SchoolArts Magazine

FEB 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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The Quilt Code We started off by discussing how and why the Underground Railroad came about. We talked about the quilt code "myth" that is associated with the Underground Railroad. The idea that slaves used the patterns in quilt blocks to alert other slaves about escape plans is disputed by some historians. I showed students examples of the most popular quilt patterns such as the monkey wrench, flying geese, and the wagon wheel, just to name a few. We discussed what each quilt pattern stood for and how these quilts might have been used to help direct slaves to freedom. Quilting Bees Using two 10 x 10" (25 x 25 cm) I divided students into small quilting sheets of drawing paper, two identical bee groups. As a class, we discussed paper patterns were created and numthe responsibilities and benefits of bered in the same order (figure 1). One being part of a quilting bee. of the paper patterns was left intact The final step in creating the quiltwhile the other was cut out. These ing bees was to assign the jobs of pincut-out pieces were used as templates ning bee, threading bee, sewing bee, to cut out the appropriate fabric and finishing bee shapes. to each member Students Since quilters often work of the group. I were free to together in small groups, I explained the choose random thought a quilting lesson based or coordinating roles of each job on the Underground Railroad fabric when creand made sure would accomplish my goals. ating their quilt each student was confident in his squares. After or her ability to teach another student all the fabric pieces were cut out, stuhow to do that particular task. For dents sewed the pieces together by folexample, the threading bee needed to lowing the intact paper pattern. be consistent in his or her ability to Students addressed concerns, probthread a needle and tie off the thread. lems, and design questions within Setting up these quilting bees not their quilting bees before coming only helped to reinforce the skills studirectly to me for help. As students dents were learning, but also helped finished their quilt squares, I framed create the cooperative group environeach one in a 14 x 14" (35 x 35 cm) mat ment I was looking for when developboard frame with a mat board back to ing this lesson. protect the exposed seams. Sewing During the next few class periods students learned how to create a quilt square pattern and learned the basics of sewing such as pinning, threading, sewing, and finishing. Students were then asked to choose their favorite quilt pattern. Process Tips • Whenstudentscutout their fabric, have them cut it slightly larger than the paper template. This will help the finished quilt square stay true to size. • Whenstudentsarecutting out their fabric pieces, have them use masking tape to label each piece of fabric with the corresponding number on the paper. Top: Figure 1; Bottom: Grace K., Bear's Paw Pattern. Reflections Approximately 100 sixth graders completed this project in less than six weeks. The success of the project was clearly evident from the beautiful quilt squares they produced. This lesson could also be easily tied into a history lesson simulation where students follow the quilt squares around the school building in a quest for freedom. Heather Bauer teaches fifth through eighth grade art at Central School in Glencoe Illinois. heatherbauer@comcast.net NatiONal StaNdard Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas. WeB liNk news.nationalgeographic.com/ news/2004/02/0205_ 040205_ slavequilts.html schoolartsonline.com 21

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