- America the Beautiful Quarters
Students will describe the geological formations of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Students will describe the characteristics of a cave ecosystem and create a model representing a cave. Students will compare caves located in different environments.
Major Subject Area Connections
- Social Studies
- Sessions: Four
- Session Length: 30-45 minutes
- Total Length: 121-150 minutes
- Whole group
- Small groups
- Individual work
Students should have a basic knowledge of:
- Plants and animals
- Land forms
Terms and Concepts
- Reverse (back)
- Obverse (front)
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
- Geological formation
- 1 overhead projector or equivalent other classroom technology (optional)
- 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the "Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Quarter Reverse" page
- Copies of the following:
- "Looking Around Cumberland Gap" worksheet
- "Wondering About Caves" worksheet
- "Amazing Caves" worksheet
- "My Cave Model Rubric" worksheet
- "From Cave to Cave" worksheet
- 1 copy of an age-appropriate text (or internet article) that gives basic information about caves.
- Access to age-appropriate websites that provide images of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
- United States class map
- Chart paper
- Internet access
- Cave model materials: cardboard, construction paper, scissors, glue, markers, etc.
- Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the "Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Quarter Reverse."
- Make copies of the following:
- "Looking Around Cumberland Gap" worksheet (1 per student)
- "Wondering About Caves" worksheet (1 per student)
- "Amazing Caves" worksheet (1 per student)
- "My Cave Model Rubric" worksheet (1 per student, pair or group)
- "From Cave to Cave" worksheet (1 per student)
- Locate a text that gives basic information about caves (see examples under "Materials")
- Bookmark webites that contain images of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (see examples under "Materials").
- Create a chart labeled "Amazing Caves" for Session 2.
- Arrange to use school computers.
- Gather materials to create cave models (see examples under "Materials").
Worksheets and files (PDF)
- Display and examine the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Quarter design. Locate this site in Kentucky on a class map. Note its position in relation to your school's location. As background information, explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs on the back of the coin. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory and the District of Columbia.
- Ask the students to examine the coin image and tell you what they see in this image. Explain to the students that the image displays a frontiersman gazing across the mountains to the West. Tell the students: Long ago in America, there was a movement of large numbers of people towards the West. These people were known as pioneers or frontiersmen. These people were looking to find land and build new homes of their own. Many pioneers used the Cumberland Gap on their journey to the western frontiers of Kentucky. Note the additional inscription on the coin that reads First Doorway to the West.
- Revisit the location of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on a class map. Ask the students to brainstorm what type of environment is included in this park. Tell the students that this area contains mountains covered in forest. Distribute the "Looking Around Cumberland Gap" worksheet to students. Explain to the students that you will be displaying images of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and that they will be making notes about this environment on the worksheet.
- Display the bookmarked images and allow students to make notes about the plants, animals and land forms of this park. With each image, allow silent work time for students to make notes while also pausing periodically to discuss what students notice. Draw particular attention to images of caves in the park. After reviewing all the images, guide the students to share their ideas. Create a class version of the "Looking Around Cumberland Gap" worksheet on chart paper.
- Explain to the students that one of the most unique features of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is the caves. Explain that a cave is a hollow or opening in the earth usually in a hill or mountain. Write both the term and the definition on chart paper. Tell them that this park is home to over 30 caves, ranging from 20 feet to over 16 miles long.
- Explain to the students that in the next session they will be learning more about caves. Distribute the "Wondering About Caves" worksheet to students and explain the directions. Allow students time to complete the worksheet and share their questions with a partner.
- Display the image of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Quarter reverse. Review with the students the material covered in the previous session, including the natural features they observed through images of this park and their questions about caves.
- Explain to the students that caves are a special ecosystem found both in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and many other places around the world. Define the term ecosystem as "a community of living things and the non-living things in their environment." Write both the term and definition on chart paper. Ask the students to brainstorm what they already know about caves and record their ideas on chart paper. Identify caves as geological formations (distinct rock formations in the Earth). Add this term and definition to chart paper.
- Introduce the students to the selected text about caves. Distribute the "Amazing Caves" worksheet to students. Explain that they will be making notes about the cave ecosystem based on what they learn from the selected text. As the text is read aloud, provide students time to briefly make notes about characteristics of the cave ecosystem, how caves are formed, the plants and animals typically found there and famous caves. Read the text aloud. After reading, ask students to share two interesting facts they learned and one question they still have about caves with a partner.
- Allow students time to work with partners to conduct additional Internet research about caves and take notes on their worksheets. After time for research, ask the pairs to share and compare their findings with the group. Work together as a class to create an "Amazing Caves" class summary chart of all the information learned about caves.
- Explain to students that in the next session they will be using what they learned about caves to create a model of a cave ecosystem.
- Display the image of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Quarter reverse. Review with the students the material covered in the previous sessions.
- Explain to the students that they will be creating models of cave ecosystems using a variety of art materials. Remind the students that they are expected to make the model as realistic as possible by using the information they learned about the characteristics, formation, and plants and animals of the cave ecosystem. Tell the students that they may create a specific cave from the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park or a specific cave found somewhere else in the world. (Depending on time and materials available, teachers may decide to assign this as an individual, partner, or small group project.)
- Display the "My Cave Model Rubric" worksheet. Use the rubric to clarify the expectations for this project.
- Allow the students time to create the cave ecosystem models. Allow classroom Internet access for brief additional research as needed.
- When all models are complete, ask the students to present their work and display the completed models in the classroom. Distribute the "From Cave to Cave" worksheet to students. Explain the directions and guide them to reflect on their learning using the worksheet questions.
Differentiated Learning Options
- Allow students to dictate written responses on the worksheets.
- Allow students to complete worksheets and products with a partner.
- Allow students to create their models with varying levels of support and guidance based on individual needs.
- Have students create models of other ecosystems represented on coins.
- Have students research other famous caves around the world.
- Have students learn more about the role of caves as dwellings for people throughout history.
- Have students learn more about the pioneers and westward movement by visiting the 2015 Homestead National Monument quarter lesson plan for grades 2 and 3.
- Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation in class discussions.
- Use the students' worksheets, cave ecosystem models and the "My Cave Model" rubric worksheet to evaluate whether they have met the lesson objectives.
Common Core Standards
This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.
Domain: NGSS-2-3 Next Generation Science Standard
Cluster: Life Science Disciplinary Core Concepts
Grade(s): Grades 2–3
- 2LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.