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Students print meaningful geometric Adinka Design patterns in the Ashanti tradition in this lesson


Art, Math, Social Studies  


8, 9, 10, 11  

Title – Adinkra Design
By – Kelly Lane
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Math, Social Studies
Grade Level – Spec. Ed.- High School

This lesson plan is designed as one activity within a unit on Black History Month and/or Africa. Activities prior to this would include general African-American History and/or introductory and background activities about Africa.

Learning Outcomes:

      a. following directions


      b. demonstrate use of math concepts of rows, columns, repeated patterns


    c. demonstrate understanding of symbols representing communication by creating/identifying a set of symbols and attaching meaning

To lead into this activity,discuss African cultural heritage and how it is rich with tradition, including song, dance, storytelling, and art. Use visuals to show samples. Discuss how different cultures use symbols to communicate. Even written language is made up of series of symbols. Ask students to give examples of common symbols in our own culture and what they mean (ex.- peace symbol, heart, safety symbols, advertising icons).

Explain that the Ashanti people made cloth with patterns of traditional symbols that had specific meanings. Tell students that they are going to create their own Adinkra Designs.


      Styrofoam blocks




      craft foam sheets, wood blocks, glue


      variety of common items (see activity text)


      tempera paint


      paper – brown paper bags, wrapping paper, newsprint, etc.


      black markers


    (Alternate materials – muslin fabric, fabric paint)


      1. Have each student come up with 2 or 3 simple symbols to represent something to them, or use some traditional symbols. Make suggestions as necessary. (ex.-parallel lines could represent friends, a circle-family, a star-success, etc.)


      2. Have students make the symbols stamps. There are a number of different ways this can be done.

        a. Use styrofoam blocks- draw design and “carve” away outside using pencil, paperclip


        b. Cut design out of craft foam sheets and glue to wood blocks


        c. Use common items – small lids or caps to create solid or open circles, plastic forks to create parallel lines, various shaped erasers, the eraser end of a pencil to create clusters. Be creative!

      3. Give each student paper. To share paints and stamps you may want to divide students into groups.


      4. Have students divide paper into sections, using black markers to create borders (solid lines dashed lines, crosshatch, etc.) Incorporate math skills by requiring a specific set of rows, columns, shapes.


      5. Have students begin stamping patterns. You may want to require a certain section of the print have a specific number of repeated rows, specific number of symbols in each row, repeated pattern etc. Monitor following directions as activity progresses.


    6. Display finished designs in classroom or tape together to make large pieces of “cloth”. Have students discuss meanings of the symbols they used. Have students identify rows, columns, repeated patterns, etc. that may have been required.

Alternate Method – use muslin fabric and fabric paints in place of paper/tempera. Pieces could be sewn together to make a classroom quilt.

Follow up activities:

  • Incorporate other forms of African tradition into classroom lessons
  • read/discuss traditional African folktales
  • listen to music samples
  • take a field trip to an African cultural display, dance performance etc.
  • do a cooking activity using African food items
  • create simple writing samples utilizing student created/suggested symbols

Most importantly – Have Fun!

E-Mail Kelly Lane !

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