History Detectives

Lesson Plan

Lesson

Students will act as history detectives to uncover the purpose of and influences behind the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug.

Intended Age Group

Secondary (grades 6-12)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Social Studies

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • describe what the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug looks like, including details/purposes of its design;
  • use historical data to support or refute a hypothesis and revise a hypothesis as new data is found;
  • explain how understanding the background of the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug helps them learn more about interactions between people; and
  • discuss the significance of the rug’s design as compared to other Navajo patterns.

Lesson

  1. Preparation: Read the About the Art section on the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug. Take time to look through riddles online that will work for your students; there are lots of great websites for ideas. Try this one from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Make sure you choose a riddle that isn’t too easy or difficult to solve. It should present just the right amount of challenge.
  2. Warm-up: Present a brainteaser/riddle to activate problem solving and hypothesis testing skills. Encourage the students to ask lots of “Yes” and “No” questions and not worry about how ridiculous their questions may seem because they will help them solve the riddle.
  3. Show students the rug without providing any information. Separate students into groups of 2–4 and ask them to develop a hypothesis about when the rug was made, where, and for what purpose. After crafting this initial hypothesis (based on previous knowledge and what they think they know to be true), they need to test their theory by researching information on the Internet. You may choose to provide some hints if the students get frustrated (e.g., the rug is from the western United States).
  4. After students have generated evidence to support their hypotheses, or revised them based on the evidence, they will present their ideas to the class. The class will select the hypothesis they believe is most accurate.
  5. Share that what they’ve done is what historians do—they solve mysteries of the past, putting together evidence to support or refute an initial idea.
  6. Students will then read the About the Art section on the rug, including the information about the Navajo weaving tradition from the “Details” section, paying careful attention to the artistic design choices and their role in the purpose of the rug. Students will further refine the hypothesis they selected using the new information.

Materials

  • Riddle for warm-up
  • Computers and Internet access for students to conduct research
  • About the Art section on the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug
  • Color copies of the Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen

Standards

CO Standards

  • Social Studies
    • History
      • Evaluate and analyze sources using historical method of inquiry and defend their conclusions
      • Understand the concept that the power of ideas is significant throughout history
      • Analyze the concepts of continuity and change and effect
      • Become familiar with United States historical eras, groups, individuals, ideas and themes
  • Visual Arts
    • Invent and Discover to Create
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Research and Reasoning

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug

Eyedazzler Blanket/Rug

About 1885

Artist not known, Navajo, United States

Who Made It?

This blanket/rug was likely the work of a female Navajo artist. Loom weaving was a woman’s art among the Navajos after they learned the skill from their Pueblo neighbors in the 1600s, but today both men and women weave.

Navajo weavers are justly famous for the excellence of their textiles. This style, known as an eyedazzler because of its vivid colors and dizzying design combinations, was popular during the later years of the Transitional period in Navajo weaving (1868–90), when artists began weaving for the tourist market rather than solely for home use. Brightly colored “Germantown” yarns, widely available through newly established trading posts on the Navajo Reservation, made it possible to produce these vibrant masterpieces.

What Inspired It?

During the Transitional period (1868–90) when this blanket/rug was created, Navajo weavers began to produce patterns compatible with the tastes of traders and patrons. Eyedazzler weavings are uniquely Navajo innovations, created to take advantage of a range of commercially made colors not previously available. In some ways you can think of these artists as testing a new product on a new audience.

Although this rectangular weaving is called a blanket or a rug, the decorative fringe and cotton warp (cotton is less durable than wool) suggest that its maker knew it was more likely to be displayed on a wall than used as clothing.

Details

The Bold Red
The Bold Red

The red wool used throughout the background is a kind of commercially manufactured yarn called Germantown, named after a town in Pennsylvania that produced these yarns using synthetic dyes.

Saltillo Diamond
Saltillo Diamond

Navajo artists borrowed the serrated diamond motif from New Mexican Saltillo serapes. The Navajo people became familiar with the motif when they were incarcerated at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico (1863–68), where they received Saltillo-style blankets from the United States government.

Flags
Flags

Five flags appear in this eyedazzler. Notice how the artist used them to mimic the look of the American flag but not duplicate it exactly. Navajo weavers of this time often used flags in their textiles as design elements to appeal to non-Navajo customers.

Crosses
Crosses

Artists often included cross-shaped designs in their eyedazzlers. Despite the obvious association with Christianity, these designs may have been derived from traditional Navajo women’s dresses.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.