Designing Underground Railroad Quilt Codes with Haiku Poems in Keynote


A Star is Born: Student Example of Secret Quilt Code
A Star is Born: Student Example of Secret Quilt Code

Please note that this lesson may apply to any native/community lesson featuring textiles

and art/patterning.


Students will be able to use simple shapes within Apple's Keynote application to design original Underground Railroad Quilt Codes. These original digital quilt codes will include an audio layer where the student will compose an original Haiku poem germane to their digital secret quilt code design.

Key Points:

  • Understanding the concept of Underground Railroad Quilt Codes
  • Utilizing simple shapes in Keynote to design quilt codes
  • Learning about the Haiku poetry structure
  • Writing original Haiku poems for their quilt codes
  • Integrating an audio layer within their Keynote quilt codes


  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they have heard of the Underground Railroad Quilt Codes and what they know about them.
  • Show the students visuals or examples of quilts used as codes during the Underground Railroad.
  • Discuss the importance of secrecy and hidden messages during that time period.

Introduction to New Material:

Guided Practice:

  • Provide guided practice by demonstrating how to create a simple shape in Keynote and add an audio layer.
  • Record Video and Audio in Keynote iPads (Apple Support)
  • Scaffold questioning from easy to hard, such as asking students to identify the different shapes they can use and how they can manipulate them to create hidden messages.
  • Monitor student performance by circulating the classroom, providing feedback, and addressing any questions or misunderstandings.

Independent Practice:

  • Instruct students to design their own digital quilt codes using Keynote, incorporating at least three different shapes and an audio layer with an original Haiku poem.
  • Remind students to refer to the key points and the step-by-step instructions provided during the introduction to ensure they are following the guidelines accurately.
  • Set behavioral expectations for the work time, such as staying on task, collaborating respectfully with peers, and seeking help when needed.


  • Have students present their completed quilt code designs to the class, explaining the meaning behind their codes and the inspiration for their Haiku poems.
  • Facilitate a class discussion where students can share their reflections and observations about the different quilt codes created.
  • Summarize the importance of the Underground Railroad Quilt Codes and how they were a creative way to communicate messages secretly.

Extension Activities:

  • For students who finish early, encourage them to research and create additional quilt codes using different shapes or explore other coding techniques within Keynote.
  • Students can also create a short reflection on their experience designing the quilt codes and the challenges they faced via Clips application. These Clips may be used to promote an in-school display of the students' digital Secret Quilt Codes and used with permission on the school's social media platforms.

Additional Resources:

There are several online resources available for learning more about Underground Railroad Quilt Codes. Here are a few recommended websites:

  1. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center: This website provides an overview of the Underground Railroad and includes information about the use of quilt codes. You can find it at
  2. National Park Service: The National Park Service website offers educational resources on the Underground Railroad, including information on quilt codes. Visit and search for "Underground Railroad Quilt Codes" to access the relevant information.
  3. The Quilt Index: This online resource provides a comprehensive collection of quilts, including those associated with the Underground Railroad. It offers detailed information about the history and symbolism of quilt codes. You can explore it at

Standards Addressed:

  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards:

ISTE Standard 1: Empowered Learner - Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.



Promised Land: Student Example of Secret Quilt Code 2
Promised Land: Student Example of Secret Quilt Code



2 replies

January 01, 2024

Wonderful lesson in history and folklore! Love the idea of adding Haiku poetry, audio in Keynote and having students think about what design and shapes to use to convey a secret message. Your student examples are great!

Quilting certainly plays a large part in history and art. Here is a Black History Month Keynote Quilting activity I posted.

Thank you so much for your lesson design, detail and examples!

January 04, 2024

Happy New Year, Cheryl! Thank you for your encouragement and for sharing this additional Apple EDU resource with me. I am thinking of adding a GarageBand layer this year, so that students may compose a tune in the style of spirituals. Just another way to keep creativity options and the Arts supported!

Maximum file size: 400MB

Insert a video

Insert an image

Insert an image

125: 125
220: 220

This action can’t be undone.

Error Message

Are you sure you want to continue? Your changes will not be saved.

This post contains content from YouTube.

If you choose to view this content, YouTube may collect and process certain personal data. You can view YouTube’s <a href="" target="_blank">privacy policy here<span class="a11y">(opens in new window)</span>.</a>

This post contains content from YouTube.

You have rejected content from YouTube. If you want to change your consent, press the button below.