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Monday Morning Ready08.05.2016
Jumpstart Your Week!

Have you ever gotten a postcard from a national park? Chances are the picture that comes to mind is the powerful eruption of Old Faithful spouting up in Yellowstone. There's a reason for that. The idea of America's national parks that's ingrained in the collective consciousness has been shaped through more than 150 years of photographing them.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Pick one national park. What is the first thing you'd picture on a postcard from that park? How many of your friends have the same answer? Why do you think that is?

Grade 5-6

Have you ever received a postcard that was sent from a national park? What did it show? What did that image tell you about this national park?

Grade 7-8

Do you think there would be so many national parks if early photographers hadn't captured their beauty on film? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, photography shaped America's national parks. Can you think of any other important people, places or events in American history that were captured by photos in this same way? What are they? How did the photos influence people's thoughts or actions in relation to this person, place or event?

Show and Tell About Your Summer


  1. Prior to conducting this activity, instruct students to look through the photographs that they, their friends or family members took during summer vacation. As they examine the photos, tell them to think about what they did, where they went, and how they felt throughout the summer. Challenge students to pick one photo that sums up what their summer was about. Tell them to bring a copy of that photo to class.
  2. Have each student take out a piece of notebook paper and tape their photos to the top half of their papers. 
  3. Encourage students to think about why they picked this particular picture. For example, does it express a particular mood? Does it show something exciting they did? Or is it just a fun photo of someone they spent a lot of time with over the summer break?
  4. Instruct students to write a brief description telling how the image represents their summer on the bottom half of their papers.


Invite students to share their photos and what they wrote in small groups. Instruct groups to discuss how the words fit each image. Encourage students to share additional details as they talk about what they did over the summer.  


Grades 3-4:
Instruct students to pay careful attention to capitalization, punctuation and spelling as they write their descriptions. Encourage them to include adjectives and adverbs that best describe the idea or feeling they are trying to express. 

Grades 5-6:
Instruct students to write complete sentences with proper grammar and spelling. Challenge them to select a style and tone that accurately express the thought or feeling they are trying to convey.

Grades 7-8:
Challenge students to use words, phrases and descriptive details that will both engage readers and help them understand what the writer is trying to express about his or her summer. Instruct students to review their writing and correct any errors they find in grammar, punctuation or spelling.

Grades 9-10:
Have students pay particular attention to the words, phrases, descriptive details and sensory language they incorporate into their descriptions. Challenge them to write a description that both captures readers' interest and makes a logical connection to the image they chose. 

Fifteen Objects that Changed Postal History
In this online exhibit, students examine objects to trace major changes in postal history. The objects represent changes in the way patrons used the mail system and how the mail is processed, transported and delivered.

Smithsonian in Your Classroom: Every Picture Tells a Story
This lesson plan focuses on important steps in the development of photography in the nineteenth century. Students make observations and inferences about historical photos. Then they use their deductive skills to place photographs in a historical context.

The Land Through a Lens
In this online exhibition from the Smithsonian Art Museum, students trace America’s fascination with the land and the way artists such as Ansel Adams and Timothy O’Sullivan have transformed it into symbols and signature images.

How an Obscure Photographer Saved Yosemite
Read this Smithsonian article to learn about 34-year-old photographer Carleton Watkins and his role in the federal government’s first act to preserve a part of nature for the common good.

Take in the Sights and Sounds of the National Parks
Read this Smithsonian article to enjoy a nature break in America’s national parks. The article pairs a collection of beautiful photos with the sounds of birds found in these locations, which are their natural habitats.