Cultures, Critters, and Communities Curriculum Unit

Lesson 5: Quilting or Beading?  Does it Depend on Where You Live?

North Carolina Essential Standards

K.C&G.1 Understand the roles of a citizen.

K.E.1 Understand basic economic concepts.

K.G.2 Understand the interaction between humans and the environment.

1.C.1 Understand the diversity of people in the local community.

1.G.1 Use geographic representations, terms and technologies to process information from a spatial perspective.    

1.E.1 Understand basic economic concepts.

1.H.1 Understand that history tells a story of how people and events changed society over time.

2.C&G.2 Understand the roles and responsibilities of citizens.

2.E.1 Understand basic economic concepts.

2.G.1  Understand geographic representations, terms, and technology to process information from a spatial perspective.

2.C.1 Understand how various cultures influence communities.


Prerequisite Knowledge

Students have map skills to locate where we live and/or South Africa.

Students recognized cultural similarities and differences between themselves and South Africa. They know they are a part of  local and global community. They gained an awareness of their culture and their responsibility to their community, as well as working together to care for all living things.



Students will be able to:

  • understand how geographical location accentuates diversity in art work and personal goods.
  • create and sell a product that uses natural materials to express their culture.
  • understand how trade builds interconnected communities and  community responsibility.


Students will be informally assessed during our oral discussion on content applied from past lessons to include: finding age appropriate locations on a map, discuss cultural differences between the South African culture and our own, and understanding how to be a part of their community.

Formative Assessment: Completion of a quilt square.

  • Students will paint on fabric a quilt square.

Formative Assessment: Completion of “My Quilt”.

  • Students will design and color a quilt.

Formative Assessment: Completion of “All About My Quilt: Assessment”.

  • Students will answer the questions as listed in the assessment.



S is for South Africa by Beverly Naidoo and Prodeepta Das, page 9, Letter J.  Shows beaded jewelry being made.

The Zulu: An A-Z of Culture and Traditions, written by Ulrich von Kapff. Pages 16 and 56 explain beading.

The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy. Available as a Reading Rainbow episode.


Assortment of wooden and/or plastic beads (3 per student; the more variety the better)


Beaded South African artifacts

Pictures of African beaded clothing (shoes, head wraps, belts, aprons, shawls dresses, skirts), purses, hats, jewelry, Ndebele bride dolls.

Muslin for individual student squares. One quilt square per student.

Fabric for quilt backing

Fabric paint, assorted colors

Paint brushes

Quilt Square Template (1 per student)

My Quilt worksheet (1 per student)

All About My Quilt: Assessment page (1 per student)


Prior Preparation

  • Prepare a painting area to create quilt squares.  Prepare an area for quilt squares to dry.

  • Enlist parent volunteers or an Instructional Assistant to help.



  1. Allow each student to choose three beads.
  2. Have students trade their beads. Allow a few minutes for trading, than ask students what they thought about their new beads. Do they like their original or new beads better? Did they enjoy trading?
  3. Explain that historically, people traded items of value as currency. Beads were considered valuable and were used as a form of currency. That is why South Africans continue to place value on beaded objects.
  4. Ask students to go to globes/maps in the room and indicate their location and South Africa. Review map skills if necessary. Note similarities/ differences in the two locations. How would South Africa’s location effect trading from ships? Explain how their location at the south of Africa encouraged ships from around the world to stop to trade. This diverse group of traders introduced a variety of beautiful, unusual beads to the South Africans.
  5. Show students the variety of beaded South African artifacts/ pictures of artifacts/books. South Africans made them out of their natural materials; usually bone, paper, wood, or shells. Since beads were sought after for their beauty and value, people began using beads to decorate their clothing and other items.  This tradition and form of art work has been passed down from generation to generation.
  6. Have students reflect on our culture’s use of beads. What do we use beads for? What would we consider to be beautiful beaded products? Note similarities and differences between the cultures.
  7. Ask students about resources we have in our community that could be sold to people in other places. Explain how these items are natural resources and their economic importance to our community. Do students think natural resources change depending on where people live? Have students lived somewhere else that they can share differences? Is this diversity important? Why?
  8. Read The Patchwork Quilt.  Discuss how quilting has been a part of our culture for generations. What makes a quilt special? What adds to its beauty? What materials would be needed to make a quilt? Explain that most fabrics are made from cotton, and cotton is grown where we live. Check for student connections. Have they seen a cotton field? Does their family own a quilt?  
  9. Explain that home made quilts are kept in a family, passed down from generation to generation.  They are also sold for money.  Help students make the connection between this and South Africans and their beadwork. Would they like to make a quilt?

Guided Practice

  1. Explain that the class will make a quilt. Explain that each student will create a quilt square and the squares will be sewn together to create a class quilt. What could be done with the quilt? Brainstorm with students how the quilt can be sold and what the money could be used for to benefit the community. This is a good review of their responsibilities within their community. (It was decided that our quilt will be a part of a silent auction at the next school function.  Money raised will go toward buying flags to pass out at the Wounded Warriors Run.) 
  2. Brainstorm with students about possible themes or colors to use in the quilt.  Will it tell a story? How will it reflect our culture?
  3. Give each student a “Quilt Square Template”, and a “My Quilt” page. Explain that students will draw a quilt square they would like to use for this quilt.  Remind students of The Patchwork Quilt and how the pieces represented different family members. The “Quilt Square Template” will be brought with them to the activity area when they paint their square. When they are finished, help them tape their “My Quilt” to the front board.  Place these into a patchwork quilt shape to give the students an image of their class quilt.
  4. As they wait for the class to finish, they will design their own detailed, colored quilt using the “My Quilt” page.
  5. Call students back a few at a time to create their quilt squares.
  6. When students are finished painting the quilt squares, put students into pairs and allow a few minutes for them to share their “My Quilt” with their partner.  
  7. Administer the “All About My Quilt: Assessment”.
  8. Once dry, lay the squares out to make a rectangular quilt. Quilt squares will be sewn together, a layer of batting will then be cut the size of the quilt and laid down along with one solid piece of material for the backing of the quilt. All three layers will then be sewn together to make one quilt.


  1. Ask students what they thought about creating the quilt. Did they like their square being a part of a whole quilt? What do they think of the “My Quilt” pages taped to the front board? Can they envision what the quilt will look like? How does it feel to be a part of a project that will help the community? Help them explore the pride in making something, of having someone else want to purchase that item, or giving the quilt to someone important to them. Is quilting limited to certain parts of the world?
  2. This discussion should help students understand the concept of using resources to create something that can be traded or sold. Trading or selling a product is a part of connecting with the economic world and being a productive part of the community.


  1. This lesson can go deeper by having students reflect on what resources they have at home that could be turned into a product. Can they make a craft or piece of art or jewelry? Do they have a garden? What natural materials are in their environment?
  2. If a product is created, can another culture's design or style be used in your artifact?
  3. Did this activity motivate them to want to help in their community?