Shaping America --FREE Program

by  Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

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Meet the politicians, reformers, inventors, authors, soldiers and others who shaped the course of American history from the colonial era to the end of the Civil War. Students will analyze portraits to learn about the diverse and significant contributions to American society made by individuals in the Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Sequoyah (c. 1830)

by Henry Inman

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

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About This Program


Multipoint: $0.00
Multipoint Premium: $0.00



30-60 minutes based on your needs

Target Audience

Education: Grade(s) 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Homeschool Students

Minimum participants:


Maximum participants:


Primary Disciplines

Fine Arts, Language Arts/English, Social Studies/History

Program Delivery Mode

Videoconference – Webcam/desktop (Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc...)

Booking Information

Program will be offered Monday through Friday, from October 3, 2022, through May 26, 2023. The program can be thirty, forty-five, or sixty minutes in length and are offered between 9:30am (EST) and 4:00pm (EST).

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Receive this program and 9 more for one low price when you purchase the CILC Virtual Expeditions package. Learn more

For more information contact CILC at (507) 388-3672

Provider's Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be submitted at least one week prior to the scheduled videoconference.
On the day of program, The Portrait Gallery has the right to cancel or alter the scheduled program if your group is more than 10 minutes late.

About This Provider

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Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Washington, DC
United States

            The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story. 

Jocelyn Kho
(202) 633-8514

Program Details


Videoconference presenters show portraits from the museum’s collection using the Smithsonian Learning Lab platform (https://learninglab.si.edu/org/NPG). Through inquiry-based questions and discussion, presenters engage with participants as they explore the portraits together.


After completing this lesson, students will be better able to:
-Identify important Americans and analyze their contributions to U.S. History
-Identify key components of a portrait and discuss what we can learn about the sitter through these components.

Standards Alignment

National Standards

Key Ideas and Details:
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
Craft and Structure:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

State Standards

Social Studies
Standard 5.0 History: Students will examine significant ideas, beliefs, and themes; organize patterns and events; and analyze how individuals and societies have changed over time in Maryland and the United States.
Individuals and Societies Change Over Time
Analyze the chronology and significance of key historical events during the age of European exploration
b. Evaluate the results of the interactions between European explorers and native peoples
Emergence, Expansion and Changes in Nations and Empires
1. Analyze the growth and the development of the United States
a. Explain the political and economic impact of the Louisiana Purchase on the United States
2. Analyze the growth and development of colonial America
c. Analyze the different roles and viewpoints of individuals and groups, such as women, men, free and enslaved Africans, and Native Americans during the Revolutionary period
3. Evaluate westward movement in the United States before 1877
c. Analyze the impact of westward movement on relations with Native Americans, such as treaty relations, land acquisition and the policy of Indian Removal
C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions
1. Analyze the causes of the American Revolution
3. Analyze the influence of industrialization and technological developments on society in the United States before 1877
4. Analyze the institution of slavery and its influence on societies in the United States
a. Describe pro-slavery and anti-slavery positions and explain how debates over slavery influenced politics and sectionalism
b. Analyze the experiences of African-American slaves, and free blacks
c. Compare the relationship of abolitionists to the other reform movements
Standard 6.0 Social Studies Skills and Processes: Students shall use reading, writing, and thinking processes and skills to gain knowledge and understanding of political, historical, and current events using chronological and spatial thinking, economic reasoning, and historical interpretation, by framing and evaluating questions from primary and secondary sources.
Acquire Social Studies Information
Identify primary and secondary sources of information that relate to the topic/situation/problem being studied
b. Read and obtain information from texts representing diversity in content, culture, authorship, and perspective
c. Locate and gather data and information from appropriate non-print sources, such as music, artifacts, charts, maps, graphs, photographs, video clips, illustrations, paintings, political cartoons, multimedia, interviews, and oral histories

Visual Arts
Standard 1: Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, and respond to ideas, experiences, and the environment through visual art.
Standard 2.0: Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual arts as an essential aspect of history and human experience.

Social Studies
Standard VS.3: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the first permanent English
settlement in America by
g) describing the interactions between the English settlers and the native peoples,
including the contributions of Powhatan to the survival of the settlers.
Standard VS.5: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the
American Revolution by
b) identifying the various roles played by whites, enslaved African Americans, free
African Americans, and American Indians in the Revolutionary War era, including
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Lafayette
Standard VS.6: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the
establishment of the new American nation by
a) explaining why George Washington is called the “Father of our Country” and
James Madison is called the “Father of the Constitution”
Standard USI.1: The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to
a) identify and interpret primary and secondary source documents to increase understanding of events and life in United States history to 1877;
b) make connections between the past and the present;
c) sequence events in United States history from pre-Columbian times to 1877;
d) interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;
e) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing;
Standard USI.4: The student will demonstrate knowledge of European exploration in North America and West Africa by
describing cultural interactions between Europeans and American Indians (First Americans) that led to cooperation and conflict;
Standard USI.5: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the factors that shaped colonial America by
describing colonial life in America from the perspectives of large landowners, farmers, artisans, women, indentured servants, and slaves;
Standard USI.6: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the causes and results of the American Revolution by
c) describing key events and the roles of key individuals in the American Revolution, with emphasis on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine;
Standard USI.7: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the challenges faced by the new nation by
describing the major accomplishments of the first five presidents of the United States.
Standard USI.8: The student will demonstrate knowledge of westward expansion and reform in America from 1801 to 1861 by
describing territorial expansion and how it affected the political map of the United States, with emphasis on the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the acquisitions of Florida, Texas, Oregon, and California;
describing the impact of inventions, including the cotton gin, the reaper, the steamboat, and the steam locomotive, on life in America;
identifying the main ideas of the abolitionist and suffrage movements.
Standard USI.9: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the causes, major events, and effects of the Civil War by
explaining how the issues of states’ rights and slavery increased sectional tensions;
d) describing the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Frederick Douglass in events leading to and during the war

Visual Arts
8.15: The student will compare and contrast works of art according to medium, period, style, and artist.

District of Columbia
Social Studies
Standard 4.6: Students describe the cooperation and conflict that existed among the Native Americans and between the Indian nations and the new settlers.
4. Explain the cooperation that existed between the colonists and Native Americans during the 1600s and 1700s (e.g., fur trade, military alliances, treaties, and cultural interchanges).
6. Identify the influence and achievements of significant leaders of the time (e.g., John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Chief Tecumseh, Chief Logan, Chief John Ross, and Sequoyah).
8. Explain the role of broken treaties and massacres and the factors that led to the Native Americans’ defeat, including the resistance of Native American nations to encroachment and assimilation.
Standard 4.8: Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.
4. Identify the people and events associated with the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence and the document’s significance, including the key political concepts it embodies, the origins of those concepts, and its role in severing ties with Great Britain.
5. Identify the views, lives, and influences of key leaders during this period (e.g., King George III, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams).
Standard 4.10: Students describe the people and events associated with the development of the U.S. Constitution.
Standard 5.1: Students trace the colonization, immigration, and settlement patterns of the American people from 1789 to the mid-1800s.
Demonstrate knowledge of the explorations of the trans-Mississippi West following the Louisiana Purchase (e.g., Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Sacagawea, Zebulon Pike, and John Fremont).
Standard 5.2: Students describe the emergence of a fledgling industrial economy.
3. Describe how the manufacturing economy supplements agricultural economy.
4. Explain the emerging urbanization in the North.
5. Identify the transportation innovations that led to westward settlements.
Standard 5.4: Students identify prominent people and movements for social justice in the United States, including:
6. Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and equality for women.
7. Frederick Douglass, the Grimke sisters, and William Lloyd Garrison and the abolition of slavery.
Standard 5.5: Students summarize the causes and consequences of the Civil War.
2. Explain the role of abolitionists, including reformers Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Delany, and John Brown.
3. Describe the emergence of Abraham Lincoln as a national political figure and the secession of Southern states.
Standard 8.11: Students analyze the multiple causes, key events, and complex consequences of the Civil War.
5. Explain the views and lives of leaders (e.g., Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee) and soldiers on both sides of the war, including those of black soldiers and regiments. (P, M)