Keeping Us in Stitches Activity: Be a Quilt Detective
Purpose: to help the students understand that history is recorded in a handmade object. This is a
quilt-based activity similar to the historical research activity in the Behind the Scenes unit.
Detective work similar to this could be carried out on other historical objects.
Illinois State Museum Web site used:
Objective: students will be able to find information about quilt identity
from written sources, online sources, and people, condense and rewrite this
information in the form of a report or exhibit label, and tell about newly
discovered family history uncovered during their research.
Grade Level: 6-10
Time Required: one class period (with quilter help), or two class periods
(online and with library loans), homewrok assignment to interview owner.
one antique or family quilt per student or group (if there aren't enough, perhaps a
quilt guild or quilting group could help)
list of online sources and written quilt resources to be acquired from interlibrary loan
list of people to contact, like experts, family members, quilters
Motivation: Information about family objects gets lost because we do not ask questions of the
owners soon enough. The older family members get too ill to answer the questions, documents are
lost, or the object and the family member with the information become separated. A little piece
of history is lost when this happens.
There are interesting stories to be heard from the people who made or used the quilts. These stories
are often associated with events or people in family members' lives. Class members can learn about
their families and friends while researching a quilt. The information can be published as an exhibit
label for a class quilt show or in some other form of writing determined by the teacher. Information
gleaned from the research can add to a written history of the owners of the quilts.
Procedure: Students view ISM online quilt unit, visit other quilting web sites, read books about
quilting, brainstorm about aspects of a quilt that might tell them when it was made, by whom, of
what materials, in what design, for whom, etc.
interview the owner of the quilt to determine origin, maker, date, family stories.
take notes along the way.
resolve conflicts in information.
come to conclusions based on information.
write up conclusions as a report for all members, go through the editing process
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