Georgian Court University
Making a Phragmites-bead necklace
Introduction: In this class, students will explore the use of color-symbolism in their own and in Native American Cultures. They will then cut and paint lengths of Phragmites to form a variety of beads which they will then thread onto a necklace to represent their own personality and character.
Grade/Level: 6, 7, 8
Estimated Time Frame: One class period
New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards
STANDARD 1.2 (Creation and Performance) All students will utilize those skills, media, methods, and technologies appropriate to each art form in the creation, performance, and presentation of dance, music, theater, and visual art.
D. Visual Art
STANDARD 1.5 (History/Culture) All students will understand and analyze the role, development, and continuing influence of the arts in relation to world cultures, history, and society.
The activity also addresses National Standards in the Social Studies standards 1 (culture), 3 (people, places and environments)
1. Teacher will start the class by asking students what associations they have for different colors. How are colors associated with social status? With specific seasons and holidays? How are they used for religious symbolism? For example: purple and gold are often associated with royalty or wealth. Similarly, in Western culture a white dress is often worn by a bride to symbolize purity. However, in Asian Culture white is associated with death, and a woman’s wedding dress would traditionally be red, symbolizing luck. In Western culture green has become associated with concern for the environment (ecology) but also symbolizes money, and of course “go” when associated with a traffic light. Other things to discuss include the colors associated with fall (red orange yellow), the colors of Hanukkah (blue and silver or white), the colors of Christmas (red, green), the colors of the Chinese New Year (red and gold), the colors of Easter (pastels), colors for death / mourning (black in the West, White in Asia), red for love / Valentine’s Day, pink for a baby girl, blue for a baby boy, saffron to represent the Supreme Being in Hinduism (thus the color of the robes worn by Buddhist monks) etc.
As we have seen, different colors symbolize different things for people of different cultures and the same was true for Native American cultures too. However, some colors are so deeply associated with specific things nature that their symbolism is often similar. For example:
Blue represented sky and water
Color Symbolism Chart
2. After discussing color and symbolism in different cultures, have students think about how they would use color to represent their own personality / identity. Have them write a short paragraph about the colors that they would use to represent themselves and why.
3. Instruct the students to cut lengths of Phragmites between ½” and 1” long to form the beads (the stems are hollow, making them “pre-bored” for threading, although if students want to be creative they can also bore holes through the stems at right angles to the stem axis so as to create vertical rather than horizontal beads). Remind students to use the scissors and awls with care so as not to hurt themselves or anyone else. Also remind them to use care with cutting the reed to prevent “launch” of the cut end of the reed as it comes free from the stem.
4. Have the student paint beads in the colors that they wish to use to represent themselves. Stand the beads on their ends to dry.
5. To make the necklace start by cutting a length of beading thread that’s long enough to easily slip over the student’s head once threaded. Have the students thread the beads that they have made to create a necklace that represents their personality. Students do not need to fill the entire thread. Allow each student to load as many or as few beads on the thread as he / she wishes in order to tell his/her own story.
6. Once the beds are threaded, tie off the thread to secure the necklace.
7. If desired, have students wear their necklaces and share the “story” of the symbolism that the beads represent for them with their peers. Alternately, have the students mount their necklace and paragraph on poster boards that can be displayed on walls around the classroom.
Acknowledgement: This lesson plan was modified from a lesson plan found at http://coreknowledge.org/CK/resrcs/lessons/299native.pdf
Color Symbolism Resources:
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© 2009. Louise Wootton, Amanda Traina. Edited by Claire Gallagher
Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement NE97262206 to Georgian Court University, it has not gone through the Agency's publications review process and, therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.