Lesson plan

Recognize Indigenous People’s Day with Navajo Rug Design

Explore the beauty of Navajo rug weaving with this lesson that integrates indigenous culture, math and art. Students will learn and practice symmetry and create a design in the tradition of the Navajo rug pattern called “Two Grey Hills”.
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  • Students will be able to list 3 characteristics of Navajo rugs.
  • Students will create a Navajo rug pattern using the Two Grey Hills design.
  • Students will create a Navajo rug pattern that incorporates symmetry.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that students will be honoring Indigenous People’s Day by studying the beautiful artistry of the Navajo people and creating a rug pattern of their own
  • Ask the class: What is a pattern? Where do you see patterns in this classroom? Where do you see patterns in the world?
  • Ask the class: What does it mean if a pattern has symmetry? Do you see examples of symmetry in this room? Where do you see symmetry in the world? Explain that an image has symmetry when you can draw one or more lines through the center of it and if you fold it on the line the two sides are a mirror image of each other.

  • Explain that since you are studying Navajo art, it’s important to consider where these people live. Ask students: Does anyone know, in what area of the United States do most Navajo people live? Take out a US map and explain that they live in what is called the Four Corners area of the US (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado).
(10 minutes)
  • Project images of Navajo rugs found on the internet or, if you have access to computers, have students search Navajo Rugs images.
  • Guide students through a “See, Think, Wonder” protocol. Viewing the images, first have students share only what they see/observe about the rug patterns, then have them share what they think about the patterns, followed by what they wonder about the patterns. Each phase should last about 1-2 minutes. Examples: I see colors found in nature. I see patterns. I think there are symbols in the patterns. I wonder what the cross means. I wonder how they dyed the yarn.
  • If they don’t comment on the colors, ask them what colors they see. All Two Grey Hills patterns use only shades of black and brown (tan, grey, cream, etc.) Ask why they think there aren’t any bright colors like purple, neon yellow or royal blue.
(15 minutes)
  • Project an image of square and/or trapezoid graph paper on the board or draw one that you can color on the dry erase board.
  • Pass out the handout
  • Explain that, although there are many different styles of Navajo rugs, your class will be creating a pattern called Two Grey Hills.
  • Ask students to notice the patterns and symmetry seen in the examples on “Two Grey Hills Navajo Pattern Examples”.
  • Create your own pattern on the board or projector to model how to think about using the graph paper to create a pattern. It might be useful to do one with the diamond grid and one with the square grid.
  • Explain to students that most Navajo rugs incorporate colors that can be dyed using things found in nature (roots, berries, flowers, bark, pine needles, seeds), and Two Grey Hills patterns use only shades of black and brown.
(30 minutes)
  • Prepare: Distribute square and diamond graph paper making extras available for trial and error
  • Experiment: Instruct students to play with patterns and colors, using the examples as inspiration
  • Create: Tell them that their goal is to create a pattern that fills the paper, incorporates no more than 4 colors and all must be colors found in nature. Two of the colors must be black and brown. Their pattern must have at least one line of symmetry. Write these criteria on the board.


  • Have students research and create another design pattern used by the Navajo and share it with the class
  • Provide a more intricate graph paper pattern - this will allow students to show more detail
  • Have students create watercolor paints for their design using only items found in nature (beets, red onion, leaves, etc.)


  • Work in pairs
  • Provide graph paper with the design completed (outlined in darker lines) and have students color it
  • Use the internet to search for different Navajo rug patterns
(5 minutes)
  • Review each final product to assess whether students work met all of the criteria.
(5 minutes)
  • Engage the class in a refection on this activity by asking these questions: Why do you think it is important to honor Native American cultures on Indigenous People’s Day? How does studying their art honor the Navajo people? What did you learn about Navajo rugs in this lesson?

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