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Taino Petrolglyphs as Wearable Art

Tainos, indigenous to Caribbean Islands such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, were known as a peaceful people who were also expert farmers and hunters. Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, made by the Tainos still remain in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and tell the stories of their history. Primary students will practice creating petroglyphs in preparation for making a wearable petroglyph.

  • Grade 1
    Grade 2
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Write the term 'symbol' on the classroom white board and ask a student to pronounce the word. Have all students repeat the term together and discuss what they think it means. Inform the class that symbols are more than just a picture but a piece of an even larger idea. Provide a variety of recognizable symbols and logos for student to view and discuss as a "pair share" activity. What do these symbols mean to the students? What do they mean to adults?
    2. Ask students to share what they know about Christopher Columbus' expeditions to the Americas. Have a map of the world available (from the 1400s if possible) and show the path of Columbus' voyage from Spain to the New World, particularly the Caribbean. Circle the location of the islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Share some of the history of the indigenous people from these islands and their peaceful lifestyle. Upon being received by the Tainos, Columbus admired their gold jewelry and commanded these pieces be forfeited to the Spanish throne. The Tainos agreed and offered their gold necklaces to him as a sign of good will.
    3. Write the word "petroglyph" on the board. Ask for a student to read it, assisting as needed. Display a photograph of a Taino petroglyph for students to view and discuss. Ask students to contribute to the discussion by sharing the meaning of the symbols in the art they are looking at and how might they collectively reveal the story, or history, of the native people of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. (Students may not recognize that this artwork is done on a rock; this can be revealed later in the lesson.)
    4. Distribute white paper and direct students to write the words "Taino Petroglyphs" on the bottom of their papers. Distribute a collection of various Taino Petroglyph symbols for students to view and practice drawing. Demonstrate looking at a selected symbol from the packet and translating the image onto paper using Crayola Construction Paper Crayons. Invite students to try to use thicker lines for clearer and bolder visibility of their drawing. Demonstrate drawing parallel to drawn symbol or thickening existing line(s) with additional parallel lines.
    5. When enough sketching time has passed, ask students to circle their three favorite drawn petroglyph symbols and narrow their selection down to one favorite. Have class members identify any and all connections made between the selected symbols and their meanings in the artwork. How do they help to tell a story? Once students identify/recognize the symbol, ask them what type of surface they think it was made on. Invite students to infer further and ponder why a rock? When was artwork created on rocks? How old could it be? Share a timeline with students.
    6. As a tribute to the Tainos, students will be challenged to create a necklace with a petroglyph symbol at its center. Distribute a pre-cut piece of 2" x 2" card stock (5.08 cm x 5.08 cm) with a pre-punched hole on one corner. A hole punch reinforcement will be in place. Remind the class to write their names and "Taino Necklace" on the back with a pencil. Have available a variety of art products such as Crayola Anti-Dust Chalk and Colored Pencils, along with the Construction Paper Crayons used earlier in this lesson to re-create symbols.
    7. As they prepare to draw their selected favorite symbols, demonstrate how to add a soft background using a brown crayon and transferring your selected symbol using a dark crayon (black, blue, purple) for contrast. Remind students to avoid using light colors like yellow and orange. Allow time for students to re-create their selected symbols. Students may also round or trim the corners of their squares for better aesthetic using Crayola Blunt-Tip Scissors.
    8. Distribute 6-8 pre-cut pieces of yarn (6" - 8" in length or 15.24 cm - 20.32 cm in length) and pre-cut rectangular brown paper measuring 12" x 6" (30.48 cm x 15.24 cm) to each student. This paper can be from a recycled brown paper bag or packaging material.
    9. Demonstrate folding brown paper lengthwise several times until it can no longer be folded. Begin twisting in the center and shifting hands with a continued twisting motion. Once the paper is twisted like a rope, tie yarn pieces (cross and pull twice) to hold the twist in place (3 pieces of yard for each side of the necklace). Thread a piece of yarn through the hole punch in the square and make sure it is secure by crossing and pulling twice so it knots. Allow students to begin these steps but provide adult assistance as needed. As they finish, have them meet with you so you may secure the ends with two longer pieces of yarn that can be tied and undone easily for simple wear and removal of necklace.
    10. When class time permits, have students wear their necklaces and organize into small groups. Each member of the group will prepare a short speech which shares the symbol selected, why it was chosen and how it related back to the Taino culture of Columbus' time.
  • Standards

    LA: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.

    MATH: Reason with shapes and their attributes.

    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 such as atlases, data bases, grid systems, charts, graphs, and maps to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    SS: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.

    VA: Brainstorm collaboratively multiple approaches to an art or design problem.

    VA: Make art or design with various materials and tools to explore personal interests, questions, and curiosity.

    VA: Re-purpose objects to make something new.

    VA: Categorize images based on expressive properties.

  • Adaptations

    Student practice drawing petroglyph symbols on large brown paper taped to a wall using oil pastels.

    To imitate the environment, texture and grittiness, sidewalk chalk can be used as a material to practice drawing a petroglyph outdoors.

    Read Jane Yolen's picture book, Encounter, with illustrations by David Shannon. While this story takes place in San Salvador, it provides some insight for students about the indigenous people and Columbus' visit to their land.

    Consider having students select three symbols, rather than one, to include on their necklaces. These three symbols should be combined in such a way as to sell a unique story, either of they student creating the symbols, or of the Taino people.

    Working in small groups, have students put together their necklaces/petroglpyhs in such as way as to tell a unique story. Have the group members 'perform' the story, while wearing their necklaces, for the class.


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  • Creativity.
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  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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