Friday, August 30, 2013

Fifth Grade Goes Underground

Learning all about the Underground Railroad and the quilts, that is.  This awesome lesson I learned all about from a great, fabulous art teacher named Keeli Singer.  She teaches at a intermediate school in my state, and does many many many presentations at our twice yearly conferences (many on the last minute to fill in for people).  So, here's the lesson:
I started out with a brief smartboard presentation (that you can download here if you want the whole lesson) about the history of the Underground Railroad.  One of the links took us here where we got to see what it was like (on a very small scale) to be a runaway slave.  Another link took us here to see some of the quilts used as codes for the journey.  Students took notes in their sketchbooks, and chose which quilt pattern they wanted to use to make these:

OH! I just love them, thank you, Keeli!
They planned out their design in their sketchbooks:

Star Pattern

A very creative version of the Crossroads Pattern

Drunkard's Path Pattern
And then traced over them with permanent marker onto clear Shrinky Dink film (we bought the generic stuff through an art supply catalog, and I cut them down, getting 2+ a little extra per sheet, which I'll later use in sixth grade. IMPORTANT, I did the hole punch for each student before I gave them their shrinky dink page).  Their shrinky dink page was 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, but I had made their design box a little smaller in their sketchbooks, so they had to decide to color all the way to the edge or leave a clear border. This was hard to photograph, I kept getting a big glare:

Before color was added. 

After color was added (different student work).


With color.
This is the awesome, but also a-pain-in-the-rear part: I then took them to our project kitchen, heated the over to 350 degrees and shrank them on a piece of cardboard.  Here's what I learned: 1) I am impatient, and kept taking them out before they were fully shrunk.  I finally learned to leave them in a full four or five minutes. 2) It's important to know which side was colored on, or the color can come off during the shrinking process.  This was a SUPER BIG BUMMER, and several students in my first class had to totally redo theirs.  By my second class I learned to put a small piece of masking tape on the colored side so that side would be UP when I baked them (I took the tape off before they went in the oven).

Tape on (upper right hand corner)
The first class got theirs back today (minus the ones who weren't finished or had to redo).  I have tons of fishing line, so I put them on before they got to my class and they wore their necklaces home to remind themselves that there are still people out in the world that need their help. They shrunk to about 2 x 2 inches, and the color sort of compacted, so they're just amazing:

Sheesh, they're just so PRETTY.  And the students loved them.  I also pulled this book to read to them from our library:

But with all our redoing, we ran out of time today.  So maybe Tuesday's class will get to hear the story.


  1. Great lesson and so easily meets the connections and history/culture necessary in the Common Core. I may have to borrow this one from you!


  2. That's what I share them for--borrow away (I borrowed it from Keeli originally anyway!) Enjoy, it really is a fabulous lesson!

  3. I've nominated you for the Liebster Award!

  4. Thank you so much, Mrs. Impey--but I've already got one :-)


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