Teachers use their usual textbook and materials. Why America Is Free lesson plans apply the skills and knowledge they are learning in this subject to discover things they want to know relating to what they are learning in Social Studies and other subjects.

Though extensive written records and period objects are the source of much that we know about the Revolutionary period, paintings and drawings from that time have actually given us sight. Without the works of talented artists, we would not know what Washington, Franklin, or any other important men and women of Revolutionary America looked like.


Colonial Artists and their Subjects


In many cases, if you look carefully and know how to interpret the art, you can learn a great deal more than just what the subject of the painting looked like. It is a recording that opens a window into time. The backbone of the study of these paintings is the video Colonial Artists and their Subjects. The video presents the lives, works, and subjects of  four leading 18th Century American Artists ~

John Singleton Copley

Charles Willson Peale

Benjamin West

Gilbert Stuart

The artists span the entire period, illuminating people and issues like nothing else can. Students learn how to read the symbolism and messages within the portraits and become skilled, avid painting detectives.

An example of  the Colonial Artists and their Subjects  video featuring

John Singleton Copley's portrait of Paul Revere.


The painting connects directly the events of Lexington and Concord. Already aware of the danger Revere faced, students are eager to see what he looked like. Dissecting Copley's extraordinary painting of him, they discover the political message the painting conveys. Finally they are invited to look into his eyes and imagine what he looked like as he raced through the dark countryside, rousing people from sleep with his urgent call to arms.


This segment from the video can be viewed below.

Creating 18th Century Self Portraits

After learning about symbolism in 18th Century portraits, in one of the lessons students paint self portraits, using 18th century techniques to inform the viewer about themselves as children in Revolutionary America ~

"One drop of ink makes thousands, perhaps millions think"

                                                         Lord Bryon

Good handwriting was a skill much admired and essential for an educated man of 18th century America. It was a less necessary but also admired skill of women of the time. Children began learning to write at the age of today's 4th and 5th grade students, long after they learned to read. The most admired type of handwriting was Copperplate, a style both easier and faster to write than block printing and considered to be aesthetically pleasing.


In art, students use quill pens as they practice writing in the Copperplate cursive style. While students are learning the difficulty of mastering calligraphy and writing with a quill, they are learning a far more important lesson—always giving one's best effort can achieve great works.

Dear sir,

It is with greatest ...


Environmental Habitats for Charles Willson Peale's Natural History Museum

As part of a richly fulfilling cross-curricular undertaking, the students make environmental habitats to be displayed in their natural history museum exhibit, a recreation of the original that was housed on the second floor of Independence Hall, where only years before the Declaration of Independence had been signed and Constitution created. (To learn more about the museum, see SCIENCE.) Just as Peale, the owner of the first museum did, they prepare and present their portraits and habitats as docents of their museum for the younger grades, parents and friends. In the process, students gain a new appreciation for museums and the extensive "behind the scenes" effort required to create an effective exhibit. The younger grade students cannot wait until the time when they are old enough to experience Why America Is Free.

Lesson plans in all subjects work together. Click on each subject to see how they relate to each other, expanding knowledge and heightening interest in the world-changing  period of the nation's founding.




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