Polk County Middle School students in Eric Eaton’s eighth grade North Carolina history class took paint to canvas recently to create colorful designs based on the history of quilts in America.

Through the generosity of a Tryon Fine Arts Center Be Inspired Grant, Eaton created a unit entitled “Quilting Carolina: North Carolina History Through Quilts.” This learning opportunity allowed students to research and learn about the rich history of quilting and how quilts can reflect the cultures that create them. Students found inspiration from quilt patterns from the 1800s and 1900s Western pioneers and families of the Appalachian region.

After completing their research, students re-imagined historic quilt block patterns or developed new patterns and transferred them to canvas squares to create an 8-inch by 8-inch painted quilt square. Math concepts of tessellations and transformations were also incorporated.

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In all, more than 80 students created quilt squares. The works of art have been displayed throughout the building in a kind of “quilt trail” much like those that scatter local towns and the Blue Ridge region today.

“We used math and social studies to do a project,” student Emily Gaul said. “We had fun but still learned while doing it.”

“I liked that the project allowed all of the students to be able to express their creativity in art by painting,” said student Reagan Jackson.