Students will explore the symbols and colors on the Osage blanket and will experience how different types of clothing and materials influence movement of the human body. Students will also create a class blanket displaying symbols that are important to them.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonOne 30 minute lesson
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- identify colors, shapes, and patterns in a variety of materials;
- describe how different types of clothing and materials influence movement of the human body; and
- describe an important item in their daily lives and communities.
- Warm-up: Ask the children to describe many different ways that a blanket can be used. You might want to pass a blanket around the classroom and have each child demonstrate this particular use of the blanket. Encourage them to be creative. What can you carry in a blanket? What shapes can you make with a blanket?
- Display the image of the Osage Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket. Explain that it is a blanket that an Osage woman made for someone to wear in a special dance. Members of the Osage nation still wrap themselves in blankets for the same special ceremony today.
- Spread several blankets or sheets on a table in the classroom. Holding up the blankets one at a time, ask the children to share what they notice about the blankets. What colors do they see? What kinds of shapes do they see? Are there any animals or other figures that they recognize? What does the material feel like?
- Give each child a blanket to examine. How does the blanket make them feel—sleepy, warm, cozy?
- Have the children exchange blankets with each other and examine their second blanket. What do they see on this blanket? What is similar and different about this blanket compared to the first blanket? Have them wrap themselves in this blanket and dance or move around the room. Once the children have finished dancing, ask them if they danced or moved differently when wearing a blanket.
- Have the children return their blankets and sit down, explaining that they will now share ideas to create a class blanket. Explain that the Osage people often include symbols that are important to them, such as horses and arrows, on their blankets and clothing. Ask the children to name items that are important to them. Cut out shapes from flannel material representing these items (you may want to use a fabric marker to create further detail) and place them on a large rectangular piece of flannel, thereby creating a class blanket! You may choose to sew or hot-glue the shapes onto the large piece of flannel at a later time. When the blanket is complete, you can display it in a way that makes sense for your classroom and the nature of the project (make sure your use/display emphasizes that the designs were selected by your students and represent what is important to them, not the Osage people whose blanket inspired them)
- One blanket or sheet for each child (you might want to have children bring these)
- Several different colored squares of flannel
- One large rectangular piece of flannel
- Fabric marker
- About the Art section on the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket (included with the lesson plan)
- One color copy of the blanket for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
A woman from the Osage tribe sewed this blanket in the early 1900s for a special dance called the I-loⁿ-shka [ee-LONSH-kah]. European explorers entered the Osage territory in the early 1600s and the Osage began trading with the French for things like wool cloth and silk ribbon—materials that were used in the making of this blanket. Ribbonworkers are female and the art form is learned from female relatives. Each Osage ribbonworker creates her own patterns. To make the silk decorations, the artist used a template to trace a design on colored ribbon, then she cut and folded the ribbon to form stylized arrowhead shapes and horses. She then stitched each shape onto a second colored ribbon, which she sewed by hand onto the wool blanket. Once complete, the blanket would have been worn by an Osage woman over her shoulders or as a skirt. Today, artists continue to produce ribbonwork, but they might use sewing machines to construct the patterns. These blankets are still worn today on ceremonial occasions.
What Inspired It?
Every Osage who dances the I-loⁿ-shka, both male and female, wears clothing decorated with ribbonwork. Blankets like this one are often given as gifts at the dance. When worn during the I-loⁿ-shka dance, the blanket moves and sways with the dancer, surrounding him or her with a sense of history and tradition. Symbols and use of colors may vary between clans or even families. Horses, like those on this blanket, often symbolize prosperity and may also indicate a family’s name.
I-loⁿ-shka means “playground of the eldest son.” An eldest son is chosen keeper of the drum for a year or more. The drum-keeper chooses committee members who are knowledgeable in tribal traditions to plan the dance. His family gives gifts to committee members, pays for the dance, and prepares food for participants. Dances are held outdoors and dancers circle around a drum, moving in a counterclockwise direction. In the early days, only warriors danced the I-loⁿ-shka. Today all men and boys, and some women, dance around the singers and the drum.
The horses and border are made from silk ribbons. After the French Revolution of 1789, silk had become unpopular in Europe and the French silk industry turned to America as a market for the unwanted ribbons.
The Osage acquired wool cloth through trade with Europeans. Wool came in different colors including red, black, navy, and white.
Horses symbolize prosperity and can also indicate family names. Notice the tiny yellow beads that outline the silk horses.