Beaded Hats

Lesson submitted by teachers Michelle Anderson (5th grade) and Susan Anderson (Art) of Northeast Range School.

We were lucky to have the help of two Bois Forte band artists in the classroom to help us with a beading unit. The artists also happened to be the mother and grandmother of students in our school. The artists suggested teaching the class how to bead the brim of a hat. Beading has been a traditional craft of many Minnesota native communities for many centuries. Traditional beading was used to decorate and adorn objects, clothing, and create works of art. In this beading unit we intended to teach about traditional beading, but wanted to offer an activity based on contemporary design and craftwork. This is a project based on traditional craft and process, but founded in contemporary ideas and context.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


The artists spread out examples of their artwork for the students to look at and touch. They also shared their beading supplies with the students.The students had the opportunity to ask questions of the artists about when and how they began the art of beadwork.


The artists demonstrated how to find the mid-point on a ball cap and how to sew beads onto the brim (this demonstration was recorded using an iPad). The artists then worked with each child to help them become proficient at the skill.


  1. If a guest beading artist is present, take a short video of the guest artist sewing beads to the brim of a hat during their demonstration for reference later, as needed.
  2. Students begin by creating a design for their hat using the traditional beading examples and artist samples. Students draw the design using patterned color and repetition onto grid paper.
  3. Pass out the hats and beading supplies to each student: seed beads, needles, leather/thimble, dish, and scissors. Make sure to label the hats with student names.
  4. Students use their gridded patterns to begin their beading, starting from the middle.
  5. Show the demonstration video (or another beading video online) for reference as needed.
  6. Students sew beads to their caps while we read aloud the Mishomis Book.


The artists returned to the classroom and helped them finish their beaded hats. Students then had a chance to thank the artists.


With the help of our teaching artists, our students mastered the skill of beading on the brim of their hat and became familiar with traditional beading patterns of Minnesota Native American art. Students merged traditional craft with a contemporary material.

Vocabulary Words


This was the first time Native parents and grandparents came into our building as respected cultural experts and artists. Their children and grandchildren were so proud. The children would pop into the room to watch their grandma and mom teach. I realized how important it was, what we had just done. Yes we made a hat beautiful, but we acknowledged the skills and strengths of local people and it created a more understanding and loving environment at our school. *Image of beaded hat is by Ojibwe artist Beverly Gouge. Provided by Wisconsin Historical Society

Grade Levels


Primary Content Areas

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards