Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs

Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs lesson plan

Immerse yourself in the Pennsylvania folk art tradition of hex signs. These colorful creations incorporate history, math and art.

  • 1.

    In the 1700’s German settlers came to Pennsylvania bringing their unique culture, art and language to the new world. Over time these immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

  • 2.

    The settlers decorated their barns with colorful hex signs. These circular designs features symbols like birds, hearts, tulips and six-pointed stars. It is believed the term "hex" came from the German word "sechs" for six. The bright, colorful designs were not only decorative, but also thought to bring good luck and happiness.

  • 3.

    Look at samples of hex signs. Like a fingerprint, each hex sign is unique. Symbols and colors are chosen based on personal meaning. One thing most hex signs have in common is the use of symmetry and geometry. Identify these elements in the sample hex signs.

  • 4.

    Cut a 12-inch circle out of construction paper to create a background for the hex sign. Use colored pencils to sketch a design. Be sure to incorporate the information discussed in class.

  • 5.

    Use markers to color in the design. You can create a variety of different effects with markers. Make thick lines by drawing with the side of the marker and thin lines by drawing with the tip. Stippling—using the tip to make a pattern of dots— can be used


  • Students will learn about the history, art and language of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
  • Students learn how symmetry and geometry play a role in hex sign design.
  • Students will create a hex sign incorporating the Pennsylvania Dutch history, the mathematical principles and the artistic considerations discussed in class using a variety of marker techniques.


  • Research more about the symbolism of different images and colors used in hex signs.
  • Hex signs were created to have personal family meaning. Look at some samples of traditional hex signs. Why do you think the families chose the elements in each hex sign?
  • Take a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Hex signs are still proudly displayed around the area.