Lesson Plan

Weir Your Badge, Lesson Plan Grades 1-4

Park Ranger instructing students at Weir Farm National Historic Site
Students learn about the National Park Service Arrowhead at Weir Farm National Historic Site.


This curriculum unit includes three seasonal visits to the park, as well as in-class lessons, which encourage students to gain a broad perspective of the park. Students will design a symbol or badge to represent Weir Farm National Historic Site using the National Park Service Arrowhead as a model, and their newfound knowledge of their local national park as inspiration.


Established Goals:

Students will recognize symbols as a means of communication using the National Park Service Arrowhead as a model. They will explore and use observational skills to connect with Weir Farm National Historic Site and the mission and meanings related to the National Park Service.


Using one's town (local park) as a context to expand knowledge of geography, history, human interdependence, while incorporating international comparisons. This may include comparing the history and geography of the local community with at least one other town in the United States and at least two towns or regions in other parts of the world.

School philosophy goals met: critical thinking, creativity, communication, place-based learning


Students will understand…..

  • The importance of preservation and conservation of land resources
  • Symbols provide valuable information and benefit society
  • Symbols are an important tool for communication
  • How visitors find meaning in the National Park Service Arrowhead

Essential Questions:
 Q1: Why are symbols important? In the park, how are symbols important?

Q2: How do symbols benefit society?

Q3: How do symbols allow us to process information?

Q4: What role do symbols play within your school, your community, your local national park, the world?

Q5: Why do communities use symbols?

Student will know….

K1: Symbols are designed with specific details to make them effective. Symbols do not typically use words.

K2: The National Park Service Arrowhead is a universal symbol that represents the aspects protected in all national parks.

K3: Symbols provide safety and orientation.

K4: Symbols are used throughout the world by a variety of cultures.

K5: Individual perspectives affect interpretation and meanings of symbols.

Student will be able to…

  • Recognize the importance of symbols in their surrounding environments.
  • Explain why symbols are important to society.
  • Design an original symbol of Weir Farm National Historic Site incorporating park resources, historically significant people or objects, and landscape features, which will then be made into a wearable badge.
  • Identify the different resources, aspects, and perspectives associated with Weir Farm National Historic Site and the National Park Service.


Weir Farm National Historic Site is one of America's special places. Its natural beauty, coupled with its rich art history, allows this park to be a model for inspiration for all visitors. Students will visit the park on three occasions during three different seasons to gain a broader perspective of the park and what it has to offer its visitors.

In addition to learning about and exploring their local national park, students will develop an understanding of the National Park Service mission, as well as the iconic Arrowhead logo. The National Park Service Arrowhead was authorized as the official National Park Service emblem by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 1951. The Sequoia tree and bison represent vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead represents historical and archeological values. It was registered Feb. 9, 1965, by the U.S. Patent Office as the official emblem of the National Park Service.


Attachment 1, Hula Hoop Questionnaire: Using hula hoops in the landscape allows the children to frame a visual area in the park.By looking through a hula hoop, the students are now changing the perspective on how one uses a hula hoop (not around their waist as a toy, but more as a camera lens) as well as focusing on one particular perspective of the park. The Hula Hoop Questionnaire allows the children to reflect on their activities exploring different perspectives with the hula hoop. While some questions are open-ended, others are concrete. These questions encourage dialogue and communication among students.

Attachment 2, Badge Rubric: A rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work, or “what counts”. For example, purpose, organization, details, and mechanics are often what count in a piece of writing; it also articulates gradations of quality for each criterion, from excellent to poor.

Attachment 3, Badge Questionnaire: This form provides a check list in question format, for the students to use as they reflect and make sure all badge requirements have been met.


Learning Activities:

Lesson 1, Classroom:

Using Smartboard interactive activity, students participate and analyze symbols. Students receive a copy of the National Park Service Arrowhead and make observations. Teacher asks open-ended questions to students requiring them to reflect upon the National Park Service Arrowhead and to analyze the meaning behind the symbols that make up this iconic logo. All observations are documented and saved on Smartboard. Information on the significance of the National Park Service Arrowhead is shared. Each symbol on the National Park Service Arrowhead and what it represents is discussed.

After sharing observations using the National Park Service Arrowhead, inform students they will be visiting Weir Farm National Historic Site, their local national park, and will explore the park with a hike to Weir Pond. Ask students to conjecture what they may observe during the hike. Provide students with journals. Inform students they will be acting as naturalists, using their journals to record observations.

Lesson 2, Weir Farm National Historic Site:

Meet with a park ranger. Receive introduction to the significance of the park. Review the National Park Service Arrowhead and meaning of symbols. Using park maps, navigate a hike around Weir Pond. Along the way, stop to look at significant landmarks located on maps including the Weir House, Weir and Young studios, sunken garden, and trails. Students discover that Weir Farm National Historic Site was, and continues to function as a retreat, a place apart, that now provides the 21st-century artist and visitor with a setting that nurtures inspiration, reflection, collaboration, and community. Students continue to make observations, while teacher generates open-ended questions. Note observations at pond. Hike back to visitor center.

Lesson 3, Classroom:

Reflection. Encourage students to write down thoughts about the hike around Weir Farm National Historic Site. Share notes, observations from journals.

Lesson 4, Classroom:

Prepare for winter hike. Ask students to ponder how the park may be different from their prior visit. What changes might they see? How will the park remain the same? Note student ideas.

Lesson 5, Weir Farm National Historic Site:

(Second visit to Weir Farm National Historic Site) This visit allows students to recognize the park as a natural place of beauty as well as a habitat and refuge for wildlife, both flora and fauna. Students are then partnered up for an activity in which they learn about perspective. Students arrive at park and meet with park ranger who introduces students to the Weir Preserve. Using a map of the preserve, students will navigate a hike while making observations in their journals. Such observations may include animal tracks and signs of wildlife. Post hike students will partner up. Each team will be given a hula hoop and will be asked to choose a location anywhere in the park to look through the hula hoop and illustrate the perspective of the park through that hula hoop by creating a perspective drawing. Perspective drawings are shared in the Burlingham Barn. (see attachment 1, Hula Hoop Questionnaire)

Lesson 6, Classroom

Partners complete an original paragraph explaining the perspective drawings created while at Weir Farm National Historic Site. Paragraphs are edited, revised, and shared.

Lesson 7, Weir Farm National Historic Site:

The artistry of Julian Alden Weir and the many artists associated with Weir Farm National Historic Site challenge us to look carefully and observe purposefully, to focus on the palette of light, color, and pattern all around us. Students will act as true artists and be inspired to create drawings en plein air (in the open air) as artists have in this landscape for over 130 years. Using colored pencils and chalk pastels provided by the Weir Farm National Historic Site, students will observe and illustrate the beauty of the park by creating a plein air drawing.

Lesson 8, Classroom:

Students will write a descriptive passage describing their plein air drawing. Paragraphs are edited, revised, and shared. The students will then present their final pieces to the class.

Lesson 9, Classroom:

Finally, students are asked to design a symbol specific to Weir Farm National Historic Site which represents the many perspectives of the park. Their original symbol will be made into a wearable badge, and could also be used as a universal symbol or logo for the park. Using their knowledge and understanding of symbols and their meanings, prior experiences from visits to the park, artwork, and written work as resources, each student will design a unique Weir Farm National Historic Site badge. After their symbol design is complete, students are provided with pins and other tools to turn their original design into a wearable badge.  Students receive a rubric (see attachment 2, Badge Rubric) to set expectations for the activity.

Upon completion of their badge, students are provided with a writing prompt set of questions. (see attachment 3, Badge Questionnaire) Students are now asked to write a paragraph describing his or her badge as well as use the Badge Rubric to self-assess. Original badges are shared with the class, and discussed. All badge designs are displayed in the classroom/school. Park ranger visits classroom for final celebration. Students wear and present their badges and share journals, assessments, and artwork. Students are presented with certificates and become official Junior Rangers of Weir Farm National Historic Site.



The completed paragraphs, artwork, and original Weir Farm National Historic Site symbol design and wearable badge.

Other Evidence, Summarized:

Journal entries, active participation, group discussions, observations, work on symbol/badge design, ability to use recognize symbols at Weir Farm National Historic Site, school grounds, and other community.

Performance Tasks:

Task 1: Students write down observations from analyzing symbols and National Park Service Arrowhead on Smart Board. What are some similarities and differences? What are common features of these symbols? What features do you think are important, and why?

Task 2: Students write journal entries to begin inquiry process. Inform students of upcoming class activity to take place at Weir Farm National Historic Site. Have students look at maps of park for orientation. Ask students to answer journal questions (What do you expect to see? Explain what you know about Weir Farm National Historic Site by looking at the map. What might some of the symbols on the map represent?) Students continue to use journals in class and during visits to the park, documenting resources, thoughts, inspirations, and artistic impressions.

Task 3: Students create a perspective drawing and complete the Hula Hoop Questionnaire. All observations are shared and discussed. Paragraphs and perspective drawings are created and shared.

Task 4: Students create original plein air drawings at Weir Farm National Historic Site. Each drawing is accompanied by a descriptive paragraph. Paragraphs and plein air drawings are shared.

Task 5: Using a rubric, students create an original, wearable Weir Farm National Historic Site badge. The badge incorporates symbols which represent varied perspectives of the park's resources and stories.

Park Connections

Analysis of the Arrowhead symbol includes discussions and a growing understanding of the significance of protection of park resources and the mission of the National Park Service. The symbols represented on the Arrowhead provide a concrete example of what park resources are to be protected and preserved by the National Park Service, i.e., wildlife, landforms, nature, history, cultures.

This lesson plan also engages the students in Weir Farm National Historic Site's cultural and natural resources through immersion and inquiry-based learning.


Teachers are advised to encourage their students to explore their local parks and communities as well visit other national parks, recognizing these places are gifts of natural beauty and cultural history, and that it is their responsibility as stewards and members of the community to protect and preserve places of importance.
Teachers could organize future field trips that would include visits to local art museums and/or community parks to recognize the significance and beauty of these places, as well as their role in their local communities. Connections to Weir Farm National Historic Site are communicated among teacher and students.

Throughout the year teachers continue to use the vocabulary terms presented in the Weir Your Badge lessons, while students are encouraged to practice using the newly acquired vocabulary as well. 

Teachers can expose the students to the many national parks in our country. A map of the United States with all National Park System units can be hung in the classroom. Books that feature the national parks are made available in the classroom library, while games and posters featuring national parks are played, explored, and discussed during informal classroom time.

Additional Resources




Duncan, Dayton, and Ken Burns. The National Parks : America's Best Idea : An Illustrated History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.

McHugh, Erin, et al. National Parks : A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2012. Print.


National Park Service, Arrowhead, resource, preserve, preservation, perspective, Sequoia, bison, en plein air, impressionism, rubric, badge, symbol, mission, inquiry