Spotlight on Art: 5th Grade Story Quilts

Classical’s Art Curriculum

Our primary focus in art has been to saturate our curriculum with as many artists that represent our student body as possible. We believe representation is extremely important, and we want all scholars to feel represented and seen in the art classroom. We also value the exposure of artists and art practices from around the world so scholars can be introduced to new methods of art making and have a more global understanding of how art unites us all.

At Classical, most grades will study a unit centered around elements of art, another on principles of art, and another on art around the world. To understand better, think of the elements of art as the ingredients for a meal, and the principles as the recipe. This helps scholars to understand how something as simple as lines and shapes can transform into movement and balance in a piece of art.

Artwork in Reverse

Our 5th grade curriculum features a storytelling unit which involves contemporary art study. In this unit, scholars study contemporary textile artists like Bisa Butler, Faith Ringgold, and Victoria Villasana. Prior to storytelling and textile arts, we begin 5th grade curriculum with art around the world and, for the first time at Classical, scholars learn about printmaking. Scholars observe block prints from India then create their own design on Styrofoam to be printed in solid colors, and then an ombre effect. They are beginning the reductive practice of printmaking; instead of putting a drawing on paper, they are pulling their drawing out of a surface. This is truly a departure from their former learning, as they are starting to create artwork in reverse.

Storytelling through Art

As the unit progresses, scholars learn how storytelling is done by passing stories through generations, or how artists can use visuals to tell a story without words.

We begin by observing the artwork of Faith Ringgold in her quilt: Dream 2: King and the Sisterhood, 1988.

Dream 2: King and the Sisterhood, 1988

Followed by her quilt: Dancing on the George Washington Bridge, 1988.

Dancing on the George Washington Bridge, 1988

We move on to the artist Yvonne Wells who made the quilt entitled ‘Being in Total Control of Herself’ 1990.

‘Being in Total Control of Herself’ 1990

Lastly, moving on to Bisa Butler and her quilt ‘Southside Sunday Morning’, 2018.

‘Southside Sunday Morning’, 2018

In viewing and dissecting these images, scholars can form their own opinions of what the artist meant when they used certain symbols and images to convey deeper meaning. We discuss important events in our own lives and what images can be used to show what is important to us. Then we take that image and transfer it to canvas using mod-podge.


Once photos are transferred to the canvas and placed inside embroidery hoops, we begin to learn about contemporary embroidery artist Victoria Villasana from Mexico. She uses bright colors and lots of contrast to highlight beautiful black and white images as seen here:


This is when scholars start to plan what colors and patterns they want for their own embroidery!

Curricular Connections

As with any curriculum, it is important for students to make connections across units and apply previously learned skills in new contexts. Our scholars have had experience with weaving and embroidery in the 2nd grade. They use those skills in this 5th grade unit and, again, when exploring a new embroidery unit in 7th to latch hook their own small rug. In 7th grade, scholars will observe the Zapotec rugs from Mexico and create their own design on paper before cutting their yarn and using mesh and a latch hook to turn that drawing into their own rug. In addition to our push for greater representation of artists across units, we are also actively working to build more cross-unit and cross-grade connections within our curriculum. We are fortunate to be able to reflect and to revise our curriculum annually and to best meet our scholars’ needs and interests.



This post was contributed by Ms. Beauchaine, Art Teacher and Team Leader. As a non-CMO charter network, we rely on the thoughts, opinions, and innovations of our staff to move our mission forward and provide an excellent academic option to families in the South Bronx. To hear more from our staff, check out the next post! Or, click here to learn more.


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