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Ready-Set-Tech: American History Through Architectural Masterpieces
American History Through Architectural Masterpieces

The aim of this learning experience is for students to learn about American history and culture through the study of selected American architectural works of art. Technology is integrated with social studies, language arts, math and architecture. The architectural masterpieces suggested for study are: Pueblo Bonito (Zuni Chaco Canyon); Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello; The Lefferts Homestead; The White House; The House at Falling Water and the Guggenheim Museum, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This Ready-Set-Tech unit focuses on one of these masterpieces -- Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Included is a long-term timeline of activities for a unit that would cover all of the masterpieces mentioned above. A class that meets in a computer lab once a week could complete the activities over the course of a semester. Prerequisite knowledge for students includes experience using the Web, and skills in note-taking and paraphrasing.


Katarina Kupfer

Katarina Kupfer is the computer teacher at P.S. 164 in Brooklyn. She uses project-based learning to integrate technology
with multi-curricular themes. One of her favorite activities is teaching the after-school technology class for parents.



Social Studies, Art History, Technology

Grade Level: 3-5

Time: Allow three weeks for each architectural masterpiece to be studied.

Materials: Computers with Internet access, a digital camera, and software such as Microsoft Word and Excel, Diorama Designer, Neighborhood Map Machine, Community Construction Kit, Claymation, and Kidspiration.








Students will:

1. Understand different events and time periods in the history of our country.

2. Discover relationships between climate, geographical factors, and time as to what kind of architecture was used.

3. Use technology resources to conduct research, write a report, construct a timeline, and make spreadsheets and graphs.

4. Discover Thomas Jefferson's role in the Declaration of Independence, the Lousiana Purchase, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Web sites:

Thomas Jefferson and Monticello






Declaration of Independence




Caesar Rodney







Children's Search Engines



Day One:


Aim: To learn about our third president, Thomas Jefferson

Motivation: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Do you agree with this?

Procedure: This saying was one of twelve rules of conduct that Thomas Jefferson wrote for his twelve year old granddaughter.

Let's go to this website and see the rest of the Rules of Conduct. http://monticello.org/education/background.html (click "Canons of Conduct," a pdf file)

Thomas Jefferson was skilled in many fields including agriculture, history, archaeology, architecture, art, astronomy, geography, languages, law, mechanical devices, medicine and music. Use search engines such as www.yahooligans.com or www.kidsclick.org to research facts about Jefferson's accomplishments.

Then write a letter to Thomas Jefferson as if he were alive today, telling him what you think one of his most important contributions to society was.

* Alternative assignment: write and e-mail a letter to "Ask Thomas Jefferson" with any questions you can not find the answers to. See sample letters on the site: http://monticello.org/education/asktj/instructions.html

Evaluation: Using Kidspiration software (or chart paper if software is not available), make a graphic organizer about Jefferson and some of his successes.

Day Two:


Aim: To explore a great American landmark, Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Motivation: Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was a self-taught architect?

Procedure: Have class look at the website, http://monticello.org/ and gather facts about the home, garden and plantation. Demonstrate to students how to take notes without copying exactly what is read - e.g. paraphrasing.

Using Microsoft Word, use your notes to write a research report on Monticello.

Evaluation: Pretend you are a tour guide and you must give your classmates a virtual tour of the most fascinating aspects of Monticello. Be sure to include what your favorite part of the home is. Do you like the style of furniture? Do you like the layout of the rooms? How do you like the gardens? (Teacher can enlarge and display the floor plan below to assist students in their oral presentations. Alternatively, this could be a writing assignment for homework.)

Floor plan of Monticello

Day Three:


Aim: To understand the importance of the Declaration Of Independence

Motivation: Pretend you are sitting at the Continental Congress and are about to sign the Declaration of Independence. What questions would you be asking yourself? Would you be afraid to separate from Great Britain?


Using websites such as:

http://ushistory.org/declaration/account/index.htm http://law.indiana.edu/uslawdocs/declaration.html

Have students research and write about the fundamental ideas in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

All men are created equal

They are endowed with certain unalienable rights

Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

(Teachers can refer to Liberty! Teacher's Guide from PBS http://pbs.org/ktca/liberty/tguide_2.html to guide the conversation)

Evaluation: Since our school is called the Caesar Rodney School, find out what role Rodney had in the signing of the Declaration and why he is on the quarter for the state of Delaware.




Day Four:


Aim: We have had the Jefferson nickel since 1938. Now the US Mint is introducing new nickels celebrating The Lewis and Clark Expedition and The Louisiana Purchase.

Motivation: What is on the Jefferson nickel? When will Monticello return to the nickel?

For graphics go here: http://enchantedlearning.com/math/money/coins/nickel/

Procedure: What does Thomas Jefferson have to do with the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition? Why was this purchase so important to our country?



Is it good for the Louisiana Purchase to be called the Peace Medal and for it to be presented to Native Americans? Why?

Write a research report using Microsoft Word.

Evaluation: Have class take an online quiz on Thomas Jefferson after all the research is completed.



English Language Arts

  • Students will select and use strategies for note-taking, organizing and categorizing information.
  • Students will use oral and written language for information and understanding.

Social Studies

  • Students will know the origins of American culture and its development from different traditions.
  • Students will examine the influence of Thomas Jefferson on his society, analyzing ways he effected change in this country.

Mathematics, Science, and Technology

  • Students will access, generate, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.
  • Students will apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems.



January, February

Assign classes their architectural masterpiece

Do Internet research, use multimedia encyclopedias and read additional books

Do activities on www.usmint.gov and www.enchantedlearning.com

Write research reports and bind them in Lintor Books

March and April

Planning & Design- learn about perimeter and area of rooms, measuring skills, ratios, proportions

We will use the book A Blueprint For Geometry by Brad S. Fulton.

We will use Tabs+ software, the 3D modeling program, which will allow students to design their own projects on the screen and print them and then build them

We will gather our data and make spreadsheets and graphs using Excel

We will use a CAD program and our software like Diorama Designer, Community Construction Kit, Neighborhood Map Machine,and Claymation.



We will make our models and learn how to take digital pictures and upload them to the computer.

We will use VR Works software to make our virtual reality panoramas.

We will display our work and have students serve as guides for staff, students and parents.

Our trips to the Guggenheim Museum and Lefferts Homestead will be taken.

We will complete our evaluations and assessments.




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