Picturing First Families

In this lesson, students take a virtual trip to Washington, D.C., and visit the National Portrait Gallery, the White House, and the Library of Congress, with a side trip to the University of Virginia to gather clues about America's original First Family, their lives and this period in American history. Students learn why we pay tribute to George Washington today by featuring his portrait on our currency. For contrast, students compare the National Portrait Gallery's Washington portraits with contemporary images of the First Family in the White House today. They gain an understanding of the significant role the First Family plays in representing the nation and the image of American families projected to other countries. This lesson can be extended through a variety of activities including writing a story about a family photograph and creating a personal family portrait to illustrate traits and characteristics of the student’s own family.

Guiding Questions

What can we learn about America’s original First Family and current First Family by looking at portraits of these families?

Learning Objectives

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to: Identify America's First Family, understand their role and know where they live

Recognize George and Martha Washington and understand why they are important in American history

Look for details in historic portraits to learn more about the people portrayed

Compare historic portraits with contemporary photographic images

Describe what family portraits can tell us about a family and individual family members