FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy

Students follow instructions on a step-by-step worksheet to measure and draw an Underground Railroad quilt block on construction paper. Then they outline it with glue and colour it with construction paper crayons.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 6


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


contrast controversy diagonal horizontal parallel pattern quilt triangle vertical


Crayola Construction Paper - 20.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Construction Paper Crayons - 16 Count Crayola Washable No-Run School Glue Crayola Fine Line Markers - 24 Count Crayola Erasable Coloured Pencils - 12 Count Rulers Erasers

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FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy - Step One

Step One

  1. Follow the instructions on the worksheet to draw one of the quilt patterns, for example, the FLYING GEESE pattern.
  2. Draw with an erasable coloured pencil the same colour as your construction paper.
FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use Crayola Washable glue to draw over all the lines.
  2. Set the paper aside and allow the glue to dry for 3 hours.
FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use Construction Paper Crayons to colour each section of the pattern. Remember to:
    - create patterns that look like fabric
    - make the large triangles contrast with the small triangles so the 'geese' stand out
    - make the large triangles in one quadrant darker, or different than the others
    - press hard with the crayon to get deep, rich colours
FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use a fine line marker to draw short, broken lines to look like stitch marks all around the edges of the square and the triangles.
  2. Use a ruler to guide your hand as you draw.
FREEDOM QUILTS – Geometry, Pattern, Controversy - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Use a fine line marker to write about the secret message in the quilt pattern. Remember to:
    - draw light pencil lines to guide your printing
    - check spelling and accuracy
    - print neatly in pencil first, then write over it with fine line marker
    - carefully erase all pencil lines 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • follow instructions to accurately draw a quilt pattern;
  • write a description about the secret meaning of the pattern;
  • create a mixed media quilt block; 
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • explore storytelling through Crazy Quilts;
  • design and create a personal, cloth mini crazy quilt using Crayola fabric markers;
  • learn some basic embroidery stitches, for example, running stitch; back stitch; satin stitch; and French knot;
  • decorate their mini quilt with stitchery, beads, buttons, and other embellishments;
  • sew their finished mini quilt to a felt backing;
  • write an artist's statement about their artwork;
  • share their work in a class show


  1. Gather and make available a variety of picture books about quilts, the Underground railway and Freedom Quilts, for example, The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, by Bettye Stroud, and Erin Susanne Bennett; The Quilt Story, by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola; The Quilt, by Ann Jonas; Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad; by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard; Mooshka: A Quilt Story, by Julie Paschkis; The Quilt of Belonging: Stitching Together the Stories of a Nation, by Janice Weaver and Owlkids Books Inc.; The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco; Story Quilts, by Mary Clare Clark and Penny Brown; Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, by Deborah Hopkinson; Under the Quilt of Night, by Deborah Hopkinson, and James E. Ransome; and Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, by Patricia McKissack and Cozbi A. Cabrera.
  2. Provide time for students to learn about the difference between oral and written history. Focus on the idea of communicating with quilt patterns and the controversy about whether or not this really happened using articles such as the article at the Smithsonian by Marie Claire Bryant, Underground Railroad Quilt Codes: What We Know, What We Believe, and What Inspires Us.
  3. Download images of quilt blocks from the Internet, for example,
    Quilt 1
    Quilt 2
    Quilt 2 Close-up
    Quilt 3
    Quilt 4
  4. Have students work in pairs to analyse several quilt blocks focusing on the elements of design and mathematical transformations, for example,
    - use of colour and pattern
    - arrangement of shapes
    - use of geometry, for example, flips, turns and slides
    - attention to detail and craftsmanship
  5. Provide sufficient time for students to practice drawing quilt blocks using the worksheet instructions. (Downloads – FreedomQuilt Patterns.pdf)


  1. Conduct a read-aloud using one of the picture books, for example, The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, by Bettye Stroud, and Erin Susanne Bennett focussing on the different patterns and their meanings.
  2. Review the characteristics of effective quilt blocks and the use of colour, contrast and pattern.
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Follow instructions to accurately draw a quilt pattern.
  2. Write a description about the secret meaning of the pattern.
  3. Create a mixed media quilt block.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    accurate measurements
    - effective use of colour and contrast
    - effective use of pattern
    - crayon applied with even pressure
    - careful use of glue
    - accurate written description about secret message
    - correct spelling
    - neat printing
    - paper is in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Share their work and discuss the things that are especially effective and why.
    - Talk about what they found satisfying about doing this project.
    - Talk about what was difficult about doing this project and how they solved the problem?
    - Talk about how they might use what they learned in a different way.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their quilts – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the quilt, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – Quilt_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – Quilt_self-assessment.pdf)