A Monumental Assignment

By Nancy Gerber, November 4, 2007

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Two to three fifty-minute class periods


Students will understand why monuments are built and design a new one to be placed on the Capitol Mall or in another important public place. Social studies, language arts, and drawing skills will be combined to create a short class presentation.

National Standards

Language Arts
Benchmark 3. Knows how different media (e.g., oil, watercolor, stone, metal), techniques, and processes are used to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
Social Studies


Students will: • explain why monuments are built • identify and explain a symbol that unites people in a community • define 'community' • identify some of their communities


  • Web sites or a video of a national, state or local monument (for example, the National Mall in Washington, DC; Egypt, English, or Mayan Civilizations, etc.)
  • A field trip or tour of a local monument (if posssible)


  • Drawing paper to sketch monument plan
  • Recycled materials and/ or modeling clay


• monument • national • civic • community • scale • style • classic


  • Show the class examples of monuments and encourage discussion. A field trip to a local monument is best, but videos, Web sites, and photos will also work.
Ask: 1. What is a monument? (list class definitions on the board) 2. Why do we have monuments? (record ideas) 3. What do they represent? 4. Why are certain people and/or ideas chosen to be honored by a monument? 5. Who decides which monuments to build? 6. What design elements are used in monuments? 7. What makes a good monument?  (make a class list of criteria) (Student examples: A monument needs to represent something that all or most of a community can be proud of; A monument needs to unite people; A monument needs to inspire pride or honor or something that should be remembered, etc.)
  • Either break the class into groups or assign the following prompt individually: Imagine you are going to design the next monument on the Mall. What would you choose to represent or honor?
  • Hand out the “A Monumental Assignment” worksheet (attached) and have each student or group answer the first five questions and then share their responses with the a class.
  • Have students brainstorm ideas for a new monument and select two. Students should share their ideas with the class and apply the class criteria list to see if their idea is appropriate.
  • Approve ideas for the students ensuring there is not too much repetition of subjects.
  • Students should continue filling out their worksheet, working on the model and their persuasive essay (both mentioned on the worksheet).
  • Allow time for each student to present their design ideas and model to the class.


Students can be assessed on the answers on their worksheet, their model, their presentation, and their persuasive writing assignment.

Enrichment Extension Activities

  • In order to extend the student's perspective, I would ask students to design or suggest a monument for the United States, the world, or another larger community.
  • Students could create more elaborate models and further explain their choice of the style, the design, and the materials chosen.
  • An enrichment activity would include an exploration of more precise mathematical scale.

Teacher Reflection

My students are third-graders and their interpretations and experiences are literal and concrete. This lesson was difficult for them. Establishing a perspective was a challenge. Initial ideas for monuments included everything from God to their hamster. I allowed a variety of subjects including the state fish, sports figures, and a memorial to the bridge collapse victims. This turned out to be in part an unintended lesson about diversity and gender.  We had good discussions about values.  I learned that good models require a great deal more time and structure than I allowed. In the future I will allow more time for modeling, along with examples of models of monuments, and time to play with materials.

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