Mary Mel Price
Grade Level: 4th - 6th
Time Frame: approx. 1 hour for design; several sessions for 6 " diameter plaque

TOPIC: A visual arts lesson featuring individual basket plaques constructed by.students emphasizing Native American techniques and designs.

Artistic Perception: Each student will identify a Native American tribal symbol to be incorporated in a basket plaque.

Creative Expression: Each student will design a unique basket plaque incorporating at least one symbol from their chosen tribe.

Historical and Cultural Context: Through small group discussion, students will identify, share, and give rationales for the symbols in basket plaques. Then in a whole class discussion the groups will jig-saw their discoveries of their tribes basketry.

Aesthetic Valuing: In a whole class discussion we will discuss the features of good basket design. What they liked from their own designs and how the baskets are similar and different.

The visual arts promote aesthetics, self expression, perspective, and builds creativity and appreciation both intellectually and physically. By creating their own basket plaque and reflecting and an appreciation for the process.

STRATEGY: Direct instruction and guided discovery along with cooperative learning for our second language learners.


basket plaque-- a flat basket used in ceremonies
coil--a series of connected spirals by winding or gathering pine needles-- the leaves of a pine tree
tapestry needles-- a blunt needle with a large eye (hole) for threading
design-- the overall organization of the piece
balance-- the arrangement of elements
pattern-- a repetition of an element

Introduction: I will show and tell the story of my personal Native American baskets. (You can use information from your region.) Included will be questions about the design, balance,and pattern of the baskets. I will then give them the expectations for making their own baskets. The perimeters of the project given, time allotted, materials, and the jobs ofclean up and disbursement assignments.

Activity Sequence:
1. The class will be divided into two groups those designing on paper and those practicing the coiling basket techniques. (It takes some getting going before you begin a design.)

2. Those designing will be working in their groups to help each other understand and complete the design on paper. They can roughly sketch it out using a circle and spokes out from the center point. (A circle diagram).

3. I will demonstrate how to begin the pine needle basket by coiling and wrapping the bundles of needles with yarn or raffia (see handout). I will repeat several times until all have made a complete turn or circle of coil to begin. Then they begin their patterns. Teacher or proficient student teachers the other group.

4. Time is called and clean up begins. All are back in their groups for wrap-up.

Directions for Making Pine Needles Baskets

SPECIAL NOTE: See diagrams at end of lesson for these directions.

A. Use a bundle of needles that fits firmly but lets the plastic straw glide down the needles. This is used as a guide for consistency of coils.

B. Hold the yarn and wrap as to hide the end of the yarn. This technique is used to change color or add yarn.

C. Continue about 1 inch and bend the needles to begin the coil and wrap the two coils together.

D. Continue wrapping one coil and in a pattern pick up and wrap two coils together.

E. Every inch or so add needles to the straw guide to keep the coil going or if you want to end it the coil will decrease in size and you will wrap and hide the yarn to finish by weaving it back through the previous wraps. (after as many coils it takes to make the size you want)

F. Once they have a handle on the technique the groups switch.

CLOSURE: In their groups they are asked to discuss their designs, the meanings of the symbols and the functions of them in their tribe. A reporter from each group will present the group's discoveries to the whole class in a jig-saw fashion.

EVALUATION: The teacher will be evaluating as the groups discuss their work. (See Closure.) A display of the basket plaques will be set up by tribe group and a whole class discussion will reiterate the good design elements of balance and pattern in basketry. They will be asked what they liked about their own and the similarities and differences of the tribes. Now that you have done some of the traditional techniques how do you feel about the baskets you have been researching and those I brought in that were over 100 years old? How do the baskets you see today compare?

paper and colored pencils for designs
approx. 1 pound pine needles prepared by covering them with boiling water and left over night to soak, and patted damp
1/2 pound of raffia
1/2 pound of yarn in black, brown, yellow, red, tan, green
1 inch plastic straw pieces for everyone
blunt tapestry needles for everyone

CLEAN-UP: Students are assigned jobs and the quality control person inspects to be sure all group areas are clean.

EXTENSIONS: This can be done with just raffia or just colored yarns to simplify. Baskets can be made too by stacking the coils up on top instead of next to each other to make the walls; but the form is much more difficult to control.

The Nature Company Discoveries Library Native Americans, Time-Life Books, US Weldon Owen, Inc., 1995.