George Washington's Trunk


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Students will learn about the many roles that Washington engaged in throughout his life and create their own “George Washington’s trunk” of objects that reflect these activities

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George Washington's Trunk

  1. 1. Intended Grade Level: Elementary School George Washington’s Trunk Lesson Purpose: Students will learn about the many roles that George Washington engaged in throughout his life and create their own “George Washington’s trunk” of objects that reflect these activities. Lesson Objectives: • Students will understand George Washington’s role as a surveyor, farmer, soldier, father, military leader, and president. • Students will create objects that would have been owned by George Washington, using the curatorial and archaeological collections of Mount Vernon and 18th century art as inspiration. Curriculum Standards: National Standards NA-VA.5-8.4 UNDERSTANDING THE VISUAL ARTS IN RELATION TO HISTORY AND CULTURES • Students know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures • Students describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts • Students analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art NL-ENG.K-12.4 COMMUNICATION SKILLS Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes. NL‐ENG.K‐12.7 EVALUATING DATA Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience. Materials: • Shoebox
  2. 2. • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers • Tea bags • Curatorial Images, Timeframe: Approximately three class sessions Procedures: 1. Use Mount Vernon’s George Washington Biography or our Discover the Real George Washington timeline to provide the class with background information about George Washington. On the blackboard, have students list Washington’s different roles such as farmer, surveyor, soldier, general, husband, stepfather, and president. 2. The Mount Vernon website makes a large number of images from the curatorial and archaeological collections available at . Have students look at the objects on the website, or print out images to share with your students. As students examine the objects, discuss their purpose: toys, china, documents, books, decorative figurines, jewelry, tools, guns, miniature portraits, clothing, musical instruments, etc. 3. Print out paintings of George Washington. (Via Google find Edward Savage’s 1789 “The Washington Family,” Rossiter and Mignot’s 1859 “Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon,” and Rembrandt Peale’s 1823 “Porthole Portrait.”) Have students identify the objects in the paintings. Were any of the objects in the paintings the same as those in Mount Vernon’s online collection? 4. As students examine the images, have them consider in what capacity Washington would have used the objects. Using the list of Washington’s roles on the board, have students either physically move the objects into a category, such as moving a sword under the category of “Soldier,” or have them call out objects to list under each category. 5. In equipping himself as the Continental Army's Commander in Chief, George Washington selected objects that bespoke professionalism and gentility, even down to his luggage. His black leather-covered trunk, studded with costly brass- headed tacks, was as attractive as it was durable. The serial number engraved on its brass tag helped Washington organize his supplies. In 1780, he instructed for
  3. 3. this trunk, "No. 4," to be filled with blankets for the forthcoming winter. When it entered Mount Vernon's collection over 150 years later, it contained articles of George and Martha's clothing as well as a pair of George Washington's dentures. Using this trunk as inspiration, students will use household objects to create their own trunk of George Washington’s objects using a shoebox as the trunk. Distribute the assignment, “George Washington’s Trunk” (included below) and choose a due date for the trunk. They should use the curatorial images and paintings as possible examples, but they can also create their own objects, as long as they can justify how George Washington would have used them. 6. Upon completion of the trunks, have students present the contents of their trunk to the class and turn in the “Look What I Found in Washington’s Trunk” worksheet. The worksheet should list the items in the trunk, as well as a brief explanation of why each item was chosen or how Washington would have used it.
  4. 4. This has been adapted from a lesson by Maureen Festi, George Washington Teachers Institute 2007. George Washington’s Trunk You have found George Washington’s trunk! It contains objects that will help preserve the memory of Washington and what he has done for our country. When you open the trunk, what do you want to discover about George Washington? You will create a “trunk” filled with objects that may have been used by George Washington. Build the trunk from a shoebox and fill the trunk with objects that you make. Soak sheets of paper in tea and tear the edges to create scrolls of George Washington’s famous documents. Use household items to make objects for each of Washington’s many jobs such as farmer, soldier, president, and father! Remember, you will be the “expert” of your trunk! Share your trunk with other students and be prepared to have a conversation about the items you chose to put in it. How will the information in your trunk help others to know what kind of person George Washington was? List the items in your trunk on your worksheet and explain how Washington would have used each object.
  5. 5. Look what I found in George Washington’s Trunk! 1._____________________________________________________ 2._____________________________________________________ 3._____________________________________________________ 4._____________________________________________________ 5._____________________________________________________ 6._____________________________________________________ 7._____________________________________________________ 8._____________________________________________________ 9._____________________________________________________
  6. 6. 10.____________________________________________________