A Hillbrook Education
Hillbrook's Distance Learning Program

Hillbrook Students Make a Difference during COVID-19

Students in the high tech capital of the world are using old-school sewing skills to make a difference during the Covid 19 crisis. Inspired and guided by the school's longstanding commitment to reach beyond and make a difference in the world, an 8th grader at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, is helping other students learn about how to make face masks using materials found in their home, to distribute to neighbors and local non-profits. 

8th grader Angie Z. led a live Google Meet demonstration for the school, showing students from junior kindergarten to 8th grade how to make a mask using a few simple supplies from home. Students discovered they could make a non-medical grade mask using fabric scraps and elastic (or rubber bands).

The student-led lesson is par for the course at Hillbrook where students have weekly Reach Beyond learning blocks where they are challenged to find ways to make a difference in the world. With the forced closure of the school on March 17, Hillbrook has embraced online learning while also continuing to challenge students to try to reach out and impact their community. So how do you help when you can’t leave home? Angie says she heard there was a shortage of medical supplies due to COVID-19 and wanted to help. 

“My aunt is a physician in Serbia and her and her colleagues were crying for help and they were asking for people to find a way to make masks,” she shares. “I learned that there is a global shortage of face masks and besides health care workers who are in a dire need of masks, there are also people who are taking care of our community, like firefighters, police, and cashiers, and they all need to be safe and are in a need of masks. I was inspired by the way that people stepped up to help their community.”

When Angie told her teachers her idea, the school, which is a leader in bringing social entrepreneurship education to JK-8th grade learning, responded by creating a “pop-up impact lab” via Google Meet to help her lead an online mask-making lesson. Annie Makela, Director of the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Hillbrook says students are aware of the health crisis and looking for ways to help, “In this unprecedented learning environment, structures to help students feel connected locally and globally are critical. The pop-up impact lab format is designed with a focus on building a unique skill, but perhaps more importantly, creating a space for children and adults to gather and galvanize!” Reimagining the ways the more subtle magical moments of collaboration and inspiration happen is a unique challenge and top of mind for the Hillbrook leadership team.  

Students plan to deliver the masks to anyone who might need them from family members, neighbors, grocery store workers, and other community members to help make people feel safer. 

Good Samaritan Hospital and the non-profit, My New Red Shoes, both reached out seeking masks and other supplies. While the masks are not medical grade and therefore not suitable for hospital use, they can provide a layer of protection for people who have to go out into the community. Says Angie, “It was amazing to see so many students and teachers willing to help health care workers who are deeply in need of these protective masks.”

During the pop-up lesson, Angie explained how she is making masks and suggested that fellow students can follow along 
  • Materials:  fabric, new or repurposed, t-shirts, sheet, an elastic band, an iron, sewing kit, and a pair of scissors. 
  • She then walked her viewers through a step-by-step tutorial on how to sand-sew and iron the masks. 

The students who joined the call chimed in with the question of how to gather supplies while we are in quarantine and lots of businesses are closed: How do you find elastic? The group brainstormed using rubber bands and repurposing elastic from unwanted clothing. Angie shared tips about best practices for making masks that will be used by other people.

  • Making sure all materials are clean and laundered. 
  • Not placing the mask you are making on your own face if you intend to send it off for someone to use.
Though remote-learning can sometimes feel isolating and unfamiliar for children, the pop-up mask making lesson became a great connector for students, teachers, and parents because it gave students a hands-on way to help. Students and families embraced the idea and are now busy making masks at home. Hillbrook’s Head of School Mark Silver says, “One of our core values at Hillbrook is to ‘take risks’ and Angie is a great example of living out those values. Even during community quarantine, we continue to look for ways to give students the support and tools to share their voices, to turn ideas into reality, and to rally their community to make a difference.”

The pop-up impact lab model is just one of many ways we are seeing and hearing families and students are reaching beyond and supporting community needs, and Angie’s mask-making project is just the start.  Her pop-up has already inspired more students to act on impact ideas of their own. Annie Makela says she has already received emails from students with at least three other pop-up lesson ideas. 

 Angie shares, “I hope this Pop-Up Impact Lab will inspire others to make a difference and the impact lab was a great way to take advantage of our online learning.”
An independent Junior Kindergarten -8th grade school in Los Gatos since 1935

300 Marchmont Drive
Los Gatos, CA 95032
(408) 356-6116 | info@hillbrook.org