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Day 4: Tracking the Quilting Codes


Art, Computers & Internet, Language Arts, Math, Music, Social Studies  




Title – All Aboard! Exploring the Secrets of the Underground Railroad – An Interdisciplinary Unit

Day 4 Lesson: Tracking the Quilting Codes

Note, this is one part of a larger unit which can be found here .

By – Elizabeth Hodgson and Rachel Vogelpohl
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Math, Music, Art, Language Arts, Computers / Internet
Grade Level – 4


Social Studies
2.04 – Describe how different ethnic groups have influenced culture, customs and history of North Carolina.
3.02 – Identify people, symbols, events, and documents associated with North Carolina’s history.
5.02 – Describe traditional art, music, and craft forms in North Carolina.

English Language Arts
2.09 – Listen actively by: asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, interpreting speaker’s verbal and non-verbal messages, interpreting speaker’s purposes and/or intent.

2.01 – Use technology tools used to collect, analyze, and display data.
2.10 – Use search strategies to locate information electronically.
3.04 – Create a multimedia project and cite sources of copyrighted material.

3.01 – Identify numerical and geometric patterns by stating their rules; extend the pattern, generalize, and make predictions.

Visual Arts
1.04 – Use complex symbols to fully explore ideas.
5.01 – Recognize that art can serve more than one purpose and/or function in a given culture.
6.01 – Describe how people’s experiences influence the development of specific artworks.

2.04 – Improvise, create, and perform dances based on own ideas and concepts from other sources.
7.02 – Create a dance sequence that demonstrates understanding of a concept or idea from another content area.


  • The Secret to Freedom
  • Computer with internet access
  • KidPix software
  • Quilt pattern website
  • Traditional art supplies: construction paper, crepe paper, glue, markers, paint, glitter, crayons, clay, scissors, colored pencils, etc.


    The Secret to Freedom by M. Vaughan.
    Read The Secret to Freedom , a story about the use of quilts to communicate secret codes to runaways and conductors of the UGR.

    Website on Quilt Codes Utilized by the UGR
    Learn more about the quilting patterns employed by women to send messages to conductors and runaways on the Underground Railroad. First, have the students predict the meanings of the codes, and then continue through the site to revise or confirm their predictions.

    Creating Quilt Patterns
    Students, in groups of 3-4, will create their own codes and quilts to communicate safe or unsafe passage for conductors and runaways of the UGR. The students must first brainstorm and agree on codes they’d like to communicate and how they’d like to represent them.

    Creating “Quilts” to Display Coded Messages for Conductors and Runaways
    Each group will begin to design and create a quilt to present their coded messages. Students may choose to create their quilts with KIDPIX software, traditional art supplies, or through charade performances (if first discussed with the teacher).

    Multiple Intelligences:

    Verbal/Linguistic: (reading, discussing story)
    Logical/Mathematical: (creating quilt patterns)
    Visual/Spatial: (creating quilt patterns, creating own quilt)
    Interpersonal: (group work w/ quilt patterns)
    Kinesthetic: (if choose to participate in dance)
    Note: Activity also appeals to auditory (listening to reading, discussion), visual (creation of quilt patterns), and tactual (creation of one’s own quilt) learners.


    Informal assessment of class discussion, quilt patterns, and students’ own quilts, as students will still be finishing projects.

    E-Mail Elizabeth Hodgson and Rachel Vogelpohl !

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