Making a Scene: How Landscape Artists Contributed to the Establishment of the    National Park System
Table of Contents
Museum Collections, Similar Items and Other Materials Used
National Educational Standards
Student Learning Objectives
Background and Historical Context
Teacher Tips
Lesson Implementation Procedures
Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
Extension and Enrichment Activities
Site Visit
Charts, Figures and Other Teacher Materials

A. Lesson 4: The Campaign for Yellowstone
  • Developers: Verena Calas, National Park Service Museum Educator, Washington D.C
  • Grade Level: 6-8 grades
  • Number of Sessions in the Lesson Unit Plan: 6
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B. Overview of this Collection-Based Lesson Unit Plan
  • Park Name: Treasured Landscapes: Virtual exhibit artworks from multiple parks.
  • Description: This unit explores how landscape art contributed the preservation and conservation of natural, cultural, and historic places of importance to Americans that are part of the National Park System. These artworks, are owned and preserved by the National Park Service and are locate in the collections of many different parks. This unit includes activities that develop students’ skills of observation, documentation, and analysis. Students will be able to apply these skills to through a real-world application in which they will develop a campaign to conserve and reorganize a significant local site.    
  • Essential Question: How did American landscape artists and photographers such as Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson help to promote the conservation of America’s natural and cultural wonders and establishment of the National Park Service?

    Lesson Overviews
  • Lesson 1: This lesson teaches students how to identify NPS parks by theme and state on a U.S. map. Students will also discuss the relationship between 19th century conservationism, Westward expansion, and the NPS.
  • Lesson 2: Explore Your World! This lesson teaches students how to compare and contrast casual and scientific observation techniques and interpret the field notebook of a Yellowstone botanist. Students will systematically observe and document the geography, plants, and animals of an area.
  • Lesson 3: For the Record: This lesson teaches students how to compare and contrast photography, drawing, and painting as visual records while using primary source sketches to identify artistic choices and perception of an artistic subject. Students will also explore the process and tools of traditional film photography.
  • Lesson 4: The Campaign for Yellowstone: This lesson explores who 19th century conservationists worked to establish Yellowstone National Park. Students will conduct a mock interview of a historical figure and write a newspaper article.
  • Lesson 5: The Bull Pen: A Photographic Comparison: This lesson explores how landscape painting and photography preserve and convey the significance of historical places.
  • Lesson 6: Crafting Your Campaign: In this lesson students will collaboratively design a campaign advocating for the preservation and recognition of a local site.

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C. Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used in this Lesson Unit Plan
This lesson explores who 19th century conservationists worked to establish Yellowstone National Park. Students will conduct a mock interview of a historical figure and write a newspaper article.
MUSEUM OBJECT [photos of objects in the Parks museum collections] SIMILAR OBJECTS [local items similar to museum objects] & OTHER MATERIALS Length of time

Lesson 4: The Campaign for Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by William Henry Jackson

Yellowstone Canon by Thomas Moran

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas Moran

Similar Items [similar to objects in the Park museum collection] & OTHER MATERIALS:

  • Travel postcards (preferably from National Parks) or trading cards.
  • “The Wonders of the West-II: More about the Yellowstone” by F.V. Hayden, 1871, magazine article, Scribner’s Monthly 3(4).



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D. National Educational Standards

NSS-USH.5-12.1 Era 4
Standard 1
Understands United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans

Common Core Standards
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

National Visual Arts Content Standards
Demonstrate persistence in developing skills with various materials, methods, and approaches in creating works of art or design.

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E. Student Learning Objectives
  • Students will be able to (SWBAT) compare and contrast primary source material about the same subject.
  • SWBAT to analyze pieces of visual art (i.e. drawings, paintings, and photography.
  • SWBAT identify how the work of Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson influenced the founding of Yellowstone National Park.

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F. Background and Historical Context
See Making a Scene, Background Information PowerPoint

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G. Vocabulary

Yellowstone National Park: America’s first national park established in 1872. Itspans Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and is known for its abundant wildlife and geysers, including Old Faithful.

Yellowstone Park Act: The bill signed into law by President U.S. Grant on March 1, 1872 that set aside the Yellowstone region to be preserved as a national park

H. Teacher Tips
  • Use online collections; objects, documents, maps, and photographs to further student inquiry and to address student learning objectives.
  • Activities can be adapted for class length and grade levels.
  • Activities can be adapted for different grade levels (and reading levels).
  • Obtain for classroom use, tangible items similar to the museum objects that students will study.

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I. Lesson Implementation Procedures
Lesson 4
Time Instructional Sequence Teacher Narration Exemplary Responses & Follow Up Questions
20 mins Divide students into small groups and distribute sets of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone images from Section C.

Each group completes “How to Read a Photograph” or “How to Read a Object” chart for one of these provided images.

Class compares and contrasts Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone images, using the groups’ observations about individual images, including:
  • The most notable elements of each image
  • Possible motivations for the differences between the images and the photograph

10 mins Distribute landscape/NPS postcards and discuss similarities to Hayden’s use of Moran and Jackson images during the campaign for Yellowstone.
30 mins Divide class into pairs to perform a mock interview of Moran by Jackson and visa-versa.

  • Each student role-plays either Jackson or Moran and creates a series of interview questions for his/her partner, with the goal of producing a newspaper article about the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone images.
  • Each student uses the “artist’s” answers to inform their article content.

Give students copies of Scribners Monthly as an example of an article written about the American West.

Students will then create a newspaper article using their partners answers. Students should focus on reporting about the circumstances surrounding the creation of the words and the explanation of their artistic choices.
J. Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
  • Participation in daily activities.
  • Products from Student Activities (Lessons 2-5).
  • Individual homework assignments that build towards culminating project.
  • Campaign material preparation
  • Mounting of campaign material in exhibit
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K. Extension and Enrichment Activities
  • Produce a 5-10 minute documentary video on a selected local landscape/monument/landmark.
  • Create a publicity poster for the student-curated exhibitions
  • Use the dates and locations recorded in Thomas Moran’s diary to trace the route of the Hayden expedition. Use maps of Yellowstone to calculate daily distances that Moran travelled.
  • Research a recent preservation or conservation controversy at a National Park of your choice (e.g. the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone).
  • Select a National Park or Historic Site and research its designation as a protected site
L. Resources

M. Site Visit

The site visit includes a visit to:
  • Any NPS, state, regional, or local park near the school.
  • If appropriate, students can participate in a BioBlitz (collaboration between NPS and National Geographic that collects data about the ecosystems within participating national parks). For more information, see
  • Pre-visit: Before the visit, have students visit the site’s website for an overview. Each student should prepare one question about the site’s significance.
  • Site visit: Students analyze at least two objects on exhibit (or, if visiting a park, sights within the landscape) using the “How to Read an Object” chart and detailed sketches.
    • If participating in a BioBlitz, follow the instructions of the selected activity, using the resources and instructions available via the activity pages linked above, or at the BioBlitz educational resources website