Magazine article School Arts

Shoofly Quilt

Magazine article School Arts

Shoofly Quilt

Article excerpt

These advertisers support Black History Month and offer tools to help you celebrate African-American artists in your classroom all year round.

Growing up, I always had a love for quilting. The combinations of colors and patterns were mesmerizing for me. I wanted to share my love of quilting with my first graders but making an entire quilt using fabric, needles, and thread seemed overwhelming. So I designed a lesson that would be manageable for my students to collaboratively create a successful class quilt.

A Brief History

Throughout history, quilts have played a very important role. They served not only as comfort and warmth on a chilly night, but also as a signal of safe housing on the Underground Railroad. Slaves who were trying to escape would use the different designs of quilts as a way to communicate without raising suspicion. Specific meanings were found within the design of each quilt. For instance, the shoofly quilt square, which my students recreated, represented a trusted person who would help in the slave's escape at a meeting point on the journey. There are many other quilt square designs that could be used. I chose this one based on its simplicity of a square and four triangles.

Opening the Lesson with a Story

I opened the lesson by reading aloud the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. We then discussed slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the role quilts played. I showed students the shoofly design we would be making and explained its meaning. Each student was responsible for making one square to contribute to the class quilt.

Making a Paper Quilt Square

I gave each student a 9" square (23 cm) piece of colored construction paper for the background and three 3" (7.5 cm) squares of different colors of construction paper. Students cut two of the squares corner to corner to make a total of four triangles. …

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