LESSON TITLE:                  Hearts and Hands: Celebrating Culture and Tradition

AUTHOR:                             Lucy Andrus

GRADE/AGE LEVEL:        Can be adapted for grades K-9

WRITTEN HERE FOR:      Teens in special education at McKinley High School




Unit /Theme and Relation of this Lesson to the Unit; Major Concepts to be Learned:


This stand-alone lesson will commence our spring semester and is meant to offer the students a chance to get to know their new S/Ts and to recognize two American cultural events taking place now: Black History Month and Valentine’s Day.


Through exploration of African American women’s textile arts, and acknowledgment of the meaning behind Valentine’s Day, we will combine ideas of caring hearts and helping hands in a group quiltmaking activity. The theme of hearts and hands was a familiar motif among traditional quilters, including slave women who quilted to take care of their families, saving scraps and remnants of fabrics with which to make bed coverings for warmth. We will explore the work of quilter, Harriet Powers, and artist, Faith Ringgold, and her use of story quilts to extend the narrative of women’s experiences as well as African-American culture.  


The use of the heart symbol will echo one of our Three C’s as we create a design that reflects our own caring about art, learning, and each other.  The students will have an opportunity to recall and reinforce their understanding of basic art elements and principles as we emphasize repetition, pattern, and elements of good composition. Our quilt will be made from colored paper shapes and fabric pieces.


Relation to Life:


Acknowledging celebrations, holidays, and other special cultural events is an important aspect of the students’ Living Skills curriculum.  Infusing these experiences with art heightens aesthetic sensibilities, which is also an important and often neglected aspect of living skills.  Working together to create art encourages the development of socialization skills such as group cooperation, teamwork, and the ability to tolerate difference in opinions and ideas: all qualities valued by employers in the work place as well as in forming personal relationships.



Goals Specific to Lesson/Unit (reflecting NYS Art Standards & Targeted Learning Area.  See key at end):


The students will:


·        Develop memory recall skills (A/C)

·        Increase environmental awareness: people, seasons, celebrations (AE, A/C, S)

·        Strengthen their knowledge and skill in applying art elements and principles to visual expression (AP, Std. 1 & 2)          

·        Develop appreciation for women’s handwork as aesthetic narrative          

(AC, AE, Std. 3 & 4, S)

·        Develop socialization skills, particularly, ability to work as a member of a team (AP,  Std. 1, S, Pre-V, L)

·        Increase appreciation for diversity (AC, Std. 3 & 4, S)

·        Strengthen aesthetic thinking and behavior (AE, Std. 3, E)

·        Improve organizational skills through composing, arranging (AP. Std.,       W/S, Pre-V, L)


Performance Objectives for Observational Assessment (reflecting goals):


The students will be able to:




·        Name at least one of the Three A’s and one of the Three C’s

·        Name the holiday we’re celebrating this week (Valentine’s Day)

·        Describe one important meaning of Valentine’s Day

·        Name the American cultural group we’re acknowledging this month of February

·        Describe one reason why Black History Month is significant

·        Name at last African American person of repute

·        Define/describe the textile artform of quilt

·        Name the basic elements of art (line, shape, color, texture)

·        Identify/describe the use of shape and color in quilt exemplars

·        Define/describe the term, pattern, and indicate its use in the exemplars

·        Describe at least one thing that makes a good composition




·        Work cooperatively within the group to create a Hearts and   Hands quilt by:

            verbalizing/sharing at least one idea for the quilt design

            tracing and cutting at least two paper heart shapes of selected colors

            cutting at least three fabric shapes

            participating in the arrangement of fabric pieces, hearts, and hands

            help with gluing shapes down after final arrangement is achieved

·        Demonstrate at least one artmaker behavior (as previously defined)

·        Assist with clean up as directed           

·        Assist with quilt display as directed




·        Name the two cultural events currently being recognized

·        Identify/describe the use of line, shape color as seen in the finished quilts

·        Identify/describe the use of pattern as seen in the finished quilts

·        Describe one intended meaning of the quilt design






            Teacher-made:teacher exemplar of a fabric and paper Hearts and                                                    Hands quilt; elements of art chart; Three A’s and Three C’s chart

            Art Resources:reproductions of Faith Ringgold story quilts; book or                                                   reproductions of Harriet Powers Bible quilts; any actual quilts or quilt squares (example of the hearts             and hands motif would be ideal, although not necessary)


Vocabulary (defined in student-friendly terms):


elements of art   line, shape, color, texture

quilt    fabric shapes arranged and sewn together to create one whole design

pattern   a design created by repeating lines, shapes, and/or colors

composition   a design/arrangement of lines, shapes and colors that looks good  

to the eye


Materials and Preparation:


-           mattboard hearts and hand shapes for tracing (we’re pre-cutting hands for this group due to fine motor problems)

-           pencils to trace

-           colored construction paper for tracing hearts and hands

-           fabric scraps

-           scissors

-           ribbon at least 1 inch wide

-           glue sticks for gluing paper shapes

-           white school glue with brushes and shallow dish for gluing fabric

-           masking tape


Adaptations:  Hands can be pre-cut for students who may not have the fine motor control to cut the necessary curves. Here, the emphasis is on design, not cutting skill.





Procedural Steps:  (details on procedures from opening to closing with                                              ability-appropriate language scripted in as needed)




1.         Lead teacher opens session with a recall of the program, and introduces the new S/Ts who begin to get to know the students by distributing the adhesive nametags


2.         Teacher proceeds by asking students to name and define the Three A’s

            (use visual aid):                    


“Does anyone remember what the Three A’s of the Art Partners program stand for?  These are the things we will learn about in Art Partners. Who can tell us one?”      Artists, Artworks and Artmaking


Teacher also reminds students that they are artmakers, and describes some of the ways that artmakers think and behave (see Unit link): we think carefully about what were doing; we take chances; we make mistakes and learn from them; we have open minds and try new things.


3.         Teacher does the same with the Three C’s:


“Does anyone remember what the Three C’s of the Art Partners program stand for?  These are ways we behave in Art Partners. Who can tell us one?”


Caring: we care about what we are doing, we take care of our art tools and materials, and we show our caring for each other

            Control: we control our art materials and we control ourselves

            Competence:  This means we learn to be good at things; we learn how to do something well.


4.         Teacher leads into the day’s lesson with a connection to one of the Three C’s (caring) asking students what holiday is coming up this week where people show their caring about each other: Valentine’s Day is when people stop and take the time to say that they care about each other, and that’s important to do.


There is something else important happening all this is a special time to remember certain Americans and to show our care about the things these people have contributed to our country.  Does anyone know what we are celebrating all this month?      Black History Month.


This is a good time to learn about African American men and women who are an important part of the history and life of our country.  Teacher asks students if they can think of any, and reminds them of such people as:


            Jacob Lawrence, who was a famous artist, a painter

            George Washington Carver, who was a famous scientist

Harriet Tubman, who was a freedom fighter, who helped so many slaves escape to freedom on the   Underground Railroad...


            and many more!


5.         Teacher reinforces that February is a time of year when we show our caring and we remember those who cared about others. Teachers suggests that the students make some artwork that will help put these two ideas together: the idea of caring about each other, and the idea of remembering history and all the African American people who have done good things in our country.


6.         Teacher introduces the two African American artists who will inspire us today: Faith Ringgold and Harriet Powers, who both made quilts.


            Does anyone have a quilt at home? What does a quilt do for us? (Help to keep us warm.)


Can anyone tell us how a quilt is made?  Teacher shows the actual quilt example to help students see the different pieces of fabric sewn together in one large design that make up a quilt.


7.         Teacher explains that Faith Ringgold, who is still alive today, makes quilts that tell a story, showing exemplar of Tar Beach and asking the students to tell the story of what they see in the quilt. See the pieces of fabric that are sewn all around the border of the quilt.


8.         Teacher explains that when she was a child, Faith Ringgold learned about quilting from her grandmother and the stories of her great-grandmother who had been a slave. During that time, the slave women had to find ways to keep their families warm at night.  They did not have enough blankets, so they had to figure out a way to make bedcovers. They would save leftover scraps of fabric from the clothes that they had to sew for their master’s family, and they would take all these pieces of fabric and sew them together to make one large piece, a quilt, big enough to cover a person and keep them warm.


9.         The teacher points out that when the women made their quilts, they thought and acted like artists. They were artmakers, and just like us, they did their very best to make beautiful designs in their quilts using the elements of art: lines, shapes and colors. For slave women, this was one way they were allowed to express their own ideas of beauty and artistry.


10.       The teacher introduces Harriet Power, who was born a slave and was set free when President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in America. Pictures of her Bible quilt are displayed and explained as the teacher points out the ways in which Harriet Powers used art elements and principles to

tell her stories.


11.       Individual quilt squares are passed out to students for a close up view of the designs and patterns.  The teacher encourages the students to find elements of art and use of repetition and pattern, reminding them how carefully these quilters thought about their designs and what would make them look pleasing to the eye.


  1. To segue into the Hearts and Hands quilt the students will make today, the teacher suggests that we can make a quilt using paper shapes and fabric shapes, gluing down the shapes down instead of sewing them.


Teacher suggests that to help make a good design for the quilt, we can borrow ideas from the two events we are celebrating this month.


Who can tell us the main symbol or shape that you see on Valentine’s Day?  A heart!  The heart symbol tells people that you care. Many women quilters used the heart symbol to        show love and caring about their families and their neighbors.


Let’s borrow another idea from history, the idea of people helping each other and doing good things for each other. Let’s think of a shape that can show how we do something for another person. What do we use to make something for someone? (Gesture with hands).  Our hands!  (the paper hand cut-out is shown.) We use our cook something for someone, toss a football to a friend, to fix something that is broken, to help someone cross the street.


13.       Teacher repeats that we can show our caring by using the shapes of helping hands and caring hearts to make the quilt design. The Teacher explains how we can use other shapes and colors (fabric and paper pieces), and how we can use ribbon as lines to make patterns.

Processes are explained and demonstrated: use the glue sticks to glue on the paper hearts and hands, and the brush and white glue to glue on the fabric pieces.


14.       Teacher then points out the most important part, that we will all work together to decide how to make a good design for our Hearts and Hands quilts, just as many women quilters worked together in groups to make one quilt.  Each had a job to do, and everyone shared his/her ideas for a good design.  The class is divided into groups of six who each create a quilt.




15.       The S/T group leaders explain/demonstrate process of making the quilt:


a.         Everyone uses a heart tracer to trace and cut out a few hearts. The group decides which two colors to use for the hearts.

            b.         The group selects which two or three color hands they want to use.

c.         Everyone helps to cut out fabric shapes: some do squares, some do triangles (show how to cut a square in half diagonally), some do other desired shapes

            d.         The S/Ts show how ribbon can be used as lines


16.       Once all the pieces are cut out, group members work together to arrange and compose their pieces.  This is when the S/Ts remind/demonstrate about repetition to create a pattern, overlapping of shapes, and emphasize thinking and acting like artists/artmakers in the composing of the design.


17.       Only after the design is determined, does gluing begin. If you are working from the center out you can determine this part of the design and glue, and then move on to other parts. Everyone helps so the job gets done today.


18.       Once the quilts are completed, the students help to neatly collect and   place usable fabric scraps flat back in the trays, and usable paper pieces flat back in the trays. 


19.       Collect all glue brushes and dishes and get them soaking in the pail.    Cap all glue sticks securely, collect all other supplies, sponge off tables where necessary.


20.       The quilts are displayed up on the front board using masking tape.




21.       All reconvene and the Lead teacher reviews major concepts with the students:


            -           who remembers the two special events we celebrate this month?

            -           who can remember the name of one of the artists whose quilts we saw pictures of today?


22.       The Hearts and Hands quilts are discussed:


            -           who can show us where the artists repeated a shape to make pattern? 

            -           who can show us where the artists used the element of line?                 

            -           who can show us where there is overlapping?


23.       Lead teacher closes lesson with a preview of our next unit when we will begin to learn how people from different times and places in the world do the same kind of things we do, but in their own unique way.  We will learn about other people’s living skills. 




In addition to observation of the Performance Objectives stated above for evaluating students as well as noting what teachers may need to re-teach or do differently, questions to ask might include:


What and how were students able to contribute to the group decision making process?

Do the quilt designs reflect use of pattern and overlapping?

Were the students able to grasp the idea behind symbols of hearts (caring) and hand (helping)?

Did students personally engage in the experience and respond with pleasure?

What artmaker behaviors and attitudes did the students demonstrate?








DBAE:                                                                     NYS Standards for the Arts:


AH = art history                                                 Std. 1 = creating, participating in art

AC = art criticism                                               Std. 2 = knowing art materials and processes

AE = aesthetics                                                 Std. 3 = responding to works of art/artists

AP = art production                                            Std. 4 = knowing cultural dimensions of art


Needs Assessment Areas for Developing Skills and Abilities:


A/C    = academic/cognitive          M/P = motor/perceptual                        E = emotional

C        = communicative status      W/S = work/study habits                     S = social

Pre-V = prevocational skills              L = living skills