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Students paint barn quilt blocks following study of Civil War


Posted Date: 05/16/2019

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Armed with paint brushes and paint, Royster eighth graders spent a day, or two, at Central Park Pavilion painting a quilt block design onto a square of wood.

The Barn Quilt Block project combined what the students had been learning in math, language arts, and their social studies unit on the Civil War. The students learned about slavery and how the Underground Railroad helped slaves escape from the Southern states and travel north to the Free states or Canada.  Quilt patterns laid across fences often conveyed messages about which direction to travel, what to pack, or the location of a safe house.girls add paint to quilt block

In their math classes, the students learned to create a grid on their 24-inch square of wood. Depending on the pattern they chose, they measured out a grid divisible by 4, 3, 6 or 8. Using tape, they marked out the pattern on the sections they needed to paint first.

“We talked about the precision that had to be used in order to make everything come out perfectly,” math teacher Molly Smith said. “There were triangles, rectangles, squares, (and) rhombus,” in the patterns. 

Gracie Palet chose to paint the Wagon Wheel pattern which told the slaves they would have travel and pack what they might need in a wagon.

“It was really interesting to watch the video and learn about the different patterns and what they mean,” she said.

Jaxson Anderes chose to use Shoofly as the pattern for his barn quilt block.boy finishes up barn quilt design

“I think it was fun,” Anderes said. “It’s a good way to put three subjects (math, social studies and reading) into one.”

Grace Thompson chose the North Star for her pattern, but created a more intricate design by splitting the legs of her Star into two colors.

“I really like doing this. I like painting, Thompson said. “It’s fun and you’re with your friends and everything with the music going on.”

Gage Hanna said it was “pretty fascinating” that the slaves used the quilt block patterns for communicating.

He chose the Crossroads pattern because it looked easy. Though the project was fun, he said it was still “pretty hard to get it all done in two days.”

girl removes tape from painted quilt blockCaitlyn Umbarger also chose the crossroads pattern because it was interesting. The Crossroads represented Cleveland, Ohio, a main cross road with several routes to freedom.

“I thought it was unique and I could make it more unique,” she said. After taping the basic design, she added a square within a square, within a square, in the center of her block.

“It was pretty stressful but really fun,” Umbarger added.

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