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Button blankets are an important part of Pacific NorthWest Indigenous culture. 

In British Columbia classrooms, we endeavour to bring First Nations Principles of Learning into the daily life and culture of our classroom and school communities.

Learning about the artistry and significance of button blankets is one of the ways that we recognize and honour indigenous knowledge in our classroom.

Beautifully adorned blankets are worn as capes at ceremonial events. The crest on the back tells about the wearer's family. The blankets tell the story of people, places and events. They tell of the wearers position, roles and responsibilities in the community. They are a unique way of "learning and knowing" (Fine Arts, UVic).

They are powerful statements of identity. Yukon Museum

Over the holidays, I saw a button blanket doll tree ornament. Since it was well above my budget for sensory bin additions , and it looked pretty straightforward, I decided to make some myself.

As I was making these clothespin dolls, I was thinking that they made fine tree ornaments, but I wanted something that could stand up to add to my button blanket sensory bin and for small world play.

Peg dolls were the answer.

These are pretty straight forward to make - no need to be super crafty!

what you need
red felt (thicker, better quality felt is a good idea - having something with "weight" for the blanket works best
black felt (dollar store felt is fine for this)
black wool (for hair)
black acrylic paint (for "angel" style peg doll only)
sequins (I used iridescent - silver could work too)
good scissors
craft glue

two ways to make button blanket dolls

for a "giant" peg doll  - ordered from Stockade
1. Cut the dress out of black felt and the cape out of red felt.
2. Cut out decorative strips of felt for the dress and cape. I looked at the diameter of the sequins I was going to use, and determined the width from that.
3. Using craft glue, glue the decorative strips and sequins onto the dress and the cape. Allow a few minutes for the glue to dry.

4. Cover the peg doll's body with craft glue,
and attach the black dress.
5. Cut out  and glue on the crest for the back of the button blanket cape. Add sequins or "bling" where inspiration dictates.
6. Find the centre of the cape - put a thick line of glue down the centre of the cape  - attach to the back of the peg doll.
7. Put a good sized drop of glue on the inside top corners of the cape, and attach to the front of the doll.
8. Cut a number of 3 inch lengths of black wool for hair. Glue them onto the peg doll head. Glue wool onto the back of the head.
9. I would destroy the doll if I tried to add any facial features, so I didn't.


for an angel peg doll - ordered from Stockade
(I don't have step by step photos for this doll - but I am sure that you can extrapolate from the previous doll)
1. Paint the doll's body with acrylic black paint.
2. Glue on red trim and sequins.
3. Cut out red cape and black crest.
4. Glue black crest and sequins onto the cape with craft glue.
5. Find the centre of the cape - put a thick line of glue down the centre of the cape  - attach to the back of the peg doll.
6.  Put a good sized drop of glue on the inside top corners of the cape, and attach to the front of the doll.
7. Glue additional sequins onto the front of the cape as inspiration dictates.
8. Glue on wool hair.

Please click [here] or on the graphic for a free pattern printable. Remember, this is a starting point for your creativity.

The images are from School District 79's Aboriginal Education page on the school district website. They are available for anyone to use for educational purposes.

I chose the orca because it was the right shape for the blanket, and it looked manageable to cut out a small image. I have included the sizes that I used on the pattern page.

other button blanket resources

Secret of the Dance
author: Andrea Spalding
illustrator: Darlene Gait
Orca Book Publishers, 2006, 2009

summary: In 1935, a nine-year-old boy's family held a forbidden Potlatch in faraway Kingcome Inlet. Watl'kina slipped from his bed to bear witness. In the Big House masked figures danced by firelight to the beat of the drum. And there, he saw a figure he knew. Indigenous elder Alfred Scow and award-winning author Andrea Spalding collaborate to tell the story, to tell the secret of the dance. (Orca Books )

Orca Books has compiled some teacher resources.

I have "read the pictures" with my students, but I find the book is better suited to students grade 3 or older. 

Last year we did this project as part of our learning inspired by The 6 Cedars by Margot Landahl. I had cutouts of each of the animals from the book (wolf, raven, salmon, beaver, bear and orca), and the children were asked to chose the one that they felt represented their strength. 

button blanket sensory bin


When the winter dark sets in, I like to to "twinkle up" our classroom with stars.

We read about the darkest dark with Commander Chris Hadfield, learned how Franklin the turtle turned on his nightlight (when no one was looking) because he was afraid of small dark places - and then we learned how to draw a star with Eric Carle.

Draw Me a Star is one of Eric Carle's lesser knows books.

Summary: "Draw me a star. And the artist drew a star. It was a good star. Draw me a sun, said the star. And the artist drew a sun." And on the artist draws, bringing the world to life picture by beautiful picture until he is spirited across the night sky by a star that shines on all he has made. In "Draw Me a Star," Eric Carle celebrates the imagination in all of us with a beguiling story about a young artist who creates a world of light and possibility. A remarkable, quintessentially simple book encompassing Creation, creativity, and the cycle of life within the eternal. -- "Kirkus Reviews,"  GoodReads

full disclosure - Draw Me a Star is on a list of books contested and banned in schools and library; there are biblical themes  (although, I would be surprised if my students picked up on it) and a Eric Carle style depiction of a naked man and woman. Not graphic, but enough to know it was a man and a woman. We have "know the names of body parts including private parts" on our curriculum - so it would not have posed a problem for us - but the copy of the book that I borrowed from the school library had already been censored!!

Back to the creating.

I wanted Eric Carle style art - painted paper collage -- and sparkle.

Painting on tin foil was the sparkle solution.

The kids used paint brushes to make random dots on their tin foil. Finger prints would have also worked, but I want not into that much hand washing. Sometimes a paintbrush can save sanity. 

When the painted tin foil was dry, I cut it into strips. 

The kids each chose a star, pre-cut and made of poster board. (If we had a longer timeline, or the children were older, they would have drawn and cut out their own stars). 

The children cut their tinfoil strips into little pieces, and glued them onto their star. 

When the glue was dry, I cut off the excess tin foil.

The last step was to add some beads before hanging them up. (I could not find the string that I bought to hang up the stars, so we improvised and used unbent paper clips. Worked like a charm.)

Eric Carle inspired stars - bringing colour, sparkle and the joy of creativity into our classroom. 

related star activities


The beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock, reflect on the past 
and make goals for the future.
In kindergarten that seems to mean drawing a portrait for the portfolio, so that the adults can see the change, growth and development since the last self portrait. 

Salmon are amazing creatures. 

Any creature who jumps up waterfalls in order to get back to their birthplace is worth learning about. 

Salmon Stream by Carol Reed-Jones is an ideal picture book to help young children learn about the life cycle of the salmon. 

Salmon Stream
author: Carol Reed-Jones
illustrator: Michael S. Maydak
publisher: Dawn Publications, 2001

Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award
CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

summary   Fast-paced prose and brilliant illustrations follow the salmon from their form as eggs in a stream to the wide ocean, eventually making a hazardous journey home to their stream of origin. As in her earlier best-selling book, The Tree in the Ancient Forest, author Carol Reed-Jones uses cumulative verse--a literary technique that is not only enjoyable but suggests how interconnected salmon are with their habitat. At the back is a section on salmon facts and what makes a good habitat for them, teaching the basics of ecology and why clean streams and waters are so important.   -- Dawn Publications

from Dawn Publications: https://dawnpub.com/activity/salmon-stream-activities/

After reading the book, we got ready to code our friendly salmon from the ocean back to the stream where she was born, so that she could lay her eggs (and die).

We got our our coding grid.

 I made it out of a heavy piece of paper and marked the squares with electrical tape.

Before we could code our fish "home", we had to create the journey.

What would be in between the ocean and her gravel bed -- the kids really wanted a waterfall, fish ladders, a tunnel/culvert.

How could we represent a waterfall, or fish ladders?  Loose parts to the rescue. The kids made a lego fish ladder, and a blue scarf and tin cans became a waterfall.  Driftwood and building blocks completed the "obstacles".

Then we started talking predators. Kindergarten kids can be pretty blood thirsty! But it made for more interesting coding, so ... we had a mama bear and 2 cubs, an eagle, a couple orca, a seal and a shark. The kids were a bit frustrated that the ocean animals had to stay in the ocean.  But we had to think like scientists.

Once the grid was all set up, we were ready to get our salmon to her spawning grounds.

We code with arrows.  Click [here] to print the set that I made to go with the grid.

Each child had a turn to put an arrow on the grid to help our mama salmon get upstream.

There was lots of discussion how to best make the journey.

Sometimes a wrong turn was made, and we had to "debug" the code. 

Just before our salmon was about to be coded to her spawning ground there was a shout - "eggs, we need red eggs". There was a bit of a scurry around the classroom as a gaggle of children looked around to see what could be salmon eggs. Red beads. Then we needed gravel. And still water. 

Then we could finish our code. 

We loved listening to Bobs and Lolo sing Run Salmon Run.  There's also an app.  Full disclosure - the song can get stuck in your head ... for days.


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