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Bead-dazzled baskets.

I like to make the study of American Indians and their culture an exciting experience for my fourth- and fifth-graders. In the past, I have integrated many successful art projects with this unit to enrich student learning. This year I chose to focus on basketry as a way to generate new interest in an ancient art form. Using a very basic coil-wrap technique, my students amazed me with their creativity and ingenuity.

I introduced the unit by discussing various baskets and the materials used to create them. Pictures of different types of baskets were shared and real ones were examined for similarities, differences, design and texture. My students expressed great interest in making their own baskets and after gathering a few supplies, we were ready to begin.

Materials for this project were simple and easily obtainable. I purchased a variety of inexpensive colored yarns, brown jute and wide-eye (#13) tapestry needles at a discount store. Plastic or metal needles can be used. I prefer the metal type because they are very sturdy and can be used again and again.

We began our project with a quick demonstration of coil basketry. Using a long, thick cord, a tapestry needle and some yarn, I showed students the basic technique of pushing the needle "up, down, and wrapping three times" around the cord. I used wide cord so that students could easily see the steps involved (see diagrams). The children were very enthusiastic and eagerly awaiting their basketry materials.

In order to solve the dilemma of starting 30 children's baskets at once, I chose a few students at a time to start their project. They in turn helped other students in a cooperative work atmosphere. Each child received a large, zip-locked plastic baggie to store their yarn, needle and basket.

Varying amounts of time were used to create baskets of different sizes. Once the coil technique had been learned, students completed their basket in a few days and were eager to make more. Some students even took their baskets out to work on at recess!

Children created baskets in many shapes and sizes. Bright colored beads were also added. I showed students how to string seed beads on soft wire around the top row of their baskets (see photos). The wire was very inexpensive and easily obtainable from a local hardware store. The children really enjoyed adding the beads to their finished work. No two baskets were alike in color or design. Several students made a boxful of baskets to exhibit later in the year at Open House. All of the students' work was exhibited upon completion and admired by parents, students and fellow teachers.

Our study of American Indian culture took on a new meaning as students completed their baskets. Children began to understand how hard the American Indians worked to create their baskets and the time it took to make them. Integrating art with social studies proved to be a powerful learning experience, and was a project my students will remember for a long time.


* Variety of inexpensive colored yarn

* #13 tapestry needles (plastic or metal)

* Craft cord or jute

* Assorted beads

* Light, flexible wire

* Large, zip-locked baggies


Students will ...

* study a variety of baskets from American Indian tribes.

* understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

* compare and contrast American Indian baskets with baskets we use today.

* create a free-standing coil basket using beads to add color and design.

* achieve a greater understanding of American Indian culture through the integration of visual arts and social studies.

* write about the function of their basket and what makes it a useful object.


Step 1 and 2. Lay the yarn directly on top of the jute and start wrapping yarn around the jute several times.


Step 3. Continue wrapping yarn around the jute.


Step 4. Bend the cord to form a loop and wrap the two sides together.


Step 5. Start by pushing the threaded needle up through the center of the basket, then down between the coil.


Step 6. As the basket becomes larger, the row in front of the last coil must be used instead of the center.


Step 7. When finished with a color, simply push the needle under at least three loops and pull the yarn through. Trim off any leftover yarn. Start the next color the same way and continue wrapping up, down three times.


Sharon St. Clair teaches fourth and fifth grade at Walt Disney Elementary School in Anaheim, California.
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Title Annotation:art project
Author:St. Clair, Sharon
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:Rhythmic repousse.
Next Article:Expressing culture through art.

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