Archived Elementary Unit
The American Scene
For Elementary Students in Special Education
Author: Lucy Andrus
Dates: Spring 2002 Semester
Written here for: 4th - 5th Grade children in Special Education, also applicable to general 

Conceptual Basis of the Unit:

The theme of this semester-long unit is The American Scene, with a focus on the historical and cultural evolution of the USA. Beginning with an exploration of the indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands (our part of the country), the students will learn about the people, places, and events that have contributed to forming the foundation of our multicultural society today. Developing an understanding of our roots as Americans will provide important opportunities to understand who we are collectively as a nation and a people, while instilling a greater sense of awareness and appreciation for the incredible diversity that is integral to shaping this "American" identity. The students will learn about the emergence of a uniquely American art world as well as the place of artistry and creative expression in the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

Unit Goals (historical, cultural, artistic, developmental):

  • Increase understanding of the evolution of the America as a nation, a society, and a haven for those seeking a new and better life.
  • Develop appreciation for the unique social, economic, political, technical and cultural contributions of diverse groups of people in the formation of American society.
  • Develop an awareness of and appreciation for the aesthetic expressions of diverse groups of people.
  • Understand the role of art and artists as recorders, preservers, and critics of society and culture.
  • Develop knowledge and skill in the use of diverse methods, materials and processes of artistic expression.
  • Enhance the development of emotional intelligence and socialization skills in interpersonal interaction, respect for diversity, group cooperation, and sense of responsibility for the welfare of the classroom community.
  • Improve self-concept and increase self-esteem through competency over methods, tools and materials.

Lessons in the Unit:

1. Group Mandalas   establishing sense of group identity and cohesion

2. Hearts and Hands Quilt   setting the tone for our work exploring American culture and history

3. The Haudenosaunee: People of the Long House   embarking on our historical journey

4. Colonial Culture and Craft   arrival of Europeans who established the colonies

5. John James Audubon: Artist, Naturalist   preserving America's natural scene

6. Folk Art: Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs   contributions of immigrants

7. True Colors of the Frontier   explorers, pioneers, and cowhands 

8.  Westward Ho!   crossing the Plains

9. Stepping Into the Twentieth Century: The Jazz Age   visual art and musical connections

10. Celebration: The American Scene Comes Alive!   American Culture Fair