The first lesson I thought the kids would enjoy is learning about wampum--traditionally, beads made from the quahog shell and strung on string in intricate patterns of purple and white (although some sources say that red and black beads were used sometimes too). Quahog's are endangered today and, I guess, artisans can only get one or two truly purple beads per shell, so one wampum bead costs around $5--way too pricey to use for large belt designs. The beadwork we did today had 72 beads per child so each child would have used $360 worth of beads for their project. The children loved hearing that!
We used plain old pony beads I bought from Michael's for our designs. I had been looking for a way for students to easily realize their own bead designs without sewing or doing crazy things with string (my students are in 2nd-4th grade) and I finally found a solution on the blog Mrs. Erb's Art Page. Mrs. Erb uses pipe cleaners (chenille stems) to hold the beads in each row. Perfect! I had the children fit them onto matte board that had been donated to me. This allowed a nice way to display their original designs along with the finished wampums. They came out great and didn't take long at all.
- Worksheet for practicing designs
- Crayons in purple (and red and black if you want to use those)
- Six chenille stems-white
- Purple and white pony beads (ours were more royal blue)
- Matte board (ours were red and about 8" square)
- Clear tape (I used packing tape because it's stickier than regular tape)
- Glue stick