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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Michelle Whitney (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 4
Lesson 1: Haida Button Blankets
Time: 2.5 hours

Topic: Haida Button Blankets

Rationale: The Students will gain an appreciation and understanding of the Haida culture through making a mini button blanket. This activity will incorporate prior knowledge of coastal art and the shapes used in Haida art.

Materials and Resources

  • Red / Black felt (8 ˝ x 11) approx. (size may vary) - each student will need one piece of each
  • White buttons
  • Mother of pearl sequins
  • Craft glue
  • Sharp scissors
  • Animal shapes – cut out
  • Pins
  • Gel pensTeacher’s button blanket in various stages of completion
  • Pictures and button blanket for visual reference

Main Concepts
An appreciation of Haida culture through the creation of a Haida symbol.

Intended Learning Outcomes
Visual Arts:
The student will create images in response to aspects of art from a variety of historical and cultural contexts, create 2/3 D images using a variety of design strategies.

Social Studies:
Demonstrate awareness and appreciation of various Aboriginal cultures in Canada

Language Arts:
Create and present a variety of personal and informational communications

Teacher Preparation
Traditionally people do not make button blankets without the permission of a Haida elder. It would be wise to consult the local FN Resource worker and make contact with a person of Haida ancestry who would be willing to come into the classroom and assist. It is important to not only utilize the elder’s knowledge, but ensure that you are teaching the children about respecting the customs and culture of the First Nations peoples.

Planned Learning Activities

  1. (30 min) The children will choose the animal shape they wish to use and cut it out. Then using a gel pen they trace the shape onto the felt – the boys will trace onto red felt and the girls onto black felt. Traditionally the background (2nd piece of felt) will be black for boys and red for girls.
  2. (15 min) Once the students have their felt shapes traced and cut out, the teacher can assist them with gluing their shape onto their felt background.
  3. (60 min) Using the white buttons and sequins the students can begin placing their buttons and sequins at various points on their shape. It is important to discuss that more buttons do not mean a more effective looking shape. The students will have seen button blankets in photos as well as the teacher should have made a button blanket to demonstrate the various stages. It is also imperative to discuss with the students the importance of uniqueness in their own creation.
  4. (30 min) Once the students are happy with the placement of their buttons and sequins, they may begin gluing them on.

Assessment and Evaluation

  • teacher’s checklist regarding on task behaviour
  • rubric – criteria met
  • student self-evaluation


  • The students can choose to display their blankets individually or to display them as a larger blanket with other student’s work in the hallways, library or gymnasium.
  • Using a large piece of felt you could choose to make a class button blanket – instead of giving the students their second piece of background felt, they would place their shape on the larger (5 ft x 5ft.) background.

Integrated Opportunities

  • Socials Studies – the history and significance of the button blankets to the Haida communities in terms of trading value.
  • Language Arts – Write a proposal to a mainland community asking to trade button blankets for supplies that cannot be obtained on Haida Gwai (oolichan oil)

Resources Used

  1. The First Gitksan Colouring Book by Tony Gawa, Art Wilson, Ricky Wesley
  2. During My Time -Florence Edenshaw Davidson , A Haida Woman
  3. Stewart, Hilary Looking At Indian Art of the Northwest Coast Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979
  4. Mary Angus – teacher Dallas Elementary, Kamloops BC
  5. Debi Lynn – Haida woman , Kamloops, BC
  6. Tim Araki – teacher Dallas Elementary, Kamloops BC