America’s Mid-19th Century Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

America’s Mid-19th Century Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Use these prompts after your Evans DLP session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8
American Art
Subject Area:
History and Social Science
Activity Type:
Distance Learning

America’s Mid-19th Century Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Creative Thinking

Using our imaginations when looking at art can activate prior knowledge and spark curiosity. Ask students to recall their Evans DLP visit and try this activity.

Click on the images below. Zoom in and pick one person from Robert Salmon’s painting Dismal Swamp Canal.  You can choose from anywhere in the painting. Zoom in and pick another person from William Keith’s Landscape. Would these two people ever have crossed paths? Why or why not? Imagine these two were to meet in person. What do you suppose the interaction would be like? What would these two people have in common? What would they have to explain to one another? Creatively share your ideas in the voice of each character by, for example, performing a sketch, crafting a comic strip, or writing and illustrating a story.

Critical Thinking

Looking closely at art helps us explore viewpoints from the past. During your Evans DLP visit, students practiced looking carefully to interpret what artists can tell us about the time in which they lived. Ask students to try this with other works of art from the time period. Use the Looking to Learn: Elaboration Game strategy to examine some of the works below.

Based on their observations, what are some ideas your students have about the American landscape as it may have existed in the middle part of the 19th Century?

Reflective Thinking

Thinking about our experience with art helps us connect to people and ideas across time and place. Ask students to reflect on their Evans DLP visit with one or more of the following prompts.

  • Having spent time with American Art at VMFA, what more do you know about America around the middle of the 19th Century? How do you imagine the lives of the artists and the people they painted were similar or different to your own?
  • What did the art NOT answer for you? What are you curious about now that you have seen some art made in the United States during this era? Name three things that you wish you knew more about and why. Visit your school library and databases to research the answers to your questions.
  • Imagine you were to time travel and visit America of about 1850. Based on what you have seen in the art at the VMFA, what would you expect it to be like? What would it sound, smell, look and feel like? What about YOU and where you live would surprise an American from about 1850?