Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Comparing the Quilts of Indigenous Plains People with the Tessellations of M.C. Escher, Part 1

Diamonds, Not Just a Girl's Best Friend

James Doyle, Lindsey Link, Michell Eike | Published: August 15th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Visual Arts
  • Course Course Visual Arts
  • Time Frame Time Frame 120-150 Minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 Periods


Students will watch an ICAP video of Plains tribe member Crystal Pewo Lightfoot who makes star quilts and start quilt based designs. They will learn the history of the quilts and the Plains tribes, examine quilts using modern principles of design, and make a design of their own. Students will share their work with one another. Students will then use their skills to analyze professional works by tribe members. This is the first lesson of the "Comparing the Quilts of Indigenous Plains People with the Tessellations of M.C. Escher" lesson duo.

Essential Question(s)

How can an artist use the principles of design to create effective art? How can the principles of design help an artist convey mood and meaning?


Engage - Students watch an ICAP video featuring Crystal Pewo Lightfoot, a member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and a descendant of the Kiowa Tribe.

Explore - Students read about Plains tribes history and the significance behind the patterns in their quilts.  After reading, they will create their own example using premade patterns.

Explain - Students explain how the principles of design apply to their quilts.

Extend - Students conduct a Gallery Walk to view their classmates artwork, providing at least one positive critique and identifying one principle of design.  

Evaluate - Using the instructional strategy It’s OPTIC-al, students analyze three professional pieces of artwork.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • T-Chart handout (optional; attached; one per student)

  • Plains tribes Quilt History handout(attached; one per student)

  • Diamond Template handout(attached; one per student)

  • Principles of Design handout(attached; one per student)

  • It’s OPTIC-al handout(optional; attached; one per student) 

  • Copy paper (in various colors if not using coloring medium)

  • Coloring medium such as pastels, paint, markers

  • Blank canvas or heavy paper for artwork

  • Scissors

  • Sticky Notes

  • Projector

  • Touchscreen device like phone/tablet or Chromebook/laptop for each student


20 Minute(s)

Introduce the lesson by displaying the title slide 2 from the attached Lesson Slides.

Distribute a blank piece of copy paper and display slide 3 to introduce the Sketchnotes instructional strategy. Instruct students to create sketches that represent the main ideas of the video they are going to watch. Move to slide 4 and play the video K20 ICAP - Diamonds, Not Just A Girl's Best Friend. After watching the video, allow students a few minutes to share their sketches with the class.

Move to slides 5-6 and share the essential question and learning objectives for the lesson to the extent you feel necessary.


50 Minute(s)

Move to slide 7 and distribute copies of the attached Plains Tribes Quilt History handout to each student. Instruct your students to draw the T-Chart on a blank piece of paper, or pass out the attached T-Chart handout. Have your students label the top of their T-Chart with “What I Know About This” and “What I Learned From My Partner.” Once they have completed the reading, instruct your students to complete the “What I Know About This” column with the information they can remember from the reading.

Preface the next step for your students by letting them know they will only have 30-seconds to share what they learned. Display slide 8 and explain the 30-Second Expert strategy. Use this slide, which has a 30-second timer, to keep track of time. After the first student shares what they have written down, their partner should summarize that information in the second column of their t-chart labeled, “What I Learned from my Partner.” Repeat the exercise (and the timer) so students can switch roles.

Display slide 9 and pass out copies of the attached Diamond Template handout and blank paper to your students. Play the Star Quilt Project for “Diamonds, Not Just a Girls Best Friend video on slide 10. Inform students that they will complete the activity using the attached Quilt Design Project handout after they are reminded of the principles of design (if necessary).

Before students begin working on their designs, show students slides 11-19, reviewing the following rules with them as needed:

  • Balance

  • Emphasis/Focal Point

  • Contrast

  • Movement

  • Pattern

  • Rhythm

  • Unity

  • Variety

If you like, you can distribute the attached Principles of Design Half-Sheet handout to provide students with a paper reminder that they can keep.

Allow students the remainder of the day, as well as the first half of class tomorrow to finish their designs.


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 20 and share the instructional strategy 8-Up with your students. Ask students to think back to the quilt design activity. Inform that by the end of three minutes, they should identify three words that best describe the design they created. 

Divide your class into eight groups as you move to slide 21. Instruct students to share their words with their group. Together, they should come to a consensus on three words they feel are the best fit description.

Once time is up, move to slide 22 and have groups partner up with another group and share their responses. You should now have four larger groups. Together, they should take their six responses and whittle them down to just two.

Next, move to slide 23 and have groups partner up with another group. You should now have two large groups. Have students share their two responses with one another and whittle these four words down to two. Have the large groups share their two words with one another and as a whole group, narrow these two words down to a single word that best describes the quilt activity.

Move to slide 24 and remind students of the principles of design. Ask your students to consider the words they just used to describe their work, as well as the single word the class settled on, do any of the principles match what they were describing? Ask students the following:

“Do any of the principles match what you were describing?”

"Thinking back to the first activity, did you see those same principles there?" 

After hearing their responses, instruct your students to select the principle that best matches their quilt design and write it down on a sticky note. 

Display slide 25 and explain the Sticky Bars strategy to your students. Have them place their sticky note answers on the wall, grouping identical or similar answers together to create a bar graph. Have students group together according to their responses, Ask students to summarize why they think their principle of design is most applicable to their designs.

When the timer ends, have each group share a response. After the students have shared their responses, ask if any students have changed their minds. If they have, allow them to join the group that persuaded them. Explain to students that while arguments can be made for many of the design principles, with an especially strong case for repetition, the lesson today is focused on pattern.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 26, distribute a sticky note to each student, and share the instructional strategy Gallery Walk. Instruct each student to display their design on the wall using a temporary adhesive like painter’s tape. Have your students walk around the room and review each other’s designs. Have students select at least one design and attach at least one positive critique and identify one principle of design, attaching it to the wall below the artwork. When everyone has a sticky note, have the students return to their original design to read the critique.


25 Minute(s)

Use slide 27 to introduce the It’s OPTIC-al instructional strategy. Pass out the attached It’s OPTIC-al handout to your students, and show the sample professional pieces of artwork on slides 28-30 so each student can assess them. When they have finished, have them turn in their handout along with their piece of artwork from earlier in the lesson for a complete project grade, at which point, the class is ready to continue on to the second lesson in the series, Escher's Terrific Tessellations: The Art Of Tile Transformations.