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Putting It All Together

The following activities help students put their knowledge of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial into a broader perspective.

Activity 1: Designing a Memorial
Have students divide into groups, then ask each group to decide on an American-male or female, historic or contemporary-whom they believe should be honored with a memorial.  Next, have them list the characteristics that should be represented for that person. Students will then develop two or three ideas about how their idea could be executed in a purely symbolic design. Remind the students that a symbol is something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, or convention. Have students decide on symbols they will use in their monument in place of a portrait or likeness of the person they are memorializing.

Working together with whatever supplies you and the groups can muster, have the students create a model of their memorial. The model can be simple (made of crayon-decorated paper for example) or complex (such as being modeled of clay and stucco or wooden building supplies).  Each group should include a written description of the ideas behind the structure with its final project. Have students present their memorials to the class and explain why they chose the person and symbols that they did. Have students note if there any common themes in the type of people chosen or the character traits represented.  Are they political figures? Sports figures? Actors? Musicians? Humanitarians? Etc.

Activity 2: The Lincoln Portrait
Play Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” for students. This was a musical and narrative composition written by the great American composer Aaron Copland in 1942. His goal was to inspire the nation to victory during World War II, using Lincoln’s life as a means to rally Americans to patriotism. Have students listen to the recording and compare and contrast it with parts of the Lincoln Boyhood Memorial. What connections can they make? How so? Do the students think that music can be equally powerful to inspire people compared to a physical memorial? Hold a class discussion about how art inspires us.

Activity 3: Local Memorial Study
Most communities memorialize their local heroes.  Many memorials stand in front of, or inside of, public buildings such as town halls, courthouses, or school buildings; often those buildings themselves are named after someone in order to commemorate that person. Not all memorials enjoy such prominence however, they may be small or stand in out-of-the-way places. Some memorials consist of a building, road, bridge, school park, or school named for a person. Have the students think of all the ways that their community or region has memorialized people. You may want to have them ask their parents, neighbors, or other adults for ideas. Then have the students, individually or in groups, select a local memorial to research. Ask them to select one that was specifically designed to be a memorial. They should identify the person being memorialized, investigate the memorial, and report back to the class. Their report should try to answer the following questions: What did the person do to be considered worthy of a memorial? How long after a person’s death was the memorial conceived? What individuals or groups remained most active in advocating the memorial? Did they encounter any opponents? What design criteria existed, if any? How did the location of the memorial become selected? Was it a prominent one? If so, is it still prominent? Is the person memorialized still well known and still considered a hero? Why or why not?

Resources for students may include local or national histories and biographies, newspaper clippings, interviews (oral history), photographs, or other resources. The student or the groups should visit the site of the memorial and either take a photograph or make a drawing to share with the class. Have each student or group report their findings to, and share pictures with, the class. Post the pictures on bulletin boards and hold a class discussion to compare the design of memorials from different eras. Offer to exhibit the pictures with brief interpretive paragraphs written by the students in the school library for the whole school to view. You might even consider offering them for display at a local library or historical society.


 

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