• 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

    Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
    Curriculum Unit

    From the White House of Yesterday to the White House of Today (3 Lessons)



    The Unit


    It is perhaps curious that a republic would permit so opulent a residence for its elected head of state, but a public tally did not make the decision. George Washington approved the White House. His expressed wishes included not only the stone construction but extensive stone ornamentation as well.
    —From the White House Historical Society website, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC

    The “President's House,” built under George Washington's personal supervision, was the finest residence in the land and possibly the largest. In a nation of wooden houses, it was built of stone and ornamented with understated stone flourishes. It did not fit everyone's concept for the home of the leader of the young democracy. Abigail Adams found it cold; Thomas Jefferson thought it too big and impractical. He added gardens, a cooking stove, and storage.

    Whatever one's opinion of the original design, our nation is now inseparably associated with the White House. There, the essential business of the land is conducted every day. There, our history has been made and reflected.

    In this curriculum unit, students take a close look at the design of the White House and some of the changes it has undergone. They also reflect on how the “President's House” has been and continues to be used.

    Note: This curriculum unit may be taught either as a stand-alone unit or as a complement to the EDSITEment curriculum unit What Happens in the White House?.

    Guiding Questions

    • What process was used for choosing the initial design of the White House?
    • What changes were made to the exterior and why?
    • How does the White House differ from a presidential home such as Monticello?
    • How does the present-day White House reflect the duties, powers, and privileges of the office of President?

    Learning Objectives

    • Take a stand on whether the chosen White House design or one simpler or grander would best reflect what our President's house has come to represent.
    • Discuss some of the changes the White House has undergone in more than two centuries.
    • 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.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the curriculum unit. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • In Lesson Three, of this unit, student groups will take virtual tours of either Monticello or the White House. Place students into appropriate groupings, covering all of the tours or just those tours best suited to your class. Some tours require more reading than others-the video tours require no reading at all; the photo essays feature reading and/or photo viewing. Students who do not get to take the White House tours as part of the group assignment might enjoy the opportunity to do so. One option would be to show the Video Tours to the entire class.
    • The White House website, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory, features two additional and very basic tours on its White House for Kids. These may be suitable for some students:
    • Extensive background information on every aspect of the White House is available on the website of the White House Historical Association, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website Explore DC.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level


    Subject Areas
    • Art and Culture > Medium > Architecture
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Visual analysis
  • Angkor What? Angkor Wat!

    The"Terrace of Elephants" at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

    Beginning in the 9th century the Khmer empire, which was based in what is today northwestern Cambodia, began to gather power and territory in mainland Southeast Asia. It would grow to be one of the largest empires in Southeast Asian history. In this lesson, students will learn about Angkor Wat and its place in Cambodian, and Southeast Asian, history. Students will attempt to “read” the temple, in a way which resembles the reading of a primary document, to gain insight into this history.

  • 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!