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The Patchwork Path

The Patchwork Path

With Black History Month winding down, I decided it was finally time to do a specific activity that highlighted African American culture. During this month we've had a few conversations about former President Barack Obama, re-listend to MLK's I have a Dream speech and dusted off one of our favorite books, Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter. After finding a really great book at the library, I was inspired to add a project to our plans. 

 The Inspiration for our project

The Inspiration for our project

The Patchwork Path by Bettye Stroud popped up in our library's database in a search for children's books about the Underground Railroad. I skimmed a few pages at the library and was drawn in by the beautiful illustrations. The story, based on a true account passed down orally through three generations, tells how a young girl and her father used patterns in a quilt as clues to guide them along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada.*

I knew right away that I wanted the boys to create their own version of a patchwork quilt but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Should I have them color preprinted squares? Paint at picture? Sewing a quilt was a little more of an investment than I wanted to make (I'd end up doing the lion's share of the work and I wanted them to own this project) so I finally decided that felt squares would do the trick. 

After reading the story to the boys, I explained to them that they could make their own quilt that told a story. Using the words first, then, afterwards and finally they drafted four sentences that would become the four squares of their "quilt." Their titles didn't surprise me one bit. 

Becoming an Astronaut

Becoming an Astronaut
by Max

-First we need to get to Mars. (Mars in space with its moons, Phobos and Deimos)
-Then we should return to Earth. (Fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere)
-Afterwards we go on another mission to the moon. (Saturn V rocket about to launch)
-Finally, we must come back again. (Command module re-entering Earth's atmosphere)

Becoming a Volcanologist Image

Becoming a Volcanologist
by Isaac

-First we need to go to Hawaii.  (The island chain of Hawaii)
-Then we climb to the crater. (Volcano with rope to climb)
-Afterwrds we measure the temperature of the lava. (Pool of lava with temperature probe-his words not mine!)
-Finally we climb back down (Volcano with stick person on left slope)


With their stories written and storyboards complete (they thoroughly enjoyed folding their paper to form the sections. "It's a napkin!" Isaac shouted after he'd unfolded his piece of paper), they were ready to begin patching together their quilt. Before we read, I'd spent a few minutes while they were playing cutting up shapes that they could use. In my head I had pictured two wonderfully abstract representations of their storyboards devoid of any blank space. What these two creative kiddos churned out is even better. 

Becoming an Astronaut Storyboard and Quilt

Becoming a Volcanologist Storyboard and Quilt

I am really proud of the way the boys took each step of this process and made it their own.  It also made me feel good to read a story to them that has such historical significance. I hope that you'll file this book away as one you can read next February for Black History Month or next week, just because.  


*Ozella McDaniel Williams' story was published in Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D. 


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