South Dakota’s Black Hills is home to Mt. Rushmore, the brainchild of local historian Doane Robinson. Conceived in 1923, Gutzon Borglum sculpted the mountain to memorialize 130 years of early American history including four historic presidents -- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Not only is the monument an engineering achievement, Mt. Rushmore attracts over three million visitors per year. Whether studying art, science, math or history, you and your elementary school-age students will find that Mt. Rushmore classroom projects abound.
Have younger students create a rendition of Mt. Rushmore using coins, paper and crayons. Tape a penny signifying Lincoln; a dime denoting Theodore Roosevelt -- even though Franklin Roosevelt is on the dime, it’s the same family; a nickel representing Jefferson and a quarter indicating Washington to a sheet of paper. Turn over the paper and color over the coins using a gray crayon. Once the faces show up, cut the paper out in the shape of a mountain. Ask older students to design their own sculptures of Mt. Rushmore. Children may want to experiment with modeling clay forming each president’s face or ignore the original four and print online presidential pictures of their favorites forming their version of Mt. Rushmore picks.
The land encompassing Mt. Rushmore contains two different ecosystems. Elk, bison and deer inhabit both snow-capped mountains and the surrounding plains. Create posters featuring the diversity of animals found in the park. Teach students why the pine beetle infestation can be both harmful and beneficial to the forest. Host a debate picking random students to present arguments on the best way to manage pine beetle kill. Discuss variances in temperatures throughout the year at Mt. Rushmore. Create bar graphs depicting monthly temperatures or draw pictures of appropriate attire to wear throughout each season.
Math in Sculpting
Teach students the process of moving from model to monument demonstrating the intricacies of engineering used at Mt. Rushmore. According to OhRanger, Borglum created a model using a 1-to-12-inch scale in which 1 inch represented 1 foot on the cliff. Workers measured model distances, recalculated mountain lengths and determined how much rock to remove. Tape a picture of Mt. Rushmore to graph paper. Ask children to measure different segments of the picture such as the width of Washington’s head. Instruct students to calculate monument measurements based on Borglum’s model. Give the students the correct measurements from the United States Mint lesson plan. Compare discrepancies between students' predictions and the lesson plan. Discuss the different types of tools used for sculpting including drills, chisels and hammers. Display on the classroom computer which tools would have been used in the sculpting process and the purposes they served.
Assign students the task of researching and creating a presentation about each of the four presidents sculpted on Mt. Rushmore. Include two facts about each president. Teach students how to create a computer multimedia presentation containing information and pictures. Host a presentation day for family members to view the presentations. Tell students to pick their favorite president, memorize facts about him and dress up in character during family night.
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