something like this,” Ellis said. “Our students are getting to experience a tradition outside of their comfort zone with this event.”

District 300 Foundation’s goal is to improve and extend learning opportunities in all of the district’s schools. Founded in 2002, it has awarded nearly $500,000 in local education grants that were made possible through fundraisers and private donations. The foundation previously funded a visit to the Waldron Alpaca Farm in 2011.

Waldron and her husband, Ron, have owned the alpaca farm for about 13 years. They currently have 13 alpacas, three males and 10 females. Their alpacas get shaved once a year in the spring, which results in about five to 10 pounds of wool to use for creative purposes.

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