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Building Big

The site brings bridges, skyscrapers, tunnels, and dams to the Internet for those who want to learn more about man-made giants that fill our communities. It features introductions to the engineering of structures, interactive engineering labs, building designs challenges, a databank of large structures, and interviews with engineers.

  • The Aztecs — Mighty Warriors of Mexico

    Aztec Calendar

    The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was the hub of a rich civilization that dominated the region of modern-day Mexico at the time the Spanish forces arrived. In this lesson, students will learn about the history and culture of the Aztecs and discover why their civilization came to an abrupt end.

  • In Old Pompeii

    Vesuvius from Portici, c. 1774–1776. Joseph Wright (British,  1734–1797), oil on canvas, 101 x 127 cm.

    A virtual field trip to the ruins of Pompeii. In this lesson, students learn about everyday life, art and culture in ancient Roman times, then display their knowledge by creating a travelogue to attract visitors to the site. They can also write an account of their field trip modeled on a description of Pompeii written by Mark Twain. 

  • Following the Great Wall of China

    A view of a portion of the Great Wall of China, which stretches across some 1200  miles of northern China.

    The famous Great Wall of China, which was built to keep the China’s horse-riding neighbors at bay, extends more than 2,000 kilometers across China, from Heilongjiang province by Korea to China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang. This lesson will investigate the building of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty, and will utilize the story of the wall as a tool for introducing students to one period in the rich history of China.

  • Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and the Spanish Mission in the New World

    Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Acuña, San Antonio, Texas, 1755.  Convento and church at dusk.

    In this Picturing America lesson, students explore the historical origins and organization of the Spanish missions in the New World, and discover the varied purposes these communities of faith served.

  • Lesson 3: A President's Home and the President's House

    The White House

    After completing this lessons in the unit, students will be able to give specific examples demonstrating how the present-day White House reflects the duties, powers, and privileges of the office of President; compare and contrast Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello with the White House.

  • Lesson 2: How and Why Has the White House Changed?

    The White House

    After completing this lesson in the unit, students will be able to discuss some of the changes the White House has undergone in more than two centuries.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana: Showing your Dharma

    The Citadel of Lanka, a detail from "Hanuman Visists Sita in Lanka,"

    The story of the Ramayana has been passed from generation to generation by numerous methods and media. Initially it was passed on orally as an epic poem that was sung to audiences by a bard, as it continues to be today.

  • Leonardo da Vinci: Creative Genius

    Leonardo Vitruvian

    Leonardo da Vinci—one of history’s most imaginative geniuses—was certainly born at the right time and in the right place. In this lesson plan, the students will explore Leonardo da Vinci and the age in which he lived and consider the meaning of the Greek quotation, “Man is the measure of all things” and why it particularly applies to the Renaissance and to Leonardo.

  • Egypt's Pyramids: Monuments with a Message

    Pyramid of Khufu

    What we know about ancient civilizations comes from what those civilizations left behind. Sometimes it's a shard of pottery, part of a tool, a piece of jewelry. Archaeologists scour the earth for such remnants of ancient civilizations to piece together a picture of the past. But in Egypt there are clues to the past that are hard to miss: they're six and a half million tons, taller than the Statue of Liberty, and as wide as 10 football fields. You don't need a trowel and a brush to discover these artifacts; you can see them from space!