Floral Motifs in Ojibwe Cultures

The students will learn about and be able to identify different floral motifs from various American Indian cultures, specifically Ojibwe culture. We will explore the use of geometric shapes in baskets and canoes. We will learn why we use certain colors in our floral patterns.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Exhibit an Ojibwe basket, ask what are the materials used for it, where would one find these materials, and why would we use this kind of material? Look at different floral motifs from American Indian groups to compare to our floral motif. Examine and compare the use of colors in floral prints that are used in American Indian cultures


Show an example of our floral motif, birch-bark basket, and (replica) canoe. Have pieces of natural birchbark for students to see and touch.


  1. Make a basket using construction materials and create a floral motif to put on it.
  2. Talk about the reasons that the birch bark is being substituted in this project. Substitutions may include birchbark printed cardstock or textured paper. We substituted bark out of environmental concerns. The birch trees in our region are disappearing due to a mystery fungus. We felt it was important not to harvest our precious bark, but preserve it. We also took this opportunity to talk about sustainability and green resources.
  3. Have students trace a template for traditional folded birchbark baskets. We created our own paper template, based on examining traditional baskets and their construction.
  4. Secure sides with glue. Traditional baskets have sewn sinew on sides and along top. Sinew can be replaced with natural waxed string.
  5. A floral pattern is created separately on strips of paper and then attached below the basket rim.


Why would the Ojibwe culture use birch-bark for canoes? Transition to other birchbark objects.


Create a floral motif with the correct dimensions and use of color.

Vocabulary Words


See the other birchbark projects in this curriculum resource, for additional ideas and extensions to this project.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards




Social Studies