A Children’s Guide to Statuary Hall

By: Jessica Friedman, Mindy Hirsch, Melissa Rickabaugh
from Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation's Capital

Real-World Learning

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, English/ Writing/ Language Arts, History, Social Studies

Design-Thinking Model, IBL - inquiry based learning, PBL - project based learning

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
3, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elementary school, Middle school

This Children’s Guide was written by the third graders of Milton as a gift for the Capitol Building to use with young visitors - written by children for children. Throughout this project, students developed research, questioning, critical thinking, analysis, and written communication skills, and they learned the importance of learning from experts.

Entry Narrative

A Children’s Guide to the National Statuary Hall

Third Graders at MILTON take on the Challenge

About the Project:

At The Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital, formerly JPDS-NC, we believe that children should have a voice in the public sphere. We also believe that the work the children do is meaningful, should serve an authentic purpose and be shared with a relevant audience. This Children’s Guide was written by the third graders of Milton as a gift for the Capitol Building to use with young visitors – written by children for children.

This project stemmed from the third grade curriculum at Milton. The students learn about the Fifty States: each student participates in a year-long research project in which he or she is assigned a state and creates a showcase of the unique characteristics of the state. Additionally, students delve deep into a study of biographies as a genre. This project allowed us to merge these two aspects of our curriculum to create a product in which all students are represented.

In order for children to be confident that their voices are heard and are inspiring others, they need to make sure that what they are saying is well-researched and clearly expressed. For that purpose, each student selected one statue to research, met with experts to deepen his or her understanding of the statue. The children learned how to create a museum guide by reviewing other published museum guides and reflected on how to best reach their audience in a meaningful and professional way.

One of our goals at Milton is to prepare our students to be informed, empowered, and engaged citizens. As a Jewish community day school in the nation’s capital, we feel a strong obligation to learn from our leaders and from our children.  We are inspired by the curiosity, awareness, and insights of the students, and by the dedication of the many community members and experts who volunteered on this project.  

Throughout this project, students developed research, questioning, critical thinking, analysis, and written communication skills, and they learned the importance of learning from experts. What you are about to read is a product created by the students; we are proud of what they produced and what they learned in the process, and we hope they inspire you and enhance your visit to the Statuary Hall Collection.



We sent the students home to do preliminary research. We asked them to sit with an adult and find a printable children’s guide to a museum so that they could examine and decide what ideas they wanted to model, and what they wanted to change.  

Here is the letter we sent to the parents, along with the assignment given to the students.  

Dear Parents,

We are eliciting your help on an assignment that we sent home this week (A copy of the HW assignment can be found at the end of this email).  We are endeavoring to guide our students to write a Children’s Guide for the National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol Building.  

This is such an exciting connection between our state studies and our biography unit.  Each state donated at least one statue of an American hero to the capitol building, and the students agreed that this information could be more accessible to children.

So that the students can better design their guide, we wanted them to examine other family guides to museums.  We will have them explore the guides to evaluate them and decide what formats they want to model, and what they want to avoid.

You can help us by doing a search with your child to try to find a children’s museum guide to any museum for us to  examine.  We thought this would be an easy task, but it turns out that some sleuthing and searching is required.  If you can find a guide and print it out or send it to us, that would be helpful!  If your search yields nothing, that is ok too.  Also, if you have hard copies of any children’s guides, that would be helpful as well.

Here are some sites that we found that your child can explore, if needed.


http://americanhistory.si.edu/visit#selfguides – there are several guides to select from like:









We would like to begin evaluating the materials on Monday.  Thanks for your help on this project!

Jessica, Melissa and Mindy


Here is what was sent home with each student:

Children’s Guide Homework

Your task: With an adult, search the internet for a printable children’s or family guide to a museum. Print it out and bring it to class. Make sure the website address is on your printout.

Example Searches: “Family guides to museums”

                 “Family guides to Florida museums”

Due: Monday, February 6, 2017


Evaluating Published Materials

Over 90% of the students located a guide to share with the class.  We compiled all of them across the whole grade, and gave time for each class to see all of the samples.  As students examined the samples, we asked them to think about what they saw that they liked, what they saw that they did not like, and what other ideas they had for our children’s guide.  We compiled the students answers.



(It is interesting to note that several of the students who had forgotten to bring in a sample brought one in after the discussion was over.)

After students spent time looking at the samples, we recorded and compiled the students’ answers:

What ideas did I see in a children’s guide that I liked?



  • Look-Imagine-Discover
  • Pictures of interesting items
  • Welcome page with an overview and rules of the museum
  • One page per major idea
  • Map of museum- kid friendly, looks like a maze
  • Bright and colorful
  • Large words
  • Use easy words to make it easy to read
  • A character or avatar to lead you through the guide
  • Highlights things that are interesting
  • Gives some historical information
  • Activities that are fun – draw, solve, try…., scavenger hunt, mini maze, matching, fun fact, comics, games
  • Short!
  • Adventures planned in the guide
  • Covers- Explained what was in the guide, pictures and colors


What did I see that I don’t want to use in our children’s guide?



  • Too many questions
  • Only pictures with no information
  • Only words no pictures
  • Too long
  • Too many words
  • Math
  • Small letters, words
  • Too short
  • Hard words, language, sentence structure
  • Facts were spread out in different colors.  Hard to follow.  
  • Inappropriate
  • No color, only black and white
  • Too babyish
  • Weapons, scary
  • Not kid-friendly
  • No activities
  • Not interesting





What ideas do I have for our own children’s guide?


  • Create a Quest, Scavenger Hunt
  • Cliffhanger
  • Each statue could have its own page
  • Fun questions to get kids to look at the statues
  • Include artist
  • Comic strip
  • Easy words, clearly written and clear font
  • Activities
  • Cool pictures
  • Colors
  • Restroom locations
  • Details about the sculptures
  • Map- where each statue is, maze of the museum
  • Give clues to the readers- guess something
  • Questions for visitors to think about
  • Imaginary character to guide them (character drawn by one of us- 3rd graders vote on drawings), different character for each statue drawn by that student, pictures of us (students) guiding them, students create an avatar of themselves to guide
  • Regular size pages, like a book
  • Kid friendly
  • Definition Box for difficult words
  • Page of statues we didn’t study
  • Draw outside of statue for kids to color it in
  • Activities to do in between different pages of statues
  • Each statue has two pages- one is information and second one is activities on each statue
  • Maze of each state
  • Word search at the end
  • Map following the movement of the real person during their life (born here, moved there)
  • Include cities of birth and movement
  • Each student makes his/her own page, everyone’s should be unique
  • Pictures of the 100 statues
  • Students guide their statues-  
  • Have drawings for certain words (ex. Picture of a rock instead of the word rock)
  • Say things that we learned about the statue
  • Send these to our states



Then we had them begin to DREAM BIG!

  • Who will this guide be for?  
  • How will this guide be distributed?
  • What will they need to be able to write a guide for the statuary hall collection?
  • What type of help will they need from experts?
  • How will they format the guide?  
  • What is important for our final product to have?

Here is what they dreamt:  

Students decided that the guide would be for anyone who was interested, but written for kids by kids.  They wanted hard copies to be available at the Capitol Building and they wanted it to be online for people to see.  To write the guide, they needed chromebooks, and they needed to be able to go to sites that told them about the different people they were researching.  If we could get someone who knew about the people, artists or statues, that would be great because we could ask them questions!  

We discussed a format for each page.  Students were worried that it would be too long, but we decided to forge ahead.

Students began deciding what their guide was going to look like.  Since everyone had their own role, we had to agree on the basic guidelines.

This is what the students came up with:

Each page would have the name of the person, state the person represented, where the statue was located, and what the artist used to sculpt it.  Then there would be Five Fantastic Facts and a Fun Block where the students could create different activities, such as word games, coloring areas, crossword puzzles, scavenger hunts, etc.  There would also be a picture of the statue – photograph or hand drawn, we are not sure……

Creating our Rubric/Assessment

Student were asked to create the goals for the final draft of the booklet.  They came up with a draft of their goals, and we told the students that we could make changes along the way.  Here is what they came up with at first:


Each Page Should Include:


  • 3-5 interesting facts for children, bulleted


  • Facts written in a way that a child could understand
  • the name, location, state represented, and artist information (name and material)
  • a fun section with clear directions written in complete sentences.




Look of Each Page:


  • Each page should include at least three different colors.


  • Include Lady Liberty avatar somewhere on each page
  • Every page should use Arial font 18.  
  • The name, location, state represented, and artist information (name and material) should be centered at the top of the page, in bold letters.
  • Typed
  • Use correct spelling
  • Use correct punctuation
  • Use capital and lowercase letters the right way
  • Look good




Children’s Guide Rubric

Directions: Check ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for each question. If ‘No’ was checked, add it in and check the ‘I added it’ box.

Did I: Yes No I added it
Include 3-5 interesting facts for children, bulleted?
Write the facts in a way that a child could understand?
List the name, location, state represented, and artist information (name and material)?
Include a fun section with clear directions written in complete sentences?
Include at least three different colors on each page?
Include Lady Liberty avatar somewhere on each page?
Use Arial font 18?
List the name, location, state represented, and artist information (name and material)?
Center the writing at the top of the page, in bold letters?
Use correct spelling?
Use correct punctuation?
Use capital and lowercase letters the right way?
Make it look good?


Documentation of Steps along the Way:

Creating a template



Mindy agreed to make a template and share it with the third graders.  Students were able to see the layout and give their input as the final layout was made.

Gathering information/Critiquing the guide/Bringing in Experts  



Students went to the National Statuary Hall website and explored the statues from their states.  They began by identifying basic information, and trying to identify three – five facts that they thought children would find interesting or important to know.  

Then we visited in Capitol building to see what we could discover in person.  While we were there, we met with experts familiar with the statues.   Martin Shore, architect (and JPDS-NC parent), along with Jennifer Blancato and Vicky Vilano from the Curator’s Office, spent time with us at the Capitol showing us the statues, sharing information about the statues and artists, and teaching us information about the special care and maintenance that these statues receive.  


Miriam Szubin, a museum educator at the National Portrait Gallery, (and JPDS-NC parent) came to speak to the students about how to ask engaging questions so that visitors can interact with the artwork.  She discussed the difference between literal and analytical questions.  Students returned to their classrooms and begin writing questions to include on their page of the museum guide.  

Jill Stepak, art director at Milton, showed sample covers and helped three students incorporate their ideas to create the cover that was used.  Three students were selected who were interested in drawing and who were not highlighted in other opportunities that the school offered throughout the year.  

Distributing the guide



We invited Marty Shore, who had met us at the Capitol, to come to our school to receive the guide.  Each student had an opportunity to speak and share what they wanted other kids to take away from the page they composed:  




  • My name is Eliana and I want kids to learn how hard and important the presidency is.
  • My name is Miriam and I want kids to enjoy the fun page.
  • My name is Noa and I want kids to learn about how Washaki was important to Wyoming.
  • My name is Noa and I want kids to learn about Ethan Allen in a fun way and I want them to enjoy and see who was important to Vermont.



  • My name is Eleanor.  I want kids to know that the declaration would not be the same without Roger Sherman.
  • My name is Etzy.  I want kids to notice La Foyette was governor and he lived in the 1800s.
  • My name is Tali.  I want kids to notice who was important to Arkansas by learning about James Paul Clarks.
  • My name is Shoshana.  I want kids to learn that Sam Houston is important to Texas.
  • Hello.  My name is Carmel.  I want kids to enjoy solving the puzzle.
  • My name is Ma’ayan.  I want kids to enjoy the wordsearch and have fun learning about Henry Rice.
  • Hello.  My name is Ami.  I want kids to learn that Thomas Edison made the invention of the light bulbs.
  • Hello.  My name Matan.  I want kids to learn that George Clinton is a very fascinating guy.
  • Hello.  My name is Elisheva.  I want kids to enjoy figuring out how Charles Carroll would look in our time period
  • My name is Ari.  I want kids to enjoy learning that John C. Calhoun has been vice president.
  • My name is Shai.  I want kids to learn how rough it was for Kamehameha to become king of Hawaii.
  • Bonjour.  My name is Etan.  I want kids to learn about Daniel Webster and that he was on the ten dollar bill, a lawyer, public speaker and statesman.
  • My name is Meital.  When kids see my page I want them to learn about Huey Pierce Long and how he was important by playing my game and trying to answer my questions by reading my facts.  
  • My name is Maya.  I want people to know that Jefferson Davis was president of the confederate states.
  • My name is Eitan.  I want people to know how Lewis Wallace was in the army and how he contributed.
  • My name is Isaac.  I want people to recognize other people who helped their country.
  • My name is Eden and I want people to know how hard I worked on this museum guide.
  • My name is Zoe.  I want people to learn the importance of art and how to use art to tell a story, or put out beliefs and to honor special people through history.
  • My name is Yara.  I want people to know you don’t have to be scared to help your country.
  • My name is Molly and I want people to learn that many different people from many different places can all make their own mark on the world and help it become a better place.
  • My name is Gideon, I want people to be inspired by Jeanette Rankin who became the first woman in Congress.  So whatever your gender you should follow your dreams.
  • My name is Serah.  I want people to be inspired by the statues.
  • My name is Ella.  I want people to know that even though Ernest Gruening was not born in Alaska he was still a very important person in Alaska.
  • My name is Jacob.  I want people to learn about famous people and be inspired.
  • My name is Theo.  I want people to know Gerald R. Ford Jr. was the 38th president.
  • My name is Maya and I want people to be inspired by all these people and how they helped the world become a better place.
  • My name is Emma.  I want people to be inspired by Sequoya and how he created the Choctaw language.  
  • My name is Avital.  I want people to enjoy the museum guide and remember it.
  • My name is Leor.  I want people to keep in mind when they waste food that there are people without food.
  • My name is Sophie! I want kids to know that Dwight D. Eisenhower is unique because he is the only president from Kansas!
  • My name is Ariella. I want kids to notice that Sarah W. is a very good role model.
  • My name is Sam. I want kids to notice about how the word search is fun. I want kids to learn about Henry Clay.
  • My name is Adan. I want kids to notice William Henry Harrison Beadle as a good man.
  • Hello, my name is Eva. I want kids to appreciate all the work Philo Farnsworth put on the T.V.
  • Hello, my name is Leo. I want kids to notice how Barry Goldwater improved Arizona.
  • My name is Naomi. I want kids to notice and enjoy the fun box and learning about Hannibal Hamlin.
  • My name is Tal. I want kids to learn about Samuel Adams and that he was a member of the Secret Caucus Club.
  • My name is Hannah. I want kids to know that Thomas Hart Benton was very important.
  • My name is Tsion. I want kids to notice that Helen Keller was deaf and blind.
  • My name is Ollie. I want kids to learn that Ronald Reagan was the governor of California.
  • My name is Audrey. I want kids to have fun learning about John Gorrie.
  • My name is Jennifer. I want kids to know that even though Jason Lee died young he did a lot.
  • My name is Keira and I want kids to enjoy my fun box and learn about Francis H. Pierpont. Francis H. Pierpont was governor of Virginia.
  • Hello, my name is Maiya. I want kids to notice how Sacagawea was important to North Dakota and to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • My name is Amalia. I want kids to notice how much Richard Stockton helped New Jersey with everything he did.






Third Grade Student Reflections

“It was pretty cool to do it. It’s important for children to learn about the statues because the states chose these people for a reason, and it’s important for kids to understand the reasons.”

“It’s really nice to help other kids, but it’s also a lot easier because kids will know what other kids need to know, and it’s really nice to help people.”

“Kids know what other kids would like.”

“I liked writing about important people in our history who did important things.”

“You know what children can understand, and you can think about what you would like to think about.”

“It was a fun project because everyone got a chance to contribute something they knew, but you learned something new. If you read the guide all the way through, you’d be really smart.”

“It’s a very good idea because in a way, kids have their own secret language that other people don’t understand, and they think differently than grown-ups do.”

“It was a good idea because other kids can learn about it in kid language, so it’s easier for them to understand.”

“Adults have their understanding, and kids have their understanding, so kids will understand this better.”

“The people who are making it get a chance to learn something as well as the people using it.”

“The value of the project was helping lots of other kids understand.”

“The fun box was the best part because it showed something unique about you and not just facts.”

“The best thing about it was everything.”

“If a kid doesn’t like the Children’s Guide, if your mom dragged you out to the museum when your favorite shows were on, please forgive me for this guide.”


Parent Reflection

We received the following email from a Milton parent:

Dear Ms. Friedman –

I wanted to get in touch with some congratulations. I am currently on sabbatical and hold a US Capitol Historical Society Fellowship to study a fresco cycle in a committee meeting room in the Senate wing of the US Capitol building. This means that I am associated with the office of the Curator of the Capitol, where I spent several days a week reviewing archival materials during the month of August. When the curator and her assistant curator heard about Eleanor’s school, they got very excited and said, “Wait a minute! We KNOW that school!” The assistant curator rushed to the files and pulled out the incredible guide to statuary hall that was done by your third graders this past year!!!  They thought the project was incredible and that the resulting packet for kids was amazing! As a sculpture specialist, I was blown away by the work you did with the students! Of course all of this was very timely, because when we were not marveling at your packet, the assistant curator was fielding calls from all sorts of congressional offices about statues of nefarious political characters on view in statuary hall…oh boy!!!

I just wanted you to know how delighted the Curator of the Capitol was with that project and the results and how proud I was to say that my daughter has been your student and goes to this incredible school!!!!   You are getting the JPDS/Milton name and evidence of its unbelievable excellence in primary education out into our greater DC community – and into very lofty academic niches! Kol Hakavod!!!!

Fondly, Elise


Teacher Reflection

While working on this project day to day, we could see the students interested in each part, but it was not until we read their reflections that we understood how impactful it was on our students. They shared that “kids have their own secret language” and that it is easier to understand what other kids say. They wanted other kids to know why each state chose the people they did to honor with statues because “it’s important for kids to understand the reasons.” We were blown away by how meaningful this project turned out to be for our students and how much they learned from the experience.

When we initially designed the rubric, we intended on it being used by the students. We took the students’ ideas and developed a rubric incorporating them. Writing the student-created pages took longer than we thought it would. Students ended up writing on a printed copy of the document and teachers typed them into the document, due to logistics of multiple people editing the same document at the same time. Originally students wanted the picture of their statue to be in an oval shape, however after trying multiple times to fit the statue pictures in, we had to change the images to a rectangular shape. At first students also wanted to draw their statue in, but after students created their Fun Boxes we decided that their pages would look more professional with a picture of the state instead. As the project took off, the rubric became more of a teacher’s guide to help us check that each page had what it needed. We used it to check in with students on what aspects they needed to complete or fix.

At first, we put a lot of faith in our students to have the correct information, however when we were checking the document we began to notice that some of our students had not done the best job putting some of the facts in their own words. We also found that some students misinterpreted some of the content they read. We spent multiple hours fact checking, looking through the Statuary Hall website and other relevant websites to find which facts needed to be edited or were incorrect. We met with students individually to talk about how they could reword each of those statements to avoid plagiarism and have accurate content. We believe this portion of the project was difficult for them in part because there were no child-friendly resources with the information they needed, which is why we set out to produce a Children’s Guide in the first place.

When we started our Children’s Guide project, Confederate statues were not a political hot topic. However, this later became an issue that was highly debated in the media. We are not sure how we would have dealt with this situation had it been an issue at the time we were working on the guide. That said, the students who studied statues honoring Confederates, understood the importance these figures played in the history of their particular states and were able to study about them without outside political beliefs imposed.

Overall, we are very satisfied with the outcome of this project.  As with any project, there are always going to be hiccups along the way, but we feel that we were able to work with the students to put together a meaningful learning experience and guide.






Entrant Bio(s)

We are the 2016-2017 third grade general studies team from the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital. We collaborated to create, plan and implement all of the lessons associated with this project.