Lesson Plan

Painting 1000 Words

Historic black and white photograph of the Mammoth Terraces
Mammoth Terraces, 1871

W.H. Jackson

Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Art, Conservation, Design, History, Visual Arts
2 twenty minute sesisons
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
WY 4th grade Social Studies 2.1, 4.3; Art 1.1, 1.2, 4.1
WY 8th grade Social Studies 2.2, 4.1, 4.4, 5.2;  Art 1.1, 1.2, 4.1, 4.2
art, Artist, Conservation, design, history, jackson, hayden, moran, visual arts, Yellowstone


Students examine historic Yellowstone artwork and discover the influential “voices” of painter Thomas Moran and photographer William H. Jackson. Students then give voice to their own Yellowstone experiences through watercolors and photographs.


  • Identify Thomas Moran as an artist and William H. Jackson as a photographer who accompanied the Hayden Survey of 1871.
  • Recognize the importance of watercolor sketches and photographs in the creation of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in1872.
  • Express student’s Yellowstone experience by creating paintings and/or photographs.


In 1871 scientists, technical personnel, and artists comprised Dr. Ferdinand Hayden’s Geological Survey of 1871. These men devoted the summer to exploring the Yellowstone region. William H. Jackson accompanied the expedition to photograph Yellowstone and Thomas Moran came along to paint what he saw. The beauty they captured through photographs and paintings helped inspire members of Congress, who had never seen the area, to pass legislation to protect Yellowstone “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill into law on March 1, 1872, thereby creating the first national park.

Moran’s watercolors beautifully portray Yellowstone’s remarkable scenery and grandeur. But at times even Moran was overwhelmed by its display of beauty. It is said that when he first gazed upon the canyon known now as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, he remarked that its beautiful colors “were beyond the reach of human art.” Nonetheless he proceeded to record the scene as best he could with his watercolors, just as Jackson recorded what he saw with his camera.

Art continues to influence protection of Yellowstone and other national parks by bringing the beauty of the parks to people who may never be able to visit them.



5"x8" blank index cards, journals, pencils, colored pencils, watercolor paints and brushes, sponges, water, writing implements, Moran/Jackson/Haynes prints, cameras and, watercolor/drawing paper. 



Quiz students on what they remember about Thomas Moran and William Jackson.
Have students hand in or display art work. 

Park Connections

Yellowstone has some of the original art work from Jackson and Moran in its collection. Jackson and Moran were very influential in the creation of Yellowstone as the world’s first national Park. 

Last updated: February 24, 2015