Dreamcatchers (5th & Art Club)

I have been waiting to post this for what feels like FOREVER!! It is the project that never ends!!
Just in time for Native American History Month, both my Art Club (twenty-one 4th and 5th grade students) and one of my 5th grade classes, began working on dreamcatchers.
A dreamcatcher is an object traditionally created by Native Americans but have become very popular in modern times as well (very trendy in tattoos these days). They were hung above a sleeping person's bed and were said to filter out bad dreams and only let good dreams pass through. 
This lesson took 5 meetings of my art club to finish. Since we only meet once a week for 50 minutes, it took us 5 weeks (which is why I probably feel like I've been waiting forever)!
I also started this lesson with one of my 5th grade classes but they only ended up seeing me for 4 days this rotation, so they were unable to finish. So I either wait another 4 weeks until I get them back in rotation to finish them, or it looks like Ms. Gram is giving up her planning period/lunch one day to finish them up with the kids!
I've seen variations of this project which used much simpler techniques for weaving the middle part (or rather just randomly running strings across a circle), but I really wanted to go all the way with this.
The first step for this project was to have students cut the center part out of a snack-sized styrofoam plate. I brainstormed like a million different materials to use for this part.. but styrofoam was the one that I found the most sturdy, economical, and easy to do for elementary-aged students on their own.
Once the middle part was cut out we taped our plate back together (with clear tape). Then I had my kids use masking tape to mark off 8 evenly-spaced points on their plate. *They began doing one at 12 o'clock and then directly across at 6 o'clock, then in-between those at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock, and then finally in-between all of those points. Once taped off, students used a hole punch to punch a hole in the middle of the taped part. **The tape is used to visually mark off the plate for students AND to increase durability (the styrofoam has a tendency to rip). Just doing this step took one entire class period.
Next we tied the end of a long piece of tan colored string to one of the holes (we later numbered the holes to help students keep track of where they were). Then they ran the string through each of the holes, going in through the BACK side each time. You do this until you get all the way back to the hole you tied the string to (yes you need to run it through that hole as well).

I projected this onto my board in hopes that it would help students see what I was doing.

Once you've made it around once, you then start running your string through the loops that you made in-between each hole.

Once you finish your second full lap around your circle, you will gently tug at your string (in the direction it's running) to tighten up the middle weaving. Then on the third time around you will run your string through the triangle shape that appears (the triangle that has it's base towards the middle). Each time you finish a lap, gently tug the string (in the direction it's running) to tighten it up.

It got a little confusing.

You continue doing this until you either make it to the center or you get tired of how complicated it is and give up. :)

Side note: OMG. Be prepared for like 30 5th graders to stampede towards you for help (even if they are doing it right)!!

Once you are finished (or decide to be), you will once again gently tug on the string (in the direction it's running) to tighten it up, then double-knot it to an adjacent string. Then trim off the excess string.

Be prepared for this center weaving part to take you at least 2 full class periods and having to help (or "check if it's right") for what feels like a million children.

Once the center part is done, you will select a piece of colored yarn that you will use to cover your styrofoam ring. Tie this piece of string around any spot on your styrofoam plate and begin wrapping it around your plate. You will need to remind your kids to be very gentle so they don't rip their plate (which if they do, you can just tape back together). Also let them know that they do not want this string to overlap. Each lap around should sit neatly next to the last wrap.
You will use A LOT of yarn, so you will have to tie additional pieces of string to your first string to finish.
Wrapping the plate will likely take between 1 1/2 - 2 class periods.

Once you are done wrapping your ring, you can attach 3 pieces of yarn to the bottom of your dreamcatcher (just double-knot these onto one of the wrapped pieces of yarn). You can then add beads to the yarn and knot it closed at the end.
To attach the feathers I simply dipped the end of my feather into super tacky glue, and then pushed it into the center of the last bead and let dry.

The end result it stunning in my opinion.. but man did it take a lot of time and patience!!
I think this would have worked better if I was teaching it to a smaller group. My art club has 21 and the 5th grade class I taught this to has 28.

Time + Patience + More Time + MOREEEEE Patience = Beautiful Art


  1. I am ASTOUNDED by these!!!! They are so beautiful and cool, i bet the kids loved them. I am seriously impressed with these -- nice project!

  2. soooo your saying my class of 38 maybe too big to do all at once!? haha Love them, going to try it in small groups!

    1. Good luck to you!!
      I was only in my 2nd year teaching when I did this. I'd like to think I would be able to handle it better now. :)