Art and Math · Arts in Education · geometry and paper

Paper-Quilting Squares with Second Graders

Paper-quilting sqaure
Paper-quilting sqaure

Yesterday was paper-quilt square day with second graders. This is the central graphic of the Western Expansion project that this group started last week.

Although this project is designed to align with this class’s curriculum, I have to say, this quilting part has great possibilities for as a summer project.

Templates and samples
Templates and sample

Although I’ve been playing around with rhombuses in squares (along with my friend Malke)I hadn’t yet mixed rhombi and squares together within the same square. This may sound like a small detail, but it creates the possibility to make many new decisions. What I provided was some samples to hint at the wide range of  choices students could make, colorful papers that had squares and rhombuses on them ready to cut, and a kind of complex looking white template.

PDF of templates


I tried to get these second graders to see the rhombuses as well as the squares and the triangles in this map of shapes. I wasn’t sure if they’d get it. Maybe second grade is too young to be able to make sense out of all these lines?

Ha! Some students struggled more than others, but they absolutely were able to make sense of this, and make some great designs. 

Some students added their own graphics to the papers that I gave them.

Quilting square, journal and compass rose
Quilting square, journal and compass rose

Some students created miniature designs for the covers of the journals that they made during a previous class.

Starting the quilting square
Starting the quilting square

Here’s a nice sequence, showing the first steps of one student’s work…..

Paper Quilting square nearing completion
Paper Quilting square nearing completion

…and here it is, nearly done. For the most part students used cut-paper as their medium, but finishing off some of the small spaces with marker was a great way of working.


The students in the classroom went wild over the piece in the above photo. . The young man who created it had a long explanation for the choices he made, and his classmates were riveted by his reasoning.

Paper-Quilting square in book
Paper-Quilting square in book

Students needed only about forty minutes to design and assemble their squares.

We finished off this project by making the crisscross which held their journal in place (I gave very little direction on how to do this: mostly I just said, “can you figure this out?’ to which to replied yes or no, but in either case they did figure it out themselves. I just helped them make a knot in the back that kept the yarn from being saggy)

Then students glued on their title, added in the writing they had already created, and most of them drew a covered wagon on the front, which I had done with my sample, but I hadn’t anticipated that they would want to do as well. Without further explanations, here are some more close ups of the rest of this really engaging project.





And, last photo, here’s what the paper table looked like when we were done.

2 thoughts on “Paper-Quilting Squares with Second Graders

  1. I love ALL of this. I especially love the fact that the rhombi play a part, but that we can also use other kinds of paper and media if we so desire, and than there are so many ways to interpret the structure visually. I’m wondering what the kids did to get the non-pattern paper to fit into the template?


  2. If I’m interpreting your question correctly, you are noticing that some of their paper pattern pieces don’t seem to have been cut from the templates that I provided . In fact, all of the students shapes were cut using the patterned paper: the illusion that they are not cut from the template relies on the simple trick of flipping the paper over after it’s cut so that the non-patterned side of the paper is exposed.


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