Pre-K–Grade 5 / Signs and Symbols

Signs and Symbols


Some of the most visually potent examples of folk art are those that speak through symbolic language. The five lessons in this unit revolve around objects that are symbolic in different ways. Symbols may be inclusive, expressing widely recognized ideas and experiences, as in the nineteenth-century Flag Gate, or exclusionary, as in the arcane symbolic systems of secret societies such as the Freemasons. Individuals in history can also act as symbols for the ideals or desires of a community. When symbols pass from common usage or stem from a personal vision, we no longer hold the key to understanding their original meanings. Works become mysterious and subject to new interpretations. Through the lessons in this unit, students will uncover the meaning behind many symbols and understand the ways symbols are being used in their everyday lives. While some lessons are geared toward early learners discovering, for the first time, how images can represent ideas, others delve into the complexity of familiar symbols or symbols specific to students’ local communities or the country.

 
Counting Quilts
Counting Quilts
Pre-K–Grade 1
Students will use math concepts to observe an appliqué quilt top and examine the pairs of animals that decorate it. They will then create simple quilts representative of their own families.
The Stars and Stripes
The Stars and Stripes
Grades 2–3
Students will explore the significance and symbolism of the United States flag through the study of a work of patriotic folk art, Flag Gate, and create an original flag that is emblematic of the class.
Symmetry and Symbols
Symmetry and Symbols
Grades 2–3
Students will recognize and identify symmetrical and congruent shapes in an inlaid wooden plaque exhibiting secret symbols of the Freemasons and design their own symmetrical collages encoded with secret meanings.
Community Symbols: Heroes and Leaders
Community Symbols: Heroes and Leaders
Grades 4–5
Students will investigate the portrait of a Latin American hero and create portraits of individuals that represent their community’s ideals, principles, and beliefs.
Situation of America: A Sense of Place
Situation of America: A Sense of Place
Grades 4–5
Students will discuss an 1848 painting of New York as a primary source and consider its symbolic statement on the United States when viewed within the historical context.