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LESSONS: GRADES K-3  ›  The White House: Symbol of Leadership
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CORRESPONDING TEACHER'S TEXT


Most young children know the White House as the place where the president of the United States lives and works. The image of the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. is so widespread, and its history so enduring, that the building itself has come to symbolize American leadership. Journalists will write, "according to the White House . . ." as if the house and the executive who inhabits it are one and the same.

In November 1800, when John and Abigail Adams moved into what was then known simply as "The President’s House," it was still unfinished. Over the course of more than two centuries, there have been opportunities to make radical changes in the house, but presidents have stood firm and realized the symbolic importance of the White House and the need to keep the structure unchanged — at least to the eye of the observer.

The British burned the building in 1814. It has been expanded numerous times to accommodate the growing needs of the first family and the executive staff. The White House interior was completely gutted and redone during Harry Truman’s administration. Yet for all that, the core of the house looks remarkably similar to the structure that George Washington saw rise in the earliest days of the American republic.

This lesson will provide images of the White House over time. Young students will see how the President’s House grew outward, downward and upward. At the same time, they will also see how the building remains unchanged. In order for a symbol to have force, it must be fixed and consistent. A symbol represents a larger idea. The White House represents leadership and political freedom in America and around the world.


Objectives

By successfully completing this lesson and accompanying activities, students will:

  1. Understand how a symbol can represent an important idea.

  2. Comprehend how a building can be a symbol, and discuss other types of symbols and their meanings.

  3. Track the changes in the physical structure of the White House over time; see how the building has grown to fit the needs of the time, but still retains its original form.

National Standards for History
    The history objectives and activities in The White House: Symbol of Leadership comply with the National Standards for History for Grades K-4, as developed by the National Center for History in the Schools, Los Angeles, CA.

    Topic 3 The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage

    Standard 4E The student understands national symbols through which American values and principles are expressed.




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