A Treasure at our Doorstep

By Lisa Morein, March 24, 2008

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

80 minutes


HANDOUT: Tour of the Curtis Center Handout (Lisa Morein)-2, The Curtis Center is a treasure of art, architecture, and history located nearly at the doorstep of the Charter High School for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia, PA. In this lesson, students will take a field trip in their school's neighborhood, Washington Square, and learn about its history. Focus will be on the Curtis Center, an old publishing house that continues to be an excellent resource for Philadelphia history, architecture, and art. The building holds one of Tiffany's famous mosaic murals, "The Dream Garden."*
*The Curtis Center in Philadelphia, PA is only used as an example. Any historic landmark near your school could be used.

National Standards

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes1:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Knowledge of Language:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

 Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

National Visual Arts Standards


 Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.

Anchor Standard #7. Perceive and analyze artistic work.

Anchor Standard #8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Anchor Standard #9. Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

Anchor Standard #11. Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening





Students will:
  • use their city and its neighborhoods as resources for learning
  • explore a historic landmark in their neighborhood
  • take notes and document their senses when visiting a historic landmark
  • use their senses and transform their reactions into words
  • transfer the knowledge gained from the tour into a descriptive essay on the Curtis Center's art and architecture
  • understand the difference between primary and secondary resources



Teacher generated handouts:
  • Chart listing the five senses with space for corresponding note taking
  • Handout for note taking on the Curtis Center's history, architecture, and art
Students' sketchbooks for drawing during field trip


Beaux Art: of or relating to an architectural style originating in France in the late 19th century and characterized by classical forms, symmetry, rich ornamentation, and a grand scale. Georgian Revival: includes several trends in English architecture that were predominant during the reigns (1714-1830) of George I, George II, George III, and George IV. Tiffany Glass: the generic name used to describe the many and varied types of glass developed and produced by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), one of the most famous stained glass artists of the United States. Favrile Glass: a type of art glass patented in 1894 by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The iridescent effect of the glass was obtained by mixing different colors of glass together while hot. Atrium: usually a sky lighted central area, often containing plants, in some modern building, especially of a public or commercial nature. Faux: artificial; fake


  • Present background information and history on Washington Square and the Curtis Center. Distribute handouts and explain the relationship between the senses and descriptive writing. Make clear that students are expected to write a picture (descriptive essay) about the Curtis Center based up on what they learn on the field trip.
  • Next, students will tour the Curtis Center.
  • Review history previously presented by the teacher while walking around the exterior of the building. Have students take notes on what they observe and how the history of the building affected what they see. Have students use their senses and fill out the sensory tour worksheet for the exterior of the building. They should also make sketches of the exterior of the building.
  • Tour the inside of the building. Instruct students to spend time noting their senses on their sensory worksheet and sketching what they see.
  • View Tiffany's "Dream Garden." Take notes and sketch.
  • Return to class with notes and sketches.
Wrap Up: Teacher will review expectations for this lesson and its continuation and relevance into the next lesson on writing descriptively about the Curtis Center in "Making a Treasure your Own."


Teacher will meet with each student individually to discuss their notes and ideas. The final essay will be assessed with an accompanying rubric (see the next lesson “Making a Treasure your Own”.

Enrichment Extension Activities

See the follow-up lesson "Making a Treasure your Own."

Teacher Reflection

Students became fully engaged once we walked inside the Curtis Center. Giving students the chance to engage in a primary resource was a positive experience. Students enjoyed having the opportunity to collaborate and discuss their findings.
Skills to revisit: Students still need to work on sensory language and strong verb usage.

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