The Democracy Project

for Parents & Teachers

Resources and information about "The Democracy Project"...

Presidential Places Quilt

Subjects: Language Arts/Social Studies/Math

Estimated Time of Completion: four to five fifty minute class periods

  1. I. Summary
  2. II. Objectives
  3. III. Materials Needed
  4. IV. Procedure
  5. V. Classroom Assessment
  6. VI. Extensions and Adaptations
  7. VII. Relevant Standards

I. Summary

This lesson will encourage students to research landmarks in Washington, D.C. that have particular associations with past presidents (Lincoln and Ford's Theater, for example). Students will then create "quilt squares" illustrating these landmarks and historical stories and combine those to into a quilt. The finished quilt may be photographed; the photograph and student writings may then be mailed to the president.

II. Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of Washington D.C. government and historical landmarks.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the lives of past presidents of the United States.
  • Students will improve measurement skills.
  • Students will practice and improve writing skills.

III. Materials Needed

  • Needed for research: Computers with Internet access, travel brochures and flyers, magazines and newspapers, possible videotape checked out from travel agency spotlighting Washington, D.C.
  • Materials for the quilt: digital camera, photography software, patterns, markers, crayons, paper, pencils, photo-quality paper, rulers, construction paper in various colors, glue, glitter, crayons, and ribbon

IV. Procedure

  1. Begin by asking if any students have visited Washington, D.C. If so, what was their favorite site/landmark in the city? If not, what images come to mind when students think of Washington, D.C.?
  2. Share travel brochures or a videotape that spotlights Washington, D.C. (you may be able to find one in the local library or through a local travel agency).
  3. On a presentation screen, find Washington D. C. on MapQuest. How far away is Washington, D.C. from the students' own community?
  4. Discuss the importance and history of this town. You might mention, for instance, that Washington, D.C. is not a state, nor a part of any state in the U.S. It was created out of land donated by Maryland and Virginia in 1790. George Washington chose this site to be the nation's capital (it beat out several established cities for the honor, including New York and Philadelphia).
  5. Washington, D.C.'s most famous resident is the president of the United States. Visit the online activity, "President For A Day" to learn more about the president's daily life. Students will get a feel for what a president does and where he lives.
  6. Explain to the students that they will be making a Washington, D.C. quilt. Each student square will be made to represent a landmark in Washington, D.C. that has a particular association with a past president (Lincoln and Ford's Theater, for example).
  7. Students can use magazines, newspapers and Web sites to research the relevant sites in Washington, D.C. and presidential biographies. A number of spots associated with the White House are mentioned in the "President For A Day" game; other possible sites might include the White House Historical Association, The American President, the official White House Web site, or American Presidents: Life Portraits.
  8. Students will take digital pictures, draw or find newspaper or magazine clippings to use in each quilt square. The square should contain some illustration, as well as important historical information.
  9. Students will make all of their pictures fit a 5x7 paper or fabric square. You can precut this or students may practice their math measurement skills as they cut it. How big will the entire quilt be when all the students finish their squares?
  10. Students will use math skills and create the frame by cutting a 5x7 rectangle from the construction paper to use around their picture.
  11. Students will then decorate their frame with glitter, paper, ribbons, etc.
  12. These individual quilt pieces will then be assembled into a "quilt" on a classroom bulletin board. Discussion will follow so that each square can be shared with the class.
  13. A digital picture of the quilt will be taken and sent to the president by e-mail (or through regular mail). All students will have an opportunity to ask a question, make a suggestion or to send "best wishes" in the e-mail. Students might also consider writing a class poem about the quilt and its contents or creating a booklet with pictures and historical anecdotes about past presidents to send to the White House. The e-mail link to the president is available at the White House Web site.

IV. Classroom Assessment:

  • A discussion of the activity will help teachers evaluate students' understanding of presidential history and Washington, D.C. landmarks.
  • Quilt squares should be evaluated for historical content, accuracy, clarity and creativity.

V. Extensions and Adaptations:

  • Students could do creative or informative writing activities on each of the quilt squares.
  • Quilt squares could be built around the Bill of Rights.
  • Quilt squares could be devoted to a particular presidential duty (as described in the "President For A Day" game), presidents, or first ladies.
  • Students could write former presidents or First Ladies to ask about their favorite places in Washington, D.C.

VII. Relevant National Standards

These are established by McREL:

Language Arts

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts
  • Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning
  • Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions


  • Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs including the Internet


  • Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement

Social Studies

  • Understands ideas about civic life, politics and government
  • Knows what political leaders do and why leadership is necessary in a democracy
  • Knows the major duties, powers, privileges and limitations of a position of leadership (e.g., class president, mayor, state senator, tribal chairperson, president of the United States); and knows how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of candidates in terms of the qualifications required for a particular leadership role
  • Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities
  • Understands the importance of political leadership, public service and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy responsibilities