The Nature of Coins


Students will explore the differences between natural resources and man-made materials.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will explore the differences between natural resources and man-made materials.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Art


  • K

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 20-30 minutes
  • Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Resources
  • Items found in nature

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Reverse (Back)
  • Natural resources
  • Man-made materials


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Arkansas quarter reverse
  • 1 class map of the United States of America
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Copies of the "Nature's Goods" worksheet
  • Pencils
  • 12-by-18-inch sheets of white construction paper (or paper of similar thickness)
  • Crayons and/or colored pencils


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Arkansas quarter reverse.
  • Make copies of the "Nature's Goods" worksheet (1 per student).
  • Prepare large circles (approximately 12 inches in diameter) cut from white construction paper or paper of similar thickness (1 per student).


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the Arkansas quarter reverse. Locate Arkansas on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  2. With the students, examine the design on this coin's reverse. Ask students to identify objects they recognize: a duck (mallard) in flight, a forest, water, a diamond, and a stalk of rice.
  3. Ask students why they think Arkansas chose to put these images on their quarter. To prompt student thinking, explain that a nickname for Arkansas is "The Natural State." Answers should relate to the idea that Arkansas is famous for its natural resources.
  4. Divide a piece of chart paper into three columns, labeling the columns "Duck," "Diamond," and "Rice." As a class, discuss and list what you know about each of these items. If not mentioned independently, invite students to tell you whether each item is living or non-living.
  5. Ask students to name the materials from which these items are made. Students should realize that these items are not made of other materials. They occur in their original state in nature.
    Note: You may wish to comment on the difference between a diamond found in nature and a processed diamond (as pictured on the coin).
  6. Divide a new piece of chart paper into 2 columns. Label the first side "Natural" and leave the other side blank. Ask students to think of other items that are natural resources, and write the comments in the "Natural" column. If possible take the students outdoors to locate and collect examples of natural resources. (These items may be compiled to create a natural resource center that the students can refer to later in this lesson.)
  7. If students name items that are not naturally occurring, or after a sufficient number of natural items are mentioned, discuss the idea that many of the items we use in our lives are not naturally occurring. These are called "man-made" because they are made by humans.
  8. Label the second column "Man-made" and ask students to think of items that they use that are not found in nature.
  9. Distribute the "Nature's Goods" worksheet to each student. Ask the students to circle all the items on the page that are natural resources and underline those that are man-made.
  10. When the students are finished, review the sheets for understanding, then collect them.

Session 2

  1. Return the ungraded worksheets back to their owners. Review how to know whether a particular item is man-made or natural.
  2. Distribute a large circle to each student.
  3. Instruct the students to write (copy) the word "Natural" at the top of one side of the circle.
  4. Tell the students to look around the classroom (from their seats or moving around the room) to find items that are not man-made. When the student finds an item that fits this description, they should return to their seat and draw a picture of that item on their circle. If their skill set allows, the student can write the name of each item under their drawing.
  5. Students will try to find two more items to add to the "Natural" side of the circle.
  6. When finished, instruct students to write (copy) the word "Man-made" at the top of the circle's other side.
  7. Students should repeat steps 4 and 5, now looking for three items that are "Manmade."
  8. Display student work in an appropriate manner.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Extend the class discussion to focus on "living" versus "non-living" items, posing the question, "What does it mean to be living?"
  • Conduct an activity to introduce/review vocabulary related to natural and man-made items.
  • Allow students to sort and cut or select from an assortment of pre-cut pictures that fit in the categories of "natural" and "man-made.


As a center activity, write the names of objects from a story that they have recently read on sentence strips. Stick a Velcro tab on the back of each sentence strip. The students can organize their words according to the "Natural" or "Man-made" categories by attaching them to two separate but labeled felt boards. Produce an answer sheet for students to check their work once they have finished the activity. Replace these words on a regular basis, adding the previous set of words to the class word wall once they are no longer in use at this center.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines
  • Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Personal health
  • Characteristics and changes in populations
  • Types of resources
  • Changes in environments
  • Science and technology in local challenges

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: History and Nature of Science
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Science as a human endeavor