Southwestern Silver & Turquoise

Southwestern Silver & Turquoise lesson plan

Make a beautiful Navajo-style bracelet. Students explore traditional jewelry-making with this silvery Southwestern-U.S. project.

  • 1.

    Native American silver workers of the U.S. Southwest learned their craft from earlier Mexican and Spanish artisans. The Mexican silversmith Nakai Tsosi taught Atsidi Sani, the first Navajo to learn silver smithing. Navajo silver smithing was first recorded in 1868. Since then, it has become a popular art form. Early Navajo silver pieces have a great deal of symbolic meaning in the shapes and types of materials.

  • 2.

    During an investigation into this culture, invite students, working individually or in small groups, to find out about this early silver work. This research can be completed with classroom resources, Internet searches, etc.

  • 3.

    To create a silvery turquoise-colored bracelet, demonstrate for students how to mix a small amount of green and blue Crayola® Washable Paint into white Crayola Model Magic. Students work the paint in with their hands to create a consistent color.

  • 4.

    Tear off several small pieces of the modeling compound. Shape them into small stones. Add a little more blue or green paint, rework the Model Magic, and repeat the process. Change the color of the turquoise several times, until a collection of slightly different colors of stones is created. Remind students to wash their hands.

  • 5.

    Small pieces of aluminum foil can be crumpled up so that it resembles a narrow plate or tray. Place a drop of Crayola School Glue into the center of the foil. Press the slightly-dry Model Magic turquoise into the recessed part of the foil.

  • 6.

    Using fingers, students gently pull apart the surface of the slightly dry Model Magic, creating cracks. Use a black Crayola Fine Tip Marker to color in these cracks. Wipe off the surface of the turquoise with a damp paper towel. The turquoise will look like it is naturally cracked and veined.

  • 7.

    Press the crumpled edges of the foil with the flat end of a Crayola Colored Pencil. Punch a few small holes in the middle of the foil with the sharpened end of the colored pencil.

  • 8.

    Use colorful, thick thread to string the bracelet pieces together. Add ties on both ends when finished.

Standards

  • LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • MATH: Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.
  • MATH: Classify two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties.
  • SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.
  • SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.
  • SS: Demonstrate an ability to use correctly vocabulary associated with time such as past, present, future, and long ago; read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; and recognize examples of cause and effect relationships.
  • VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.
  • VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

Adaptations

  • Possible classroom resources include: How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend by Jerrie Oughton; The Navajo by Andrew Santella; The Pueblos by Alice K. Flanagan; Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac; Navajo Indians by Caryn Yacowitz
  • Invite a community member that is knowledgeable about the Native American tribes of the Southwest to visit with students. Ask the expert to speak about the culture of the tribes, their connections to the Spanish and Mexicans, as well as how the art of creating turquoise jewelry evolved. After the visit, students post learning to a class blog.
  • Students explore how turquoise is mined and polished before it is made into jewelry. Students investigate the production of silver, as well.
  • Students use recycled materials to create a necklace similar to one a Native American belonging to a tribe from the Southwest would wear. Be prepared to explain the choices you made in creating the necklace. Use recycled materials where possible.