Subject: United States History

Age/Grade Level: 3rd-6th

Topic: The Underground Railroad

Lesson Length:  


1)    Students will research symbols and quilt patterns related to the people, places or events associated with slaves and the Underground Railroad.

2)   Students will design a 6x6 inch quilt square on a piece of fabric related to their research.

3)   Students will create a display by sewing their squares together to form one quilt.




        Access to the Internet to research symbols and quilt patterns associated with slavery and the Underground Railroad (see related resources)

        6x6 inch fabric squares (white or off white)

        Needles and Thread

        Permanent Markers (Fine and Broad tip)

        6x6 inch sheets of drawing paper



1)    Research the symbols and quilts used by slaves in relation to the Underground Railroad (see related sources).

2)   Pass out 6x6 inch sheets of drawing paper to sketch their designs.

3)   Pass out 6x6 inch fabric squares and markers.

4)   Transfer sketches onto fabric squares.

5)   Sew together the fabric squares to form one quilt. Each group will sew their squares together before adding them to the finished product.

6)   Students will discuss and present their square to the class and how it relates to the finished product.


Student Assessment

Students will be given a criteria chart at the beginning of the project.

Grades will be determined by the percentage of the criteria chart completed.


Related Sources

Quilt Codes


Code Words and Terms


Quilting Traditions






Criteria Chart

Underground Railroad Quilts


       Quilt squares are eye-catching with colorful backgrounds and images

       Images are clearly illustrated and easily deciphered

       Quilt squares should include a representation of symbols and codes related to slavery and the Underground Railroad

       Each square should be able to secure the square to the finished product so that it is aligned appropriately

       Students speak clearly during their oral presentation

       Oral presentations should include explanations of the symbols and codes used and how they would relate to a person escaping slavery