Students watch videos about the Amish people in Iowa and quilts in America, and learn how one’s experience and cultural values can be reflected in a quilt design. They then design a quilt that symbolizes their own Iowa experience.
This lesson is a part of "Great States: Unit 5: Iowa’s Cultures". In this unit, students will consider some of the many groups who have shaped the unique culture of Iowa.
G.SS.3.20: Describe how cultural characteristics influence people’s choices to live in different regions of the US.
H.SS.3.28: Explain the cultural contributions that different groups have made to Iowa.
SS.4.3: Cite evidence that supports a response to supporting or compelling questions.
- Video: The Amish | Iowa Pathways
- Video: Picturing America – Quilts
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of the Iowa Experience – Quilts handout
- Plain white paper
- Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
Tell students that quilts have been used in America for many purposes—from providing warmth to being displayed as works of art. Explain that often quilts are gifted to celebrate new beginnings, like marriages and births. Quilts can be passed down through generations.
In this activity, students will learn various styles of quilt making, focusing primarily on Amish quilting. Ask students to consider how Amish quilts might reflect Amish cultural values.
Play the video, The Amish | Iowa Pathways [2:04], for students. Instruct students to write down examples of Amish culture and beliefs that they hear in the video.
Review major ideas from the video: Explain that the Amish began to settle in Iowa in the 1840s, and that there is a significant Amish population now in the state. Students should understand that the Amish are known for their simple, plain lifestyles that reject pride and vanity. They are reluctant to use modern technology, and instead depend on the shared labor of the community for survival.
Distribute the Iowa Experience – Quilts handout. Explain that they’ll now watch a video about Amish quilts. They’ll also answer the first two questions on the handout as they listen.
Play the video, Picturing America – Quilts [6:13], and have students fill in the first two questions on the handout as they listen. They should also think about the third question as they watch: “How do Amish quilts reflect Amish cultural values?”
As a class, review answers to these questions, and then have students answer the third question: “How do Amish quilts reflect Amish cultural values?” Review answers as a class. Then, have students make notes in the boxes provided on the handout on ideas for designing their own quilts that reflect their Iowa experiences.
Pass out paper and coloring materials. Based on their notes on the handout, have students design one square for a quilt that reflects their Iowa experience. Collect the squares and combine them together to create one class quilt. Ask students what the different images and choices show about the class’s cultures, beliefs, and values.
Note: All answers derive from the second video.
a) Whole cloth; b) Applique; c) Crazy quilts [4:25–4:40]
Amish quilts reflect Amish cultural values by:
Amish quilts are a simple form of quilting to represent their simple lifestyle. [4:08]
Made from big pieces of material – a focus on functionality over excessive beauty. [3:00]
No embellishments or appliques because they are considered unnecessary and frivolous. [3:40]
Images are generally geometric. Historically, there was no representation of other forms (plants, animals, people, places) unless it was is in the stitching itself, because the stitching was necessary to hold the layers of the quilt together to create warmth. [3:38, 3:50]