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Friday, October 3, 2014


About twenty-five years ago or so, I found an old jar that had a green metal twist on lid.  The jar was big and made of glass. Wondering what to do with it in my house, I decided to fill it with old buttons that had been in boxes and had belonged to my grandmother. It looked pretty and gazing into it, I saw glittery and unique antique buttons.  Amazing sight.

To me, it was like looking into a snow globe only no snow did I see but ornate buttons of every shape and color.

And that’s when the idea hit me to take it to my classroom at Robins Elementary:  It was a thing of wonder and I had to share it with my second grade students.  Were they amazed? Of course they were and would stare at it like I did.  This went on for several years in my classroom until I had an idea: Why not let each child choose a button and glue it to drawing paper? Not only would they have to do that but then decide and draw what object of clothing that they thought it came from.

The results were astounding.  Students drew and colored coats, shirts, dresses, capes and other articles of clothing and right there on that paper was the chosen button.  What they did amazed me and amazed them as well.  Those special papers were put up on the bulletin board for a month or so and then I let the students take them home to keep.

Year after year, this art experience happened in my classroom and year after year, hardly a single student never forgot the pungent smell that came out of that button jar. I could try to describe that smell in that it reeked of oldness—from the buttons to the ancient thread and once smelled, no one ever forgot it including me.

Finally, the button jar was about empty except for about thirty buttons or so. It sat in the classroom and many students saw it but no more “button art” was done for there weren’t enough buttons to share.

One day after school, I decided to bring home the button jar. Looking at it on my kitchen counter, that jar stirred up so many memories of kids’ amazement, their art and that smell. Twisted off the lid and yep, that pungent smell still lurked.  But so did the wonderful memories.

Odd isn’t it that such a humble thing as a big jar filled with old buttons could produce such happiness? I am so glad that the decision had been made to take it to school in the first place. And even more glad that my now grown-up former students remember it still.  And as for me, I look at it and see wonder. Wonder is what learning is all about but that button jar certainly added to the magic.

Sherry Hill

Copyright © 2014
Sherry Hill
All Rights Reserved


  1. I have that same exact jar! I found it in my mom's basement (along with what seemed like millions of other things.) She had a big button collection too, as did my grandmother, and I got them all. Unfortunately, when we were downsizing last summer, I had to get rid of a lot of stuff and many of the buttons were sold at an estate sale. I kept a few of the good ones. I love the idea you had to use them with your students and wish mine had gone to such a good use.

    1. Can't believe that you have the same jar! So sorry you couldn't keep all of the buttons you inherited but understand and glad you kept a few--they'll be great memories. Thanks re what I did with the buttons and my students. They still mention it to me and they're grown up now. Again, thanks for your wonderful comment and thanks for taking time to post it.